When I lived in Italy I used to make a little exercise at least twice a week. Since I moved to Switzerland nothing. Considering that I can’t just sit and count on my metabolism to do the rest and my muscular tone to catch up, I decided to take yoga classes.
If you are in your 40s and in reasonable shape (not falling apart, that is), when you show up at a yoga lesson everybody takes it for granted that you have already been practicing yoga.
If this is not the case the only thing you can do is pretend of nothing and peek continuously at your mat neighbours trying to imitate their motions (and praying that they’re not beginners too).
Probably you are one of those (many) who have been practicing almost every day over the last few years and this is everyday life for you, but to the freshman yoga is a mayhem.
First of all the lexicon: there’s a precise language that yoga people (yogini is the correct name I think) speak and nothing gives you away like asking things like “at what time is the yoga lesson?”: there are no yoga “lessons”, they’re yoga “practices” (in Italian “pratiche”).
Then, over the last few days I have been practicing 4 different kind of yoga that couldn’t be more different from one another (and I was told that many more are to come).
If you take classes of Ashtanga yoga on Monday you’re definitely not prepared for the Tuesday Hata yoga lesson (or practice, whatever), not to mention the Wednesday Vinyasa and – least of all – the Thursday Raya yoga. So basically what happens is that after Ashtanga you feel like somebody who miraculously survived a crash, the following day you put on a brave face for Hata and are mercifully spared the physical strain you expected, then again you’re kind of smacked at Vinyasa and you end up the last day coping with the hardest challenge so far: the Raya yoga and the OM thing.
Actually you can pretend of nothing and try to disguise yourself in the crowd as much as you want but there’s no chance that your lack of experience can go unnoticed to a Raya Yoga teacher (although I don’t think “teacher” is the right word).
A Raya class apparently consists of hardly 1/3 of the participants of the average yoga class and all of them have an expertise. When the Raya people are practicing you could even set the gym on fire, they wouldn’t realise it: they’re focused. All of them except the teacher who went on recommending that I stop:
– looking around;
– scratching myself;
– wiping my forehead;
– casting glances at the others;
– motioning to the door.
I was not focused, and therefore I couldn’t sense my breath (actually I could hardly breath in those positions, but I didn’t bother mentioning), and then, what kind of benefit did I think I could draw from my practice if I couldn’t effectively perceive myself? I didn’t say a word about my buttock being lifted up.
And in the end we got to the farewell, I expected the whole thing to be eventually over when they all started vibrating at once going OM. Very much like the sound it makes when you rub a wet finger around the brim of a crystal glass. I couldn’t. I felt an intruder and couldn’t be more embarrassed. The whole OM thing appeared to me to be… Private! There’s kind of an intimacy among people going OM. Now, the point is: am I going again next week?