After my first incredible experiences of yoga in India I was really keen to continue practicing on my return to the UK. My gym ran a number of classes at weekends and I tried out both Hatha and Iyengar - I enjoyed these classes a lot and attended both sporadically. Then one Sunday morning my girlfriend went to an Ashtanga class (it was too early on a Sunday for me) and came back absolutely raving about it...she couldn't stop telling me how tough it had been, how challenging, how exhilarating and so I resolved to go along with her the following week.
Well all I can is she wasn't lying! To this day my memories of this class are crystal clear. Firstly I remember feeling completely bewildered as the rest of the class moved seamlessly through their sun salutations and the standing sequence whilst I floundered about like someone in the early stages of a fit - I just couldn't work out what was going on. Thankfully the teacher was an extremely patient chap and he coached me through each posture to ensure I just about kept pace with the others.
My second memory is that come the end of the sun salutations my shoulders felt like they’d turned to mush. At the time I was visiting the gym to lift weights 3 or 4 times a week but even so I was in complete agony as I trembled my way through the last few rounds of surya namaskara b.
And my legs and hips! 20 years of playing sport with scant regard for stretching had left me with hamstrings and hips that had roughly the elastic qualities of a lump of granite. Touch my toes? I could barely reach my knee caps.
The biggest surprise was still to come however. We moved into the primary series and the teacher instructed us to perform something called a 'vinyasa' between postures. As he talked me through the requirements of this movement I just could not understand how it was physically possible to get anywhere even close to performing it...it was ridiculous and to my mind an impossible ask (incidentally I often use that memory as incentive and encouragement when I'm struggling with a particular asana...and I struggle with a lot of them!).
Despite (or perhaps because of!) these challenges I thoroughly enjoyed the class and over the next months I became something of a regular. At first I attended once a week and that was pretty much the extent of my practice – understandably my progress was limited but I was still hooked on going to the gym and just couldn’t find time for both.
However a year or so in my attitude gradually started to change. I introduced self-practice to the mix and started switching out some of my gym sessions for yoga practice instead. About 6 months later the gym membership had pretty much become surplus to requirements and these days (2 years into my yoga journey) I try to practice 6 days a week…including weekly led classes with the same teacher.
So that really concludes the background to my yoga story – moving forward my posts will be less about me and more about my thoughts and observations on yoga…probably a relief to hear.
I think though that I should just conclude by saying how lucky I feel to have found yoga and for it to have become such an important part of my life. At first the draw was purely physical but as I progress further, the esoteric and spiritual qualities of yoga are becoming equally important, if not more so. I’m obviously just at the start of my yoga journey and I’m incredibly excited (and somewhat overawed at times) by just how much there is to learn…it’s going to be great fun and I look forward to sharing it on this blog.