Yoga in Chinese…

…is not as relaxing as Yoga in French.

I have been living in school for over two weeks now and the fact that I don’t speak Chinese and my neighbours speak a handful of English between the four of them means that, at times, it can get a little lonely. So today I decided to try to integrate with the teachers by attending teachers’ yoga. I’m not a regular yoga-goer, in fact the only time I have attended proper yoga classes was when I lived in Paris a couple of years ago and then I had just enough vocabulary to grasp what was going on. Besides, when I didn’t I could just happily relax to the soothing sounds of the French language.

This yoga class coincided with the mid-way point of my first week of teaching but most importantly with the last time I would have to see the four screaming, unruly and uninterested Grade 2 classes I have been burdened with until next week. Since corporal punishment is not really an option, I thought yoga would be a suitably calming alternative.
So I donned my leggings and t-shirt and my contact teacher accompanied me up to the 6th floor of the school on a side of the building I didn’t know existed – I have not been given a tour of the school yet and I don’t think I will. We arrived, a little out of breath, and walked into the room where the yoga teacher set eyes upon me with a look of slight panic. This deepened when my contact teacher and the other teachers there had a laugh and a joke about the fact that I don’t understand Chinese and so she would have to use English. I tried to explain via mime that I would be alright and that I would just copy the actions but this seemed to provoke even more laughter. I smiled and rolled out my mat and settled down, indicating that I was going to give it a go.

So the class began. Everyone was sat crossed legged on their mats with their eyes closed in silence breathing deeply so I followed suit. So far so good. Then, the teacher started to talk. Now if I understood what she was saying, I’m sure I would have found it a relaxing experience. However, the Chinese language although musical to some, is not really on a par with the soft tones of whispered French. In fact, I am yet to hear anyone speak softly, let alone whisper, in Chinese. Evidently, I wasn’t going to find any inner peace in this class!

The class went on at a steady pace and accelerated to include some pretty strenuous poses that had me sweating like a fat guy in a sauna. When the teacher led us into a sit-up-like position, I knew I was in for a proper work out! We had to hold various crunches that I haven’t had forced upon me since Body Conditioning with Mr Halpin every Saturday morning during my school days. The teacher was extremely hands on; yanking arms back, pulling legs straight and forcing me lower into each lunge. I think this was because of the language barrier as the other women did not seem to be getting as much attention. This was torture but thankfully I wasn’t the only one who thought so. The others were oohing and ahhing from the pain creating sounds I’ve never heard in a yoga class. This was definitely on another level. We then moved onto some more familiar poses – mountain pose and downward-facing dog. However, due to the sweat dripping from my brow and my clammy palms, my downward-facing dog slid closer and closer towards a face-planting dog. The yoga instructor came over and forcefully pushed on my lower back, pushing me deeper into the pose and making my spine crack which felt great. She let go and I presumed she had moved on to the next person. I then felt a pull on my hips as she had moved round behind me and started pulling me into her groin. The overly English part of me couldn’t help but freeze from the awkwardness of this situation. Here she was, pulling me into her groin and saying words to me in Chinese. Even if I knew what she was saying I probably wouldn’t have heard her as I hurriedly tried to correct my downward-facing dog so that she would un-hand me. It was quite laughable really, and I’m sure my face was a figurative beetroot colour. The others in the room did not bat an eyelid.

I must say, the next day I was aching all over, as if I had run several Ks the day before. All in all the Chinese way of doing yoga is, if not relaxing, a real work out and awkwardly amusing.

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About A

Recent graduate seeking: direction, purpose and money, ingenuously taking in different parts of the world along the way.
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