In late June of 2009, the following newspaper advertisement caught my attention:
Unlimited yoga during the months of July and August for $160
I was hooked after the first week.
The classes were small, and the instructors were able to work with me on an individual basis. I test-drove all the instructors and then zeroed in on my favorites: Amy, the social worker from Newfoundland who had completed her training in India; Claudia, the young mother who offered a structured class that appealed to my left-brain tendencies; and Lisa, the quintessential willow.
I found myself looking forward to each session. There was something immensely comforting in the precision of the instructions: Inhale and raise both arms straight out from the shoulders parallel to the floor with the palms facing down…Exhale slowly while turning the torso to the left…One more long, luxurious inhalation, one more complete exhalation.
I found it easy to focus on the smallest of movements, regardless of the group size or time of day. I also liked listening to the soft, soothing Sanskrit names—balasana, garudasana, tadasana, savasana—that described the different poses. Much more interesting than simply hearing child pose, eagle pose, mountain pose or corpse pose.
It was reassuring to discover that all my body parts were working and reporting faithfully for yoga duty. I felt myself growing healthier and stronger with each stretch, breath, and positive thought. And I didn’t feel pressured or frustrated if I didn’t get the pose right the first time or at all. I kept repeating the following mantra to myself: A yoga pose is a journey, not a destination.
I had planned to stay at the downtown studio indefinitely, but that was not meant to be. Within three years, my favorite instructors had moved on to have children, relocate to other cities, or go on extended sabbaticals.
I searched and found yoga sanctuaries in small studios, converted basements, arenas, and school gyms. I would show up with my mat and an open mind, ready to resume my practice with a new instructor. I particularly enjoyed the two years I spent at St. Matthias Church in south Guelph. Each Monday evening, the pews were pushed back, the lights were dimmed, and soft music played as we practiced right in the church. I was forced to leave that comfortable yoga bubble when the diocese decided to sell the building.
For the past two years, I have found sanctuary in a meeting room at the West End Recreation Centre. Within days of signing up for the spring session, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, bringing all our lives to a standstill.
Thoughts of yoga fell by the sidelines as I shopped for the essentials, watched daily updates, and mentally prepared myself for an indefinite period of sheltering.
Toward the end of last week, I started to feel a familiar restlessness whenever I caught sight of my yoga mat, propped against the sofa in my den. I missed my practice and couldn’t imagine waiting indefinitely to resume it.
Determined to create my own sanctuary, I searched through several yoga videos on YouTube. Most impressed by Brett Larkin’s well-modulated voice and precise directions, I have decided to anchor my practice with her 30-minute Hatha Yoga video.
Where to find Joanne Guidoccio…