Thursday, March 25, 2010

Why I, Angloyankophile, *Heart* Yoga

During my first "official" year in London, I felt lost.  I had a great job, I was making some great friends, and lived in a great flat (albeit in a not-so-great area).  Regardless of all of this greatness, I felt like I was missing something.  So I decided to try a couple of yoga classes being offered at my office after work and went along with a couple of colleagues who had been before.  I liked the teacher and the class, but started getting a bit frustrated a few months later when I didn't feel like I was improving (or rather, had nothing I really wanted to strive towards) and was ... well ... bored.

Then I stumbled upon a Vinyasa Flow Yoga class at the gym I just joined.  Having had two bad experiences with yoga classes under my belt already (another in college - don't ask), I was weary of this one.  To my surprise, it was taught by an American, Lauren, and involved music, which wasn't a good sign for me (yeah, that college yoga class I took?  The instructor had an unhealthy obsession with Zero 7 and Fiona Apple, and not in a good way).  Before the class even started, I hated it already (not exactly the zen-like attitude I should have had, I know, but then again, I've always been more rage, less zen).  Yet as the class progressed, the hatred slowly melted away and I emerged feeling challenged and - dare I say - enjoying it?  Vinyasa flow was not a form of yoga I was familiar with and the flowing (yet strong) movements with which each pose is connected soon began to remind me of the ballet classes I missed so much and spent such a large part of my life perfecting.  And for once, I let go of my stubbornness, my grumbling and negativity, and allowed something wonderful in.

Over the next months that I practiced with Lauren, I began to feel increasingly positive about life - both on and off the mat.  When we reached our arms out and up over our heads to begin a sun salutation, I really felt like I was under the sun, rather than the horrible fluorescent lights of a gym studio.  And the hatred I once had for my body soon gave way to gratitude, which surprised but pleased me.  Instead of seeing my limitations (as ballet always taught me i.e. I wasn't flexible enough, my feet weren't naturally arched enough, the list goes on and on)  I began to appreciate little things instead, like how I was able to fold forward a little further every week in a standing forward bend or the slight indentations that started to appear in my triceps due to weeks of practicing chaturanga.  My constant practice of yoga gave me the courage to find strength within my body, as well as within my self. 

I'm a perfectionist.  And there have been several instances in class, where I admit, I've gotten frustrated with myself and what my body could not do that day - I'll never forget the instance (or instances) I was completely unable to do a headstand, no matter how hard I tried and was close to tears.  Lauren took note of my frustration, patted my arm and simply said, "It's ok, you're ok.  Just not today."  And that's the attitude I've been able to take out of her class as well - that I'm ok, and whatever I can't accomplish in a day, doesn't need to be done.  Of all the things I've learned from Lauren, the lesson of humility has been most important: knowing when to stop, not because of your limits, but maybe because it's just not for you today.  As she has taught time and time again, yoga is a journey and will always be - not a race or a means to an end. 

It's been an amazing transformation and one that I'm immensely thankful for.  To anyone who thinks that yoga is just "humming" (ahem, John) or some quack's New-Age-left-wing invention, I challenge you to take Lauren's flow class and leave unmoved.

Lauren teaches Vinyasa Flow yoga at The Gym at Covent Garden on Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings.  Class tuition is free for members and £10 per class for non-members.  I attend religiously. 


  1. Fiona Apple? Ok, but not when I am trying to focus on my breath. Your current class sounds incredible It is amazing how much better I feel when I make the time to take a yoga class - glad it is working so well for you!

  2. Glad to hear you are an avid "yogi" as well, Faith! RE: Fiona Apple ... yeah, you know that song "Extraordinary Machine"? She used to play that at the beginning of every single class and then say to us in this breathy voice, "I want you to remember that your bodies are ALL extraordinary machines!" before beaming at us from the front of the studio. Sigh.


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