Each of the classes I’ve taken this week was taught by a (different) male instructor whose name starts with C. That’s reason enough to group them into a single post, isn’t it?
DAY 6: Monday, October 7, 11:00 am
As I’m entering the Sun Center, I recognize someone from last Friday’s class, thanks to the zebra-print cover on her bike helmet. It occurs to me that there may be people who do this multiple times a week. Oddly enough, I am beginning to see the attraction.
Once in the room, I bravely set up on a mat towards the front center of the room, determined to hear what’s going on. The woman in neon green tights warming up her joints next to me is alarmingly flexible. A flicker of anxiety. Where does it come from, this instinct to compare ourselves with other people, to tick off points on an invisible tally sheet of capability?
C– comes in, a short, square plug of a guy. He looks like a small version of a rugby player. He starts to talk, and I’m guessing he’s South African. Super-close haircut, baggy knee-length knit shorts, t-shirt. He starts by telling us we should do as much of this practice as we can with our eyes closed. I pull off my glasses and put them in a safe place next to my mat. No lip-reading in this class, Gydle. Then he launches into a dialogue about our obsession with winners and losers, right and wrong, and how we should try just being here, now – without judging anything or placing blame. Did he mind-read my thoughts about neon-girl?
He’s highly focused on the breath. We start with no fewer than 5 “Oms” – and from there into a series of poses that gradually become quite challenging. He encourages everyone to exhale in a sigh after a particularly tough pose, and we all comply, extremely loudly. Only three more breaths, he says. C’mon, you can do it! Five, four, three, two, one, hoooooolllld…. Beads of sweat drip down my arms. It would be boot-campy, except he adds: But remember, it’s your practice. If you need to ease up, ease up. It’s your practice.
At one point he helps me in a pose, the one where you are up on one knee with the other leg straight out in front of you, heel on the ground, toes pointing up. Agony. It should be right on the edge, he says. I smile tightly. Oh, it’s there. Believe me. I’m all edge.
As we move and sweat and sigh, I finally understand why people say downward-facing dog is a rest position. This is the first time I’ve been comfortable in that inverted V. I relax into it, savoring the stretch. A breakthrough!
DAY 7: Wednesday, October 9, 4:00 pm
I’ve been wanting to take a class with C– (different C–, remember) because from the Semperviva website, I can see that he’s an uber-instructor, i.e. an instructor who instructs instructors. See if you can say that really fast ten times in a row. He must really know his stuff.
I set up my mat exactly where I’d been for C–‘s class on Monday. Then I see P–, the Drogo-like instructor from my Sunday class, walking across the room. C– must be really good if the other instructors come to his class. Or maybe P– is not a yoga god after all but just a regular guy who wants to do yoga like ordinary people do. Then I remember from the schedule that he’s teaching here right after C–‘s class. Maybe this is his warm-up. (Confession: Throughout the class I sneak peeks at how he does the poses. He’s really limber.)
In this class we don’t start sitting or lying down, but on our backs with our hips propped on a block and our legs straight up in the air. We have to hold this pose for 5 minutes, concentrating on our breath. I find it challenging to stay relaxed like this.
As we slowly get going, C– explains everything with careful precision as we move from one pose to the next. Belly-button to spine, lengthen the crown to the ceiling, shoulders down and back, and so on. He leaves no room for confusion about how the pose should be done. It’s not irritating, as I found in R–‘s class, because he does it so smoothly. I am 100% sure that he knows what he’s talking about.
We do pyramid, which I loathe – and he clearly mind-reads, because he says Don’t fight the pose, don’t hate the pose, just experience the pose. I do my best. Just like Monday, the sweat is channeling its way down my arms and legs, across my belly-button as I pull it into my spine.
At some point he turns the volume on the music up, and I stop being able to hear, particularly when we’re upside down in down dog and the blood is rushing to my head and I can’t read his lips. C– never stops talking, it’s a constant stream of direction – to make small adjustments, to breathe, nuggets of wisdom about yoga philosophy, about how we should be experiencing this. I’m so busy trying to hear over the music that I have a hard time relaxing into the poses and feeling them in my breath. I find myself a little irritated after all. Maybe I’d be able to do the yoga you’re talking about if you’d just zip it, I think.
Towards the end, we spend several minutes immobile, and he keeps talking about the philosophy of yoga. My body is relaxed, stretched, tired and sweaty, and I let his words wash over me without worrying about what’s in them. I think about what C– said on Monday – Remember, it’s your practice.
Words of wisdom, indeed.
Here’s the whole project: