I was as surprised as anyone to find that I’d willingly booked myself into a yoga class at my gym a couple of weeks or so ago. The daughter of a former Big Pharma exec, I have quite stringent rules on what falls into the category of “hippy drippy mumbo jumbo claptrap”, and yoga – along with Reiki, which I maintain is not a suitable second date activity – has always been one of those things.
But taster sessions at Wilderness will do funny things to a gal (just as well the “foraging for your food” class was fully booked, really) and so it was that I recently found myself on a small mat at the back of a mirrored studio in my gym, underneath the railway arches, trying to overcome the cognitive dissonance I was experiencing hearing a lithe, exotic-looking beauty dispense some pretty hippy drippy stuff about connecting with one’s navel – in a strong Liverpudlian accent.
First things first. My internal jury is still out on whether it counts as exercise. Swimming, riding, running 10k three times a week definitely all count as exercise. Sitting on a mat contorting yourself into all sorts of peculiar and unnecessary positions, I’m still not so sure about.
Then there’s the fact that actually, there is quite a lot of the hippy drippy stuff – or at least there was in the class I went to. There’s the finding one’s centre, and being at peace, and connecting with one’s navel, and listening to one’s universe, and a whole other load of stuff I just don't have time for. I'm a busy person. It’s touch and go as to whether I get the laundry done some weeks. The time I have to spend thinking about my belly button is approximately nil. Also, there was chanting, and frankly that is one of the hippiest drippiest things that there is.
And yet… there’s something really rather pleasurable about the whole thing that I'm yet to put a finger on. It could have been the sense that I was asking my muscles to do things they’re not usually asked to do – move slowly and calmly into a variety of poses that aren’t my default position of “clutching desperately to a strong G&T”, leaving me with not quite an ache, but just an awareness that I’d used them. (Still not exercise, mind.)
It could have been that I’d spent time stretching muscles that rarely get stretched. There’ll be a perfunctory few minutes in the gym when I’ve done anything verging on strenuous, but I never do otherwise, including when I leap down after a two hour bootcamp hack with the slightly terrifying Tina – something I inevitably regret when I spend the following weekin a waddle.
It could have been the fact that I spent an hour breathing very slowly and deliberately – and, more than that, thinking about my breathing and making sure I was doing it slowly and deliberately, which isn’t something I think I’ve ever taken the time to do.
Because I walked out of that first class slightly bemused by all the navel chat, but feeling enormously refreshed, relaxed and as at peace as it’s ever possible to be in this frenetic city of ours. So much so that I put to one side my sneering about the low exercise factor, and did a second class – with a different teacher, who was equally hippy drippy, but in a way that irked my sensibilities rather less. And I thoroughly enjoyed that too.
Quite what’s happened to me, I have absolutely no idea. If you do, let me know. I’ll be over there, investigating Bikram…