‘Hello class. I am Steven, your Yoga instructor.’ Steven folded his palms together and greeted, ‘Namaste.’ Among the bunch of females from different age groups, I could see only one grey haired male in the room.
‘Good morning,’ Steven greeted me specifically as I made the last entry in the first Yoga class of my life.
‘Good morning,’ I reciprocated and felt somewhat relieved inside. I was anxious about receiving a warning from a muscular and scary middle-aged guy for being late in class. But Steven dissolved my fears somewhere. He should be around sixty years but his face had a childish grin. I was not sure if it was years of Yoga that he had managed his calm look even after waiting for 10 minutes to begin his class.
‘Please keep the bags in one corner and take your seats,’ he requests all of us.
The early arrivals had already arranged their Yoga mats in several rows and with a specific distance between them. I didn’t have the slightest idea before how 11 people could make a large room look so crowded until I saw their disciplined seating manner. A latecomer like me found it difficult to locate a place for her bum there. Finally, a wide gap between two rows came to my notice where I could easily place my mat. I started unfolding the Yoga mat.
‘Okay, we will sit cross-legged now and relax at first. Later, I will demonstrate the asanas there so that all of you can see me clearly,’ Steven adjusted his black bandana on his head and pointed at the exact place where I was standing with my mat. Oops. I had planned to sit in my instructor’s position in the very first class.
Out of desperation and urgency, I placed my mat in the first last place that caught my eye in one of the rows. The lady in front of me was sitting cross-legged and paying full attention to Steven while I was trying to drag my mat a bit away from her to respect the distance followed by the rest of the class. But the sticky Yoga mat refused to obey it’s master.
‘Yoga is all about exercising control on your breathing. Close your eyes. Inhale deeply and then exhale slowly. Inhale,’ Steven commanded in his gentle voice. The class started inhaling.
‘Exhale,’ Steven commanded once more. Everyone started releasing their breath.
‘Continue like this few more times,’ the class followed his instructions and continued exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide. There was so much pin-drop silence that I had to open one of my eyes midway to make sure I was not the only one still doing the business of gases.
‘Now open your eyes. Do you feel relaxed?’ Steven asked the class and everyone replied positively. I didn’t know few minutes of breathing could bring such a difference in my stress levels. Was I breathing wrong all these years of my life?
‘What do you feel in your stomach when you breathe in? Does it expand or contract?’ he asked. The class took one second to process the question and came up with the answer, ‘Expand.’ I took four seconds to breathe in and realised my naval contracting. I almost shouted, ‘Contract.’
‘Who said contract?’ Steven turned towards my row with his zen smile. I raised my hand to show that he had a genius in his class who understood the breathing concept better than the rest of his students.
‘Good,’ he showed his right thumb and turned towards the rest of the class. ‘Consider your stomach as a balloon. What happens when you fill air inside it?’
The entire class including me answered, ‘Expand.’
I answered ‘contract’ a minute ago. Why didn’t Steven correct me then?Did Yoga teach him to ignore an ignorant student as well ?
‘What happens when you take out air from the balloon?’ I heard Steven asking his general knowledge question again and all the Einsteins in the class replying, ‘Contract.’
Forget it. I consoled myself. Nobody can think properly after rushing towards classes. Pranayama can’t rescue you from every mess in life.
Steven demonstrated the bhujangasana or the Cobra Pose after explaining the elaborate details of Pranayama for few more minutes. I lied down in mat, raised my head and trunk keeping my weight on my palms. As per Steven’s instructions I tried to arch my neck as backward as possible so that I could replicate a confident cobra. After a minute, the hands of confident cobra started shaking terribly.
When I was thinking how long I could hold a cobra inside me, I heard Steven saying , ‘Don’t exert too much force on your palms else you will become a purple cobra. Release and relax.’ His words were music to my ears. I almost collapsed on the mat.
‘Do you know what gets strengthened with this Yoga pose?’ Steven started his GK quiz. His bright disciples replied, ‘Yes.’
‘What is it?’ he asked.
‘Back,’ the rest of the class continued to prove it’s mettle.
The answer was there in my mind too. But after my blunder with contract & expand logic, I decided it was best to go slow. My palms were intact even after the cobra attack, that was more than enough for me.
My earliest memories with Yoga were restricted to the drawings of asanas and their benefits in Physical Education practical exams in school. In later years, I started walking & gymming and thought it would contribute to my flexibility. But Steven’s cobra, caterpillar or downward-facing dog poses ruined my notions.
‘Okay. Enough for today. Let’s do the Shavasana,’ Steven lied down in his mat and showed the most relaxing asana Yoga invented till date.
I lied down in the midst of a soothing music coming from some corner of the room. I understood that I had miles to go before I sleep…er…before a lazy bum like me could manage a perfect date with Mr.Yoga.