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Stepping onto the Yoga Mat...
by Charlie Baldwin

There is a fresh state which arises when doing something new, especially if it is something which takes us within. Charlie Baldwin steps onto the yoga mat for the very first time...

item3I’d eaten far too much food considering my first yoga session was imminent. Waddling toward the small studio tucked away behind some houses, I wasn't sure what to expect. Some array of moves to reveal the secrets of my disjointed body? Inner peace? I had some vague ideas about what lay ahead but nothing tangible, and so I entered the space as a blank slate. My footwear found its way to the pile beside the teacher, who greeted me with a smile. Barefoot, I stepped into the studio and, alongside 15 others, laid out my mat. Luke, softly spoken and limber beyond comprehension, greeted us and then began the class.

The first position, and the simplest, gave rise to some sort of wicked indigestion reserved only for the most stupid. My body didn’t want to move the way I wanted it to, I felt a shooting pain in my back, all was not well. But after a few minutes Luke had us concentrate on our breathing as we sat cross legged, calmly walking us through a process we use every second of our lives but one that too often goes neglected. With more control of my breath we began to go through OMmore challenging positions, knees bending, foreheads on the floor; I was a triangle, I was a warrior, I was a mountain. Hamstrings screamed at me from certain positions, but over the course of an hour I began to feel more limber and comfortable with my movements. The indigestion slipped from my mind as I shut off many unnecessary surface level thoughts. I stopped thinking about what time the bus was, and whether or not John Lennon would have liked to have hung out with me, and I began to think more about my breath. I thought on the motion of my body, the ways in which I can encourage it and put the least amount of pressure on my joints. I started to think about how to make the simplest thing, movement, even simpler.

As I stood on the floor, feet together I noticed the tensions in my muscles as if the fibres were working against each other, an inner battle between trying and being. Focusing on my breath I felt relaxed and light. When you are narrowing your attention so closely on what your body is feeling; the diaphragm helping to inflate and deflate your lungs, or the tendons in the legs stretching, you begin to lose the hum of your own voice.

After lying on my back with a belt and a blanket around my ankles and thrusting my crotch towards the stars, we lay in darkness as Luke spoke to us in a soft voice that slowly gave way to silence. All I could hear was breathing, in and out, in and out. I felt my shoulders slip back, as if finally unhooked from some thorn they’d become snagged on. The blissful moment was fleeting as the loud mind can make the contemplative state difficult to sustain; the brain can be a heavy thing. I enjoyed the session though, it taught me not what to do, but rather not 'to·do'. Tired but invigorated, the lights came on and we all slowly filed out of the room. Chatting about our bodies with faces who one hour earlier were strangers with no names. I felt good, and I knew I could feel better.

I noticed yoga seems to be synonymous with meditation and I wonder if meditation is experienced the same by all. Is my goal to empty myself of all I believe I am, and to just be what is happening to me? Or is the mulling over of 'what I am' more important: the Yoga1acknowledging of the self, and an attempted objective analysis whilst in a state of bodily harmony? I heard someone say recently that the word meditation means to “chew the cud”, to think things over, perhaps this comment is influencing the way my mind is playing with itself, I’m not sure. To provide myself with a more organic idea of what yoga is, and what it can do, I’m avoiding reading too much about it. Instead I intend to formulate my own idea, come to my own conclusions, and then hold them up against other perspectives to see what sort of pattern they make.

So, same time next week...

uploaded 13/03/14

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