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     Volume 4 Issue 8 | August 13, 2004 |

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Under a Different Sky

Iffat Nawaz

When my cousin called me up to ask if I would accompany her to a certain yoga class, I gave a quick reply of yes, as I had always wanted to find out about the yoga trend in popular American cities… in total style among the metro-culture, detoxifying, cleansing, getting in touch with the soul…blah blah blah…In conclusion, to me, it was nothing but a hoax with a bunch of skinny metro-dwellers locked in some position repeating 'ohm" till they felt semi "diverse". I wanted to see the sipping fakeness among the veggie-pizza-lover crowd, so I went.

I should also explain this is not the first time I had been to a so-called yoga class. If there is a touch of bitterness in my voice it's due to a past experience which took place a year and some back. A co-worker's friend had invited me to some anonymous yoga session and, without thinking and with deep interest, I had gone. The whole thing seemed like a horror episode from some HBO special, the ex-hippi-gone-rich crowd had their mantras memorised, calling each other gods and goddesses. It wasn't about bending your body but more a game of twisted minds. I bolted out of there like a bat out of hell during the first break and have avoided going back to that neighborhood since. Later I figured out there are many mini cults in different cities of such. Yoga crowds wearing bead necklaces and skirts or shirts woven by Mexicans, greeting with "Namastes" and parting with unkosher gestures…

My cousin had assured me it wasn't going to be the same. This certain yoga class was a popular one among many different crowds. Washington Post did an article on it, therefore, it was widely "approved'. So there was my chance to find out about the movement out there and experience it first hand, and came the day I was ready with my water, towel, proper attire and bare feet.

In the middle of Washington DC on the fourth floor of a building which lacks an elevator, we arrived half an hour early. After registration we picked up our yoga mats when the previous class just broke and the participants came out. I stared at their faces, spaced out and serious, dropping sweat from all parts of the body, too into themselves to even notice who and what was around…I was confused. I thought this was suppose to be some light work out in the name of "yoga". After all, this trendy crowd couldn't put up with some real strenuous yoga session, they are just doing it for fashion's sake.

We walked into the room; the heat reminded me of our attic during unbearably steamy summers of Bangladesh. Apparently the yoga class was to take place in a 105 degree environment. I thought, that's no big deal, I grew up with frequent disappearance of electricity all year (especially the summer months) around, in a country where deodorant is of no use.

Soon the class started, a full house. I guess this was a big hit among the DC crowd. They were of all kinds, shapes, colours and features…representing what I wasn't yet sure of…the face of modern day yoga perhaps. So I followed the instruction and soon I felt nauseated. I could hear my heart pounding…everyone around me moved in perfect harmony, in smooth steps, taking their bodies to that extra limit, stretching till you can't reach anymore, bending till you don't twist any longer. Slowly the smirk on my face was erased, I was sweating top to bottom with the others, trying my best to fit in. I, a Southeast Asian girl born near the birth place of yoga, learning yoga from the westerners who performed it better than I had ever experienced.

The class ended finally, after 90 minutes. The instructor thanked all and turned the lights off, while 40 sweating bodies lay on the floor, still, breathing, shadows of street lights on our faces, eyes closed, recuperating, rejuvenating, tired to the point of ecstasy.

I walked out of there a few minutes later, my tongue had rolled back too far into my mouth and I couldn't and didn't want to speak for a while I didn't want to ruin this feeling of irreplaceable pleasure that I had created myself, with my own body, and with the help of a few instructors.

That night I slept like a log, I woke up the next day feeling refreshed, my spine, my chest, my throat, my lower back, the palms of my hands, the small of my back, my ankles, they were all open, each muscle was breathing, and I could hear the beats. And with it so was my mind, the narrow closed mind finally opened a door to exhale out a bit of its sarcasm, bitterness and bias. So here I am with what I believe is a slightly different and new me, learning to breathe over again...on my way to learn "Savasana" from a girl named Joelle.

To contact this writer please email nituta@hotmail.com.



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