Thursday, June 17, 2010


My aunt teaches a community yoga class on Thursday evenings, and yesterday we decided to join her (in the class, not the teaching). It happens at the area's community hall just down the street, maybe a 5-minute walk away.

As soon as you arrive at the hall, you have to climb up the flight of stairs outside to reach the yoga room. I suppose I shouldn't call it the yoga room, since it's used for a variety of purposes. It's a spacious, white-walled hall, perhaps the size of a basketball court, albeit longer and skinnier. Despite its size and sandwich-like location between two other floors, the hall has no pillars. There is nothing to block your view. The floor is made up of large, white tiles, with 4 giant rugs covering the majority of the area save for a sliver of white in the front. Sliding windows on one side look out onto the street in the back that you just entered from. Those on the other side provide a view of the dirt-packed courtyard.

As the women in the class slowly file in, shucking their chappals (flip-flops) outside the door, the rectangles of colored sheets and chaapas (jute mats) begin appearing all over the room. These are their yoga mats. None of that soft, padded stuff here. Soon, the hour hand spins to "5" and the class begins.

Perched within their little personal territories, the students begin with pranayama, exercises in breathing control. They are sitting upright, legs crossed in the half pretzel of the ardha padmasanam (half-lotus pose), spines straight, hands resting on their knees with thumb and forefinger touching and the other three fingers held together like a stiff-backed sign language "F".

More than twenty minutes go by in the practice of various breathing patterns. The kapilbhati pranayam involves short, forceful exhalations that move the diaphragm in like a hiccup in reverse. The teachers then begin to lead the class through the asanas, or the poses. The exercises here are those you would see at a yoga class anywhere, but returned to their original Sanskrit names. Downward-facing dog becomes adho mukha svanasanam, the tree pose is vriksasanam, and the two cobra variants are types of bhujangasanas. The resting pose is savasana, the dead body pose. After going through the asanas, the class returns to breathing for a short while before ending.

It's now time to fold up the sheets and blankets and go home, back to (for most of these ladies) cooking and taking care of the family. The parting of ways is quick but happy, as everyone makes their way back through the lightly sprinkling rain, a return to their everyday lives - until next week.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, that's so cool! Your aunt's a yoga instructor and you use jute mats--it's so much more earthy! I felt like I was in a mini-meditation zone as I read through the penultimate paragraph. I attempted the hand position but then I realized you said "sign language," not physical F xD