A few days ago I decided to walk into the city center to get some fresh air and go shopping for my niece’s birthday present. On my way there, I took a slightly different route and ended up walking past a yoga center I had passed by many times before in our neighborhood. I decided to pick up one of their pamphlets (as I had done a couple of times before), contemplating as I had so many other times whether I should try to make the leap and attempt a yoga class in German.
A few years ago in Edinburgh, I took an Iyengar yoga class once a week for about 8 months before my teacher finally gave up offering the course because of a pregnancy. She was a great teacher, it was a great introduction for me to yoga, and I’m still sad about the loss of that course and how great I felt afterwards. Once she closed shop, I didn’t have the heart to look seriously for a new class in Edinburgh. I had heard too many horror stories from friends about drill sargeant-type instructors forcing students to bend themselves into twisty pretzels, and I knew that just wasn’t for me.
Fast forward to our move to Germany, and I started thinking from the very beginning that I ought to try and find a yoga class again. I’m not a particularly sporty person, and yoga is one of the few forms of exercise I’ve found that I actually enjoy. But suddenly I had a new problem: German. I knew that a yoga class all in German might be tricky as there’s very specific instruction given by an instructor as to how a pose should be executed. Yes, one can watch what an instructor does and hopefully they will help physically correct as well, but it’s also about the finer details that they’re describing about alignment, position, etc. that helps to ensure one is attempting a pose correctly. I held off on trying a class for so long because I knew that although I could mimic an instructor’s movements, the finer details of description would most likely be lost on me.
Well, my days of procrastination finally came to an end. On this evening as I was looking at the pamphlet, a gentlemen inside the building spotted me and invited me inside for a chat over a cup of tea. After a few sentences he deduced I spoke English, and after a few more sentences in German he deduced that it might be easier for him to just speak English. I obliged. I know, I know, that’s not the way to improve my German, but a lot of Germans also want to practice their English. So really, I’m doing them a favor…riiiiiggghhhht? <sheepish grin> Anyway, he told me about the yoga center, the classes on offer, and told me I could drop into a class one evening for 10 Euros. Not exactly a cheap trial experience, but then the classes themselves aren’t cheap, either.
I went to this trial class last night. I wish that I could report it was a big success, but sadly that wasn’t so much the case. Firstly, I don’t think it was the right type of class for me. It was a Hatha yoga class, and I don’t know much about yoga and all the different types, but from what I understand it’s just a general yoga class that is less about doing specific poses very precisely and accurately like with Iyengar. This class, as the instructor told me before it began, would primarily be focused on relaxation. That meant a LOT of lying around the floor or sitting cross-legged and “ooooommmm”ing. We only did a few (three or four, maybe?) actual yoga poses. But then bizzarely, we went from lying about and pulling our knees to our chests (and those sorts of “exercises”) to a couple of more intense ones that, frankly, I was practically in agony trying to hold for as long as the instructor wanted us to. And who wants to be that person who quits five seconds in when everyone else is holding it for 25 or 30 seconds? The other thing I learned about Hatha yoga is that it seems just about anyone can teach it whereas there are very specific rules in place that say an Iyengar instructor must have at least two years of rigorous training for the introductory certificate, and many instructors have additional training. My impression from the class last night was that that training makes a big difference.
The other problem with the class was definitely language-related. Unfortunately, my fears were sort of realized that I wouldn’t understand the instructor very well. And one would probably assume that at least I could SEE what she was doing, right? Well, oddly, when we weren’t lying on the ground (which felt like two-thirds of the class), we were sitting and facing each OTHER, and not the instructor. I couldn’t see what she was doing most of the time so I had to constantly crane my neck to try and see her (or my neighbor when I was on the ground). So I woke up with a neck ache today, either from craning it to try and see what I should be doing or because she was giving specific instructions about how not to hurt ourselves during the exercises which I, of course, didn’t understand. And did I mention that I didn’t even feel particularly loose and stretched or relaxed after yesterday’s class? Sigh.
I’m not ready to fully give up on yoga in Germany yet. I think I definitely need an Iyengar class as it is a bit more physical, teaching the actual yoga poses, and because the instructors are so well-trained. That’s a difference I now understand and appreciate. Also, because it’s a form that’s so focused on precision and accuracy, I’m fairly certain that a good instructor will come over and physically correct me when I am wrong and haven’t understood the verbal instructions (something that didn’t happen once yesterday night, but then we were on our backs most of the time….) We’ll see. This yoga center does offer an Iyengar class once a week, so I might give that go, if it sounds like it might be a fit. Otherwise, I guess it’s back to Youtube and the free yoga videos.