Monday, October 16, 2006

Saturday morning yoga class

The studio is dimly lit this morning, from the windows at the end of a low-ceilinged room. All around, mats are unrolled with a “thwack” as students wander in, dotting the floor in rubber rectangles of grey, blue, and pink. To my side, a man in too-tight bicycle shorts (the kind that used to be fashionable in the eighties) and a blue tank top practices yoga poses. The skin on his spindly arms is stretched taught across muscles that are remarkably well developed for someone so skinny. Rolling onto his back, he raises his legs to the ceiling, arms propping his back up. His neck now tightly bucked into his chest, I hear him exhale, mouth closed. Crossing his legs, he lowers them into a reversed lotus position, bald head gleaming in the light of the window behind us. Inhales, exhales. Raises his legs, and lowers them to the ground. Beside him, a cluster of women stands around a mat, clutching water bottles and trading stories about their husbands and children. Other students lie in the relaxation pose, stretch or practice balances.

Diagonally across from me, an old Chinese woman, wearing a paisley blue sweater and light blue pyjama-like pants, has walked in. Every so often, she rubs her hair frantically and shakes her head with a twitch. Her breathing is sharp and shallow and she gulps air in like a grounded fish while clutching her chest as though she’s having a heart attack. As I watch her with growing concern, a man who I take to be her husband walks in and unrolls his mat next to hers, completely ignoring her erratic behaviour. She takes a drink from her water bottle, and mutters something to him in Mandarin. Beside them, another couple practices a pose and compare notes on how best to execute it.

Just then, another man walks in, burgundy yoga mat slung over his shoulder, tied at both ends with a white strap. His black hair is peppered with grey, and reminds me of a young Einstein in its manic unkemptness. Although he’s tried to tame it by pulling it back in a tiny ponytail, the sides still spray out from his head on either side like a poodle. Crossing the floor to the front of the room, his flip flops make light flapping sounds against the wooden floor. A black YMCA tank top marks him as the instructor, and as usual, his white boxers show through. For someone who is supposed to be a yoga master, he looks remarkably tired, and sports a five-o’clock shadow even though it’s early morning. As he weaves his way between clusters of students, he greets individuals with a nod and a low hello. Throughout the room, groups dissipate and people stand at the front of their mats, waiting in anticipation. The chatter dissolves into a low murmur. The instructor opens his mouth, and out croaks the voice of a Russian Kermit the Frog. We are invited to stand at the front of our mats, feet parallel, arms hanging down. Breathing in, we bring our hands to prayer position. Yoga class begins.


twitches said...

I like the way this story is about the class getting ready to begin, and it ends when the class starts. Interesting.

chiefbiscuit said...

A lovely unfolding and some briliant descriptions and observations - writing at its best putting the reader right there in the room with you.