On Wednesdays, a friend and I go to our weekly yoga class. We drive together to mid-town, and make sure to do so early so we get a park.
The neighbourhood is a kaleidoscope of traffic lights, warehouses and industrial buildings. The building we’re after is tucked in between an Asian supermarket and a car dealer. There are two flights of stairs before you get to the yoga studio, and the walls on the way up are white and grey. After the first flight, there is a toilet. I know this because the handwritten sticker, plastered at a slight angle on the door, tells me so.
And then there is the studio.
Its walls are honey coloured, and on entering, there is a large face painted on the wall. I thought it looked like a friendly sunflower monster. I was kindly corrected and told it was actually the Krishna God figure. So now I know.
We take our shoes off. I drink some water. Matts are unrolled, and blankets put aside for shavasana. There are around 20 of us – guys and girls, a few different colours, a lot of different shapes. I know better now than to assume it’s the skinny girl to my right who’s the expert: she can barely touch her toes. But she is there, and she tries – like me – and that is all that matters. I catch her eye and she smiles. I think to myself, I like these people.
The class begins at 6pm.
But I am tired. And a little hungry. They’ll feed us dinner afterwards and my mind wanders. What will it be tonight? Delicious – that’s a guarantee. But I’m wondering if that beetroot pate they had last time will be there… and what about dessert?
The first downward dog. I feel my body tense then loosen. I hang my head. It feels good.
By the time I’m standing in warrior pose, the familiar warmth that I have found only yoga can bring (no matter how hot and sweaty I get at the gym) washes over me.
I’m not tired anymore.
I’m not thinking about food.
I feel strong.
The teacher – a petite woman with a kind voice – talks us through the motions. She assures us with each step that our bodies are unique, and our movements will reflect this. I remember that it was only half way through my first class with her that I noticed the curve in her spine; it angled up towards her shoulder blade like a sea’s wave. Scoliosis, maybe?
By body is humming by the time we ease ourselves onto our backs for shavasana. I try not to let the thoughts flutter around my mind like they usually do. Sometimes I’m successful. Maybe it’ll be some time before I can lay in the mindful silence our teacher is encouraging, but it feels so good anyway. I wouldn’t have guessed I’d turn into such a hippie, but here I am, content to say that I love yoga. It’s my drug, my happy place.
We eat afterwards. Couscous with olives; a broccoli and tomato salad; dahl; all washed down with ginger tea. And dessert? Egg-free carrot cake.
We sit on pillows around low tables to eat. Sometimes the faces we sit with are familiar, sometimes new. The other week I spoke at length with one of the teachers. What is it like to be a Hare Krishna? And what inspired her practise? It might not be for me, I decide, but I feel immense gratitude for what these good-hearted people offer, for next to no money. A place where we can practice what yoga truly is about: acceptance, diversity, calm – with the bonus of good food in good company at the end.