Knowing nothing about yoga or meditation, I entered the class with eagerness tempered by a hefty dose of suspicion. This was something I’d be interested in since Madonna re-popularised it with her noodle-like flexibility and stunning figure at the age of 53. But was it all it was cracked up to be?
The other members of the class were already positioned, sitting with their heads on the floor, presumably stretching out their spines. Apprehension crept over me. Even that looked hard, and this was just the warm up. Sure enough, as I started honing in on my body and concentrating on how I felt, every ache or pain of discomfort suddenly made itself known as we were instructed to manoeuvre into the ‘Elephant’s Trunk’.
All the years of sitting badly, slouching on the couch and not stretching before going for a run came back to haunt me as I felt sweat starting to trickle down my cheek. How on earth can sitting in one position be so exhausting? Our instructor (or Acharya as they say in Hindu) got up and walked around the room, and on passing me softly whispered, “Nice flexible body.” Hooray! Obviously I wasn’t doing as badly as I’d thought.
Estralita is a ‘Jivan Mukti’ Yoga instructor. This is a fairly new form of yoga rapidly gaining in popularity, with some describing it as ‘emotional yoga’. Jivan means ‘life’ or ‘living’ and Mukti means ‘freedom’ or ‘liberation’ so in essence it means ‘liberation while living.’ The poses can be quite physically demanding but the rhythmic flow of one’s breathing and the Shanti Om music playing in the background relieves the tension and makes the experience rather uplifting.
As we sat there, contorted like pretzels, Estralita urged us each to “feel your body and feel the discomfort.” I am damn-well in tune with my discomfort, I thought, and so are my numbing legs. But as she repeated her exhortations to really feel our bodies and to adapt to the pain, I felt my muscles stretch and, from years of stiffness they began to relax and settle. In that instant I comprehended the mastery of the human body and its ability to heal itself.
With every muscle resurging with new energy my body felt more alive than ever before as, after an hour of yoga, we were instructed to prepare for 30 minutes of deep relaxation. We lay on our mats, covered ourselves with light blankets and blinded our eyes with bean bags. Soft spiritual music played as our bodies began to cool down. There was a sense of safety and anonymity in that roomful of strangers, and I felt a cool calmness wash over me as my racing mind was put to rest and my limbs went weak and heavy. If someone hadn’t turned on the lights I could have stayed there all night. Namaste.
‘Yoga in Milnerton’ is held every Tuesday evening at 6 pm to 7:30 pm in the Jivan Mukti Studio at the Milnerton Library.