Introduction by Jake
I'm incredibly happy to present our new blog series - yoga origins - men and their stories of how, when, where and why they decided to try yoga. Expect straight-up honesty, heartfelt insights and side-splitting moments.
I hope these genuine accounts can inspire those who have doubted themselves to give yoga a try, and reveal to those that have already that everyone has let one rip in class at least once...
You might not agree with what you read - but who is anyone to say how a person interprets a particular experience?
I'll leave you with Scott, a gentleman from Porthcawl, Wales...
Discovering yoga at the source.
So I turned fifty in April. It sounded old. For heaven’s sake I felt young. I’m a surfer after all. My back only twinged three or four times a day. I was flexible enough to touch my knees whilst standing, provided the wind was over 20 knots and blowing from behind. My knees felt great climbing stairs. I just needed assistance from passing strangers to come back down - visits to Marks and Spencer had to be carefully timed to avoid the blue-rinse and lavender rush.
For my 50th birthday, my wife took me to Kerala in India; Varkala, specifically, where she bounded off to morning yoga lessons leaving me to check the meagre, wind-blown and raggedy surf. And so, after 3 or 4 days of fruitless sea-gazing, I suggested that I might come to a yoga class. She coughed up a fur ball; or stifled a laugh - I couldn’t be sure which. To cut a short story short, she took me up to the empty yoga shala that evening to try out some yoga and to help her perfect something called Sirsasana. It sounded highly dangerous, so I agreed; but took a heavy stick and warned hotel reception just in case something unexpected kicked off.
It turned out that Sirsasana was a type of headstand, and whilst it is the most difficult yoga posture known to man, I had it nailed in a jiffy. Buoyed by this success, I resolved to try out the morning class. My wife raised one eyebrow at my exuberant declaration - but she does that often, so I paid no notice to it.
The yoga class was taught by a too-thin, myopic Keralan who smiled a lot and said very little. I guess he was around forty or so years old. He may have been twenty; he may have been sixty. His class had no name - it was just called Yoga with Sunilkumar; which I thought was odd, as all yoga classes I’d read about had weird names such as Ashstrangler, Hyawatha, and Vindiesel. The class was attended by half a dozen western folk; all women - apart from me and Sunilkumar. Everyone looked very expert in their lycra body hugging stretchy-pants and tit squashingly tight vest tops - apart from me and Sunilkumar.
The lesson started with some random waving of arms in different directions as a warm-up, before getting into the serious business of, what I learned later, was sun salutation. It was a traditional sun salutation with many exotically named asanas in a sequence that, to me, loosely translated as: waft your armpits free with abandon, bend down to pick fluff off the mat, pretend to not do a press-up, reach one leg forward and attempt to press testicles to the floor, go back into fake not-press-up, do the easy bit of a press-up (i.e. the downward bit), do torso press-up whilst leaving testicles behind and uncomfortable on the mat, bend back stick bum in air until back of legs catch fire, bring legs toward hands on the mat into a forward bend until back and legs scream in pain, raise body up vertical and finally bring arms down to side; all whilst breathing in and out with each posture and trying not to groan/break wind/dribble/pass-out - delete as appropriate.
Then there came heaven. A little Savasana. Which is basically lying on your back and breathing and forgetting fifty years of stuff - kind of like being asked to go into an ancient Victorian room packed full of dust-sheet covered old furniture and told to enjoy a vodka martini at the bar.
Next, more Asanas. Then more breathing. And more Asanas. And finally another more lengthy vodka martini (I mean Savasana) to finish wobbly and floaty-light down the uneven circular stairwell without a thought for seeking assistance from Sunilkumar or the lycra-clad yogettes.
From this experience I was hooked, going to all the remaining classes I could until our time in Kerala came to an end. I left India (in the words of Al Pacino in Carlito’s Way) rehabilitated, reinvigorated, and in all ways reassimilated. And ready for more yoga back in the UK...