Soft, melodic chanting can be heard gently playing over the sound system. From the organic, vegan snack bar wafts the scent of something green being juiced and mixed with other tasty things to create a too-good-for-you-to-taste-nice smoothie. Draped over rustic wooden benches are the beautiful bendy people; comparing notes about who has just returned from their 15th life-changing pilgrimage to Mysore/Bali/somewhere very spiritual just outside the M25.
“WELL WHAT DO YOU MEAN IT DOESN’T WORK LIKE THAT?” Her voice carries over the kale-crusher.
“I’m sorry, but as I said to you earlier I can’t just…” interjects the receptionist.
“…BUT IT’S RIDICULOUS. JUST RIDICULOUS. ARE YOU TELLING ME YOU CAN’T DO ANYTHING ABOUT THIS? THIS IS CRAZY!”
“As I said we just can’t switch without a….”
“OH FOR GOD’S SAKE. NEVER MIND…” and off she struts; her bare feet angrily slapping the wooden floor all the way back to the changing room.
And then, with beautiful subtlety and perfect timing the poor receptionist who had been on the receiving end of this charming customer’s rant says quietly to herself, with a sigh and a knowing smile “Blimey. Maybe she should try some yoga….”
For those of us waiting for our workshop to begin, in this beautiful yoga bubble in the heart of shouty North London it was a valuable reminder. Here’s the thing; you can do yoga AND be a total eejit at times. I know – it’s tough to hear especially if you’ve been lured into a class with the promise that yoga makes you a better person blah blah blah…
So allow me to break it to you; there are a few things that yoga won’t immediately do for you as soon as your pinky toe arrives onto a sticky mat. (The key word here is ‘immediately’; stick with it and you never know what might happen…)
Yoga will not give you endless patience.
You will not descend into a state of nirvana next time the woman in front of you at the supermarket pays for her weekly shop in small change. Nor will you be able to lapse into a meditative state as you enter your second hour of being in stationary traffic. But over time as your fingers creep a little closer to your toes, your hips find a millimeter more movement, and you stand on one leg for one second longer than before, you might think it’s worth the weeks of work.
Yoga will not remove all your bad habits.
Pizza will still taste just as amazing. Beer will be just as delicious. Chocolate will be just as soothing. Yoga will not change any of that. But when your mind starts trying to solve world peace and plan dinner and analyze every conversation you’ve ever had as soon as you try to meditate; or your body freezes every time you try to lift into a backbend, you’re learning valuable information about how you can live better off the mat. You may still love pizza, beer, chocolate…but the reasons why you consume your own bodyweight in it may be easier to understand.
Yoga will not give you unshakeable self-belief.
Stepping out of the studio after your first class you are highly unlikely to suddenly text that bloke/girl you’ve been thinking about for weeks to tell ask them out. Nor will you be fearless enough to fling yourself into the new business venture you’ve been mulling over for weeks because you’re now sure the world needs a chain of make-your-own sausage shops called ‘Offaly Nice’. But the eighth time you have another attempt at Tree Pose and stay upright, or the moment you stay in Warrior 1 with less wobbling, and the first time your Downward Facing Dog doesn’t leave you panting, you may find you walk off your mat feeling a little more invincible than when you started.
Yoga will not stop you comparing yourself to everyone else.
Every class has got one. You’re fairly sure their body is just made of different stuff to yours. Whatever pose the teacher gives they’re in the most advanced version of it quicker than you can internally say “how are you doing that, you big bendy freak?”. They are the epitome of yogic grace. They sit in meditation like a blissed-out rock and you can’t help it; you want to be them. Then as you’re gathering your stuff in the changing room you happen to hear your new yoga idol on the phone. Seems like they’ve just lost their job, their partner is a loser and now you come to look at it they’ve got really weird feet. We’re all fighting our own battles; on and off the mat, and sometimes yoga helps us realise that ours are much easier than other people’s.
Yoga will not make you love all other humans.
Other people are weird and if you want to see it, just go to a yoga class. There’s the Space Hogger; heaven help anyone who mistakenly takes THEIR spot in the studio. Look out for the Prop Perfectionist; it’s a miracle she can actually fit on her mat after she has piled up the menagerie of blocks, bolsters, straps and blankets around her (most of which she won’t actually use). And you should always beware of the Miffed Meditator; he shoots a death-stare to anyone who happens to disturb his pre-class rituals by stepping too heavily in his general vicinity. But just for a moment, when everyone says ‘namaste’, you might feel a connection; a realisation that ultimately everyone is there for the same reason – to get happier, feel healthier, and live life as the very best version of themselves.