I went to an excellent, cheap yoga class in Manly Community Centre last night. I like going to yoga classes in drafty community centres rather than in swish expensive ones with tinkling fountains and up lighters. This is not (just) because I am a tight wad. It is because they are usually run by eccentric teachers and peopled by the most interesting, yet also eccentric, fellow students.
I’ve been taught by a sturdy German woman in a small hall in Stoke Newington, who was the first person to notice and celebrate the fact that I can move my little toes independently from the rest of my toes; a crazy curly-haired Welsh yogi, in a in a Cardiff sports centre who implored on a regular basis, ‘How can anyone survive, without yoga. How? HOW?’; and an otherworldly, serene Cornish dude who served chai and taught me how to meditate in Buddock Waters. He – as a pointless aside – was originally taught by the crazy Welsh lady. Apparently the world of yogi’s who teach in community centres is a small one.
So I was pleased to have found a community centre type class here in Manly.
The class is taught by the formidable Man Yee. A petite Chinese woman with the body of a gymnast and the kind, smiling face of a particularly happy nun. I spent the first half of the class thinking that her name was actually Man Lee, which gave me a huge amount of misplaced pleasure.
She teaches with skill and compassion, which is more important than you might think as yoga is not just another form of exercise or way to achieve the body beautiful. It is a more rounded, dare I say, holistic form of physical activity.
Throughout the lesson, as she gave instructions, raising her voice for the hard bits, I drifted of into wonderful three-second kung fu daydreams as she sounds, at times, like a female Bruce Lee. At one point I was distracted from my forward bend by the pleasant puzzle of working out what she meant when she said, ‘This pose work your groom. Best to focus on your groom and also have a relaxed groom.’
Even though I have been going to yoga for years on and off and am quite good at some of the poses, I have incredibly tight hamstrings. It is a dream of mine that I will one day be able to touch my toes. At the end of the session when I told her how much
I had enjoyed the class, she said,
‘You are good in the arms,’ and gave me a little wry smile.
‘I really need to improve my hamstrings.’
‘Yes, yes,’ she said, ‘you really do have very conservative legs, Jen.’
‘I suppose they are,’ I said.
Take that Mr Brown.