The international language of yoga...Parisian style



My yoga mat is one of my most faithful companions - it has seen me upside down during headstands, trembling from exhaustion during a challenging series of sun salutations and limp as a noodle during relaxation pose. We've done Kundalini yoga together in the tropical heat of Trinidad, Hatha yoga in the USA and Kripalu yoga next to the Lake of Geneva in Switzerland. It has been a welcome constant in my life during times of turmoil and has introduced me to some of my closest friends. When I'm not practicing yoga, my life just doesn't feel right.

So, naturally, I joined a yoga class shortly after we arrived in Paris but decided that it wasn't for me when the instructor, who can do more with his body at eighty than I can in my late forties, slapped my foot because I used my left leg rather than my right during a complicated posture. It happens sometimes, the confusion not the slapping, especially when you're contorted like a pretzel and trying to figure out the instructions in a language that isn't your own. As I've always thought yoga class is supposed to be more about acceptance than abuse, I felt my enthusiasm waning and reluctantly delegated my mat to a dark corner of the closest. Every once in a while, I would peep at it to see how it was doing and to reassure it that it wasn't forgotten.

Now that we're into the start of our second year in Paris, I decided to free my yoga mat from solitary confinement and try a teacher at another gym. While I've only taken one class, I'm pleased to report that I like her. It would be hard not to like someone who uses uniquely French metaphors to help her students envision the correct alignment of their bodies. Whereas an American yoga teacher might tell her students to be as limp as a rag doll while bending forward at the waist, my new yoga teacher told us to envision les cloches de Normandy (the bells of Normandy) that swing from the cows' necks. During a standing posture, we were told to imagine ourselves to be "small...no, large Eiffel Towers standing erect in the sun." I couldn't help smiling like an idiot - my yoga mat and I have a home!

Comments

  1. Cute story. I've not really found a yoga class I like here either, and my sunset orange yoga mat sits in a closet as well. And when I was in Mexico visiting friends, one could do better poses than I could, and that was pretty discouraging, I mean, really! I'm somewhat competitive, and yoga isn't supposed to be competitive, although it may make it into the Olympics one day soon. There was a great article a month or so ago in the NYTimes about yoga in the Western world and how different it is from the way it's practiced in India--loose clothes as opposed to Lululemon form fitters; chatty phone conversations during poses as opposed to silence in class.

    I'm glad you found a class, and have the presence of mind to remember the distinctive phrases from your instructor. Keep us posted.

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    1. Yoga as an Olympic sport is hard to fathom!

      I'll have to see if I can find the NYT article. Thanks for mentioning it. Someone speaking on a cell phone in yoga class would drive me crazy. You have to wonder why they even bother to go if they can't disconnect for an hour and a half.

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  2. I have had NO luck finding a good yoga class in France! They're all about stretching, envisioning the muscles relaxing and "Om"ing. I want a workout, not a lie-down-and-breathe-class. Went to a new place today where for the first time we did one whole sun salutation. But then she told us to lay down and imagine closing up all the doors to our souls including our ears, eyes, mouth, nose and anal sphincter. Won't be going back to that class.

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    1. Good luck finding a yoga class! The one I found seems to offer a fairly good balance of exercise and relaxation, although it started off rather slow.

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  3. I seem to be one of the few people who has never done yoga. Maybe it's time I had a go, however I have no idea if there any classes around here or not. I don't think it's something elderly farmers' wives get up to so north Creuse probably isn't a hotbed of yoga! I'll get looking ...

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    1. While yoga doesn't suit everyone, I would recommend trying it at least once. A lot depends on the teacher, too.

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  4. I have never found a yoga class I felt comfortable in. (if you pardon the double entendre!) I SO admire people who get into yoga. It seems to have a very positive effect on their lives, not just physically. I am glad you have found a new class that suits your mat LOL! , Love the metaphors....and love the photo.

    Felling decidedly stiff this morning after climbing on frames all over the park with my grandsons yesterday. Maybe I should give it another try.

    Denise
    Love from Bolton

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    1. Playing with your grandchildren sounds like the ideal way to stretch your body and get some exercise. I don't think that I would bother looking for a yoga class!

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