To Flow or Not to Flow

I decided to try an Urban Vinyasa Power Flow class. Being a Saturday, I thought the traffic on the way to town would be hellish, but it wasn’t, so I arrived half an hour early and was greeted in the changing room by a woman dancing to heavy reggae music. I said hello and she enthusiastically informed me that she had just come off night shift and was energised after having to deal with two deaths just before leaving. Energised by people dying? Really?

Fortunately, I didn’t have to say too much because someone else, who she obviously knew, walked in the room. She continued her conversation with her, repeating that two people had left the building just as she had left. I gleaned being energised came from actually running on adrenalin while the crash teams had tried to save the two people in question. Energised still seemed a little odd to me.

She proceeded to inform me that she never quite got why patients often referred to her as the ‘coloured’ nurse. She said, ‘seriously, girl I’ve seen every colour of the rainbow, white people go blue, pink and even green. We just go a little pale sometimes.’ I was struck by the fact had I made that statement, referring to ‘black’ people she might have bounced my ass out the room!

Still feeling cold, I decided I would hang on to my long sleeved top for a while before getting changed. I didn’t think sitting on the bench minding my own business flicking through my phone would be a problem, until I looked up to be inches away from someone’s bare bum. I’m not a prude and I realise I was sitting in a changing room but seriously, what was it with people’s modesty! I wouldn’t stick my bare bum in someone’s face. At 10 in the morning it was just too much to bear (excuse the pun). I hastily changed and went to sit for the remaining 20 minutes in the lounge.

The lady who had been non stop chatting to the teacher in my Urban Body Art class on Wednesday was sitting on the bench drinking tea. She informed me, from beneath a wild arrangement of frizzy hair, that she was hung over but after drinking water had managed to get herself here.

A few more people came into the lounge to wait for the class and the hung over lady began to chatting to one of them about not being able to come the following week because of having hair done and she would of course not be coming, especially after the last disaster. The suspense was too much and I couldn’t help but ask what that was. She told me that the last time she had her hair dyed, she had joined a hot yoga class and as she got hotter, the bright red dye had started to come out from her hair and she ended up with red sweat pouring down her face and settling in a pool all over her mat.

We were in the room behind the hot studio which meant we would be getting some heat from that room. Hopefully not all 42 degrees of it. There was enough space in the room for two rows of yoga mats and a few people had already set themselves up. We sat for several minutes as more and more people came into the room, each time, everyone shuffling closer to fit in the mats. Shortly before the class started people were still coming in and the teacher arrived, asking if everyone could move closer together to fit everyone in. The girl next to me rolled her eyes, clearly wanting more space. I told her about the London shala I practised in sometimes. Little lotus symbols were printed on the wooden floor where you were to lay your mat, meaning you were centimetres apart from the person next to you. She said this class wasn’t usually like that. However, by the time the class started there were 23 people resulting in just a couple of inches between mats. As we lay down in savasana to prepare, I realised my choice of spot hadn’t been such a great one because the woman on the other side of me had a cold. Why? Not why did she have a cold but seriously, why the noises? It is not pleasant when trying to centre yourself to hear the sound of the person next to you snorting and gurgling the content of their nose into their throat. Flow was suddenly taking on a whole new meaning! I reminded myself to be compassionate.

I decided I could not let it distract me from practice, took a deep breath in and focused inwards.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. Vinyasa in Ashtanga is very dynamic and is what links each posture to the next. This practice started a little slower, moving from plank to downward dog into warrior, moving into triangle and going all the way back through again. After a while, with so many people practising together, the room warmed up, but it was a very wet heat and although I felt hot and my body supple, I wasn’t sweating. We did a few sequences which made the practice more dynamic and because it was in a class setting with a teacher instructing you exactly when to move, I felt I was fully immersed and could really feel the power and flow.

I loved the teacher. She was a young (I would say that being 43) tall, tanned, blonde South African with the most perfect precise voice I’ve ever heard which to me then reflected in how I practised the postures. Hard to explain but it was as though the precision of her voice somehow weaved its way into the application of your postures. The teacher told us our breathing was gorgeous often which I thought was lovely.

There were only two men in the room, one of which was close to me in the opposite row and did ujjayi so loudly that I thought he might start to vibrate the positive words (exhale, OM etc) that were written on his vivid purple mat clean off! Ujjayi is a central part of Ashtanga yoga and over time becomes quieter as you master it. This, however, I believe takes time and for many years you sound like this dude did; Darth Vadar.

We opened the hips a lot in the standing postures and towards the end of them did hanumanasana; splits. Although I’ve achieved this posture before, I don’t practice it often, but because we were so warmed up and spent a lot of time opening the hips, I was surprised I went straight into full splits. I wanted to do a ‘yay’ dance but, one, I would have seriously injured myself and two, I think everyone would have thought I was an idiot. It was a personal triumph in any case and I smiled. The girl opposite didn’t seem as enthused by my achievement and I must have just looked smug.

We finished with savasana which I was grateful for and I’d got so lost in the practice that I had forgotten all about ‘snotty’ next to me.

Lesson 3

Moist heat room and ujjayi breathing is a perfect remedy for colds. OM shanti to that.