I went to my first session of yoga last night. Cassie and I went along to Mountain Yoga in Montclair, where they’re doing a 4-weekly-session introduction course. Felt good.
I was a little nervous about it at first, because despite living in mid-California, I have no patience at all for mysticism and quackery of any kind. Being thousands of years old doesn’t make a practise effective. There are many places around Montclair that do acupuncture, the dodgy “cure AIDS” form of chiropractic* and so on. Yoga seems OK though. Yes, it’s very old, and comes with a lot of “ancient wisdom” baggage. But in the end, it’s about stretching and breathing and calmly trying not to scream.
The instructor was great, she led us through an hour of various basic poses, with the benefits of each. She did tell us the Sanskrit names of the poses and the English translations – these were things like “Sun and the Moon”, “Cat Cow” and of course the classic “Downward Facing Dog” which Gordon does many times a day – but that’s fine, it’s just the terms that have been used. She also had a lot of spiel along the lines of, “Breathe through your left side, allow your right side to flow”, and at one point, “Raise your arms slowly, with compassion…”. I had no problem with any of that either – I saw it just as part of the “act”, and in fact it was nice to be gently guided by example and voice, as you contorted, quivered and whimpered. She did mention “energy” once, but in reasonable context, and there were no mentions of “channels” at all.
One thing that did please me was that one starting position was to stand straight, with your palms pressed together, held to your chest, fingers pointed up, . The instructor said that many people call this the prayer position, but she doesn’t like calling it that, preferring to call it ‘hands to your heart’. Very pragmatic and straighforward.
After the session, we walked back through the abandoned streets of Montclair Village – it was after 9pm after all – and relaxed a little and played with the dog before hitting the hay. This morning, I felt fine – no terrible stiffness or pain. We’ll see what happens next week.
* How does one tell the difference? Seriously? There was one by the hairdresser last week that claimed to be able to cure “tendonitis, arthritis, any kind of -itis” which I assume would include bacterial meningitis and tonsilitis. Also, they’ll cure “immune deficiency disorders” whatever the hell they think they mean by that.