Friday, October 17, 2008
Class #6: Hatha Yoga at Yoga Mandala
I am heartened by what I see, initially.
The class is full. More importantly, there are ACTUAL desis in the class. By my count, there are 2 for sure, and 2 unconfirmed, as I can’t see their faces. One woman is a straight up FOB*; she’s looking South Indian to my eyes, dark skinned, hair in a ponytail, and toe-rings. The other confirmed desi is ABCD, a petit young thing, a UC student I’m sure, molded by her parents to believe that she should aim for law school, or perhaps become a doctor or engineer.
I’m stereotyping, certainly, but I get to. Still, I realize I’ve just used the same method to evaluate the studio as I do Indian restaurants. There are real Indians here, so it must be OK, right?
I am paying attention to the teacher, trying to buck my preconceived notions. I think she pronounces the Hymns OK; I’m not sure, as they are in Sanskrit, which I suspect is the “steeped in the ancient traditions of India” way of saying Hindi. I don’t speak Hindi or Bangla, but I can tell the difference, mostly by their cadence. Bangla replaces “ah” sounds with “oh” sounds, and pronounces any “s” sounds with “sh” sounds, the like of which just made deposit a glob of drool on my lap while trying to type and mouth them out at the same time. She mentions Saraswati- the minor goddess of music and literature- and a word which sounds more like “Sho-ro-shoti” in Bangla, and I chant it as such.
That’s right- I chant. Perhaps I was hoping that the cute ABCD girl would hear me, maybe recognize that I was Bengali, and perhaps SHE was Bengali, and perhaps we would have something to talk about, especially as during the class, she was singled out for help more than anyone else. I wanted to shimmy her up with blankets myself. It is difficult for a single man to focus on his own prana during yoga class when there are so many other options.
We carry on. It’s a slightly different sort of method, more movement and what appear to be warm-ups. We insert our fingers in-betwixt our toes and rotate our ankles as if we are reeling in fish from a stream. We cross one leg over the other– still extended- and pump our knees into the ground like we were knicker-clad Mormon children of late 19th century Salt Lake City, vigorously working a lead handle, pumping water out of a well. It occurs to me that there might be a market for Yoga via Norman Rockwell analogy, and I think, for the first time, that it might actually be kind of cool to be a yoga teacher.
As this is a beginner’s class, the actual asanas are low impact, which is fine, but I’m feeling like I can bump it up a bit. I’m trying to prepare myself to meet the Subramanya, hoping to impress, as my friend speaks so highly of him. The teacher- the one who took some care to pronounce all the Sanskrit hymns correctly-asks if we have all signed in. I paid, bought the three-class pass**, but I don’t know if I’ve signed a list.
“What’s your last name?” she asks.
“DasGupta” I reply, taking pains to add the slight ‘sh’ sound to the “Das” portion, as both the FOB and ABCD are within ear-shot.
“Oh, yea you signed in, here you are right here- ShooMott, right?”
Who was I trying to fool, anyway?
*FOB= Fresh off the Boat. I didn’t make it up.
** This feels exactly like buying a middle-school weekly lunch ticket.