Sunday, January 31, 2016

Of mountains, dogs and steam trains... My first Yoga class

I love sports so this weekend has been great... Handball European Championship (Germany in the final), Australian Open (Kerber winning the women's final), Bundesliga (Dortmund winning) and of course the seemingly endless cricket on Indian TV in case nothing else is on.

Although I love watching sports, I prefer doing sports myself. Nothing big but a bit of running, swimming and after buying a bike last year, I really got into cycling. Since moving to Mumbai, I have to say I haven't done that much. I'd like to blame it on the weather and roads which make running and cycling a bit more difficult but if I am honest I have also just gotten a bit lazy. Since moving to Powai, I've been to the gym a few times but as my self motivation in a gym is quite limited, the maximum time I end up spending on the treadmill is about 15mins...

So I needed something new. A friend told me that the hotel next door has daily yoga classes and although I cannot make the classes during the week as they cater more to the non working residents, I decided that this weekend, I would try my first ever yoga class. What better place to learn yoga than India right?

I'm making this sound like some new trend. Truth is yoga has obviously been around for years and years but I have never tried it. I'm rather impatient and quite like active sports and felt a bit like yoga might be boring and not "proper" exercise. And I don't really get he meditating part of sitting there, finding your inner self and making "ohmmmm" sounds.

The classes on a Saturday are either 9-10 or 11-1pm. I wanted to go for the 9am one but didn't get out of bed in time so thought I'd go all in and for the 2h class - it's not proper exercise after all me thinks.
So I arrive 5mins late to a room with 4 other women who are sitting on the floor breathing in and out while going "oooooohhhhhmmmmm". Exactly what I didn't want. But here I was and there was no point of leaving again without being noticed/very rude.

So I sit down, halfheartedly make a few ohm sounds and trying to focus on my breathing. For the first 15mins we do breathing exercises. Breathe in through the right nostril, out through the left one - all to the background of the instructor going "breathe iiiiiiiiiiiiiin" and "exiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit" with every deep breath. It gets even better when we take one deep breath, followed by a 30-quick-breathing-out exercise. The sound we are supposed to make to this very much resembles a steam train from 1900. The absolute highlight is having to open our eyes wide and try touching our chest with our tongues. that is obviously impossible but even trying looks pretty ridiculous as I am reassured by the mirrors on ALL sides of the room At this point, I'm pretty sure that yoga isn't for me.

Thankfully, the breathing exercises come to an end and we start doing what I believe are well known yoga figures. It is a bit like stretching but holding the position for 1-2mins. And depending on what position you are in, that can get quite exhausting. The instructor kindly says that "our new friend" (that's me) can take a break whenever she wants and although I am at least 15 years younger than the other participants, I do need a break during some exercises. I'm relatively flexible so manage most of the exercises in a more or less graceful way even without the "cheating trick" of using a towel to extend the reach of your arms. However, holding the "extended-hand-to-big-toe" pose below for longer than 20 seconds without falling over it a bit tricky. See below for illustration, to be clear
- This is not me
- I wasn't smiling like her
- I also wasn't wearing the ridiculous trousers

After an hour, the two non Asian women in the class leave and "the new friend" is told she is free to leave whenever she pleases. By that time however, I have gotten into the swing of it and want to stay for the 2 hours I had planned to stay for. Unfortunately, now I am definitely the least flexible person in the room as we move on to various stretch exercises on the floor. The Asian women fold into parcels so tiny you could probably fit them in your hand luggage while I struggle to get my head touching the floor while holding on to my toes. Everyone else looked like the picture below... I didn't.

We do various other exercises on the floor, some quite entertaining and a choreography of different poses repeated 10 times - a very popular one was the downward facing dog. Wuff wuff

Image result for dog yoga pose

Between each exercise, we come back to the "mountain" pose for a few deep breaths. The mountain pose it one of my favourite ones and I am REALLY good at it. It's much harder than it looks :)

Towards the end, we do some abs and bum exercise which are pretty much what you do in a normal gym class - not sure whether yoga borrows from the gym class of vice versa but considering how long yoga has been around it is probably the latter. Last, the teach asks us to put the small towels over our eyes (I'm very happy now I didn't use it as an arm extension earlier to reach my feet!) and she starts talking about focusing on our soul and deeper self... I have to admit I didn't understand most of it as she was very quiet and I was also drifting off into a nice little snooze - turns out yoga is exercise and you can be a bit tired after two hours. Then the lights come on and my first every yoga class is over.

That was yesterday and today I woke up with my WHOLE body aching. Not sure it's the stretching or muscle pain but I definitely feel like I have worked out much more than on my 15mins treadmill encounter. So I'll be going back next weekend, although I might be 15mins late next time to miss the breathing in the beginning...

But now back to some proper sport, handball is on TV soon (the anyone non European, it's a really cool sport!). And I will leave you with my favourite yoga pose - the "child pose" - ohmmmmm

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