It’s a good thing my school never picked teams during PE (or gym as they call it in the States) like they do in TV shows and high school chick flicks. Otherwise, I’d most certainly would have been picked last, and that would’ve done irreparable damage to my self esteem. As it was, our teacher liked asking us to group ourselves into pairs or fours. Luckily for me, there were always a handful of others like me, whose first reaction when they see a ball coming at them is to cover their face and duck. We’d keep each other company, patiently waiting for each other to run after balls that we missed, leisurely walking along the “running” trail and hanging out by the poolside because we were “indisposed”. One simply cannot improve and work on hand eye coordination skills and stamina that one never had. Though one most certainly need to come up with ever more creative excuses to save themselves from drowning. Not everyone is gifted enough to tread water and have their hands free to fend for themselves as yet another ball head their way. Do we look like we have fins and scales? By the way, it is most definitely not true that your period will stop coming once you get into the pool because of the water pressure. That is just a myth PE teachers make up to scare you. But as painful as those weekly classes were, it turned out to be an incredibly bonding experience. Some of my best friends were companions from those days.
So imagine my surprise when I found out recently that one of them is now a yoga teacher. A yoga student, yes. A gym go-er, sure. But a teacher of yoga? Wow! Though I suppose if there was a sport that one of us was going to master, it would be yoga (unless you count shopping as a sport, in which case we’d all be professionals). Even I recently signed up for a 12 month yoga membership and own a yoga mat. There is just something about it that calls to the athletically challenged.
To begin with, it is not a team sport. For those who went to a school who did picked teams, this is a huge sigh of relief. We can all go about it at our own pace, and there’s no competition about who “wins”, and worry about letting the team down. Plus, everyone does the same thing, so there are no “positions” more important than others. No one needs to feel socially slighted being placed on the “bench” or at a distant outpost (not that I minded- less chances of injury and more time to chat!). In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it is a completely self centric activity, and the only reason why we go to yoga classes at all is because not all of us can afford a peaceful spacious studio of our own, with a private yoga instructor and the ability to turn the room up to 40 degrees celcius. Plus, we want to borrow “energy” from other students to motivate ourselves to practice and go further (just the perfect dose of peer pressure). Otherwise, it is a completely individual practice, and we’re actually encouraged to ignore everyone and everything else but ourselves.
Then there is the concept of hard work. Unlike boxing or basketball, yoga does not appear to require the level of physical exertion which will cause your head to spin, and you to have to lie down with your feet up so then the blood can flow back to your brain. Instead, it is a rather calming, with more emphasis on inner strength and balance. While not everyone is naturally flexible, perfectly balanced and have an abundance of inner strength, yoga makes you believe that as long as you keep trying and practicing, you’ll get there someday. And they do it in a ever so soothing and gentle tone. This is in contrast to my P.E. teacher who blew the whistle and kept yelling “run, run, run!”
Then of course, there are the touted advantages of yoga as well, such as de-stressing, less body aches and pain, better posture, better health over all and even weight loss depending on what yoga you practice. In a city where we’re all stuck sitting in the office until (at least!) 7pm, with, as my friend so deftly observed, an epidemic of bad posture, who doesn’t want all of the above? At a more superficial level, a) yoga wear just looks so much more fashionable and cute than sweaty old gym tshirt and shorts and b) one just looks a lot more put together, calm and refreshed post yoga than being all breathless and sweaty post gym.
I’ve always seen yoga teachers with awe, as a perfectly flexible, super healthy and super tone being who has reached the spiritual state where they can focus and think of nothing but their breathing, their yoga position and how they feel in it. An elevated state which we all strive to become perhaps 30% of with our practice. I am happy to see that someone I know, “one of us” has actually reached this superior state (maybe yoga teachers are human after all!). It gives me hope that in the not so distant future, with some application, I may be able to touch to my toes without bending my knees and perfect the downward facing dog with my feet firmly on the ground. Who knows? Maybe some day I may even be able to do a bridge and touch my feet to my head.