Saturday, October 18, 2008

Class #7: Hatha Yoga @ Yoga Mandala

I’ve elected the Level 2 class. I might not be entirely ready for it, but Em tells me that the Level 2-3 class of the storied Subramanya is the class to go to, and I want to be prepared.

The teacher, who introduces herself with her Indian name, asks me mine.

I don’t remember ever consciously Americanizing the pronunciation of my name. I’m sure it must have happened in grade school. Whether you like it or not, at that age, your name is pronounced however the teacher pronounces it on the first day of class*. At age six, you just acquiesce, and so my name, ever since, has been “Shoe-Mitt”, as that is how it reads off the attendance list. Even that can get hard- a short dialogue with some of my new customers on my paper route, age 13, illustrates:

“So, what is your name young man?”

“It’s Shoe-Mitt.”


“No, SHOE-mitt.”

“Shuman? Very nice to meet you Shuman.”

“Nice to meet you too.”

And so I gave up long ago trying to get people to pronounce my name correctly. Still though, when she asks, for some unknown reason, I’m inclined to trust her, and so I lay it out.

“It’s Shü-meet(h)”**

“Welcome to class, Shü-meet(h).”

She gets it exactly right, and I am immediately endeared towards her. I feel as if I know her already.

Class begins.

It begins, as all Yoga Mandala classes do, with copious chanting. I’m a little embarrassed to have to request the laminated chant card, but I know from last time, we will sing praises to Sarasvati, which I so boldly will pronounce Sho-ro-shoti. Well, not boldly, exactly, but pronounced this way nonetheless.

I need not have worried about anyone hearing me. The man in front of me has got The Voice. It is deeply resonant, almost Barry White in its register, and I suspect he’s had an extra set of vocal cords surgically implanted. As we all Om and chant together, he is by far the LOUDEST. He sits directly in front of me, and yet I can hear his voice far more than any other. It is cool, it galvanizes the class, and we all hit his note, as it is useless to try and escape the gravity of his tone.

We begin the asanas. It’s the patented ‘something-or-other” series, the very same we did in the beginner class, and so it is familiar. Class goes on at a fair clip, the teacher making jokes, and encouraging a sense of camaraderie. She’s funny and personable, and I’m enjoying myself.

There is one slight downfall of having an extra set of vocal cords. The Voice has this habit of making unconscious sounds as his prana circulates. They aren’t really bothersome, but they end up sounding like “umm-hmmm” and “mmmm” and “uh-huh.”
This gives the impression that he is either emphatically agreeing with the teacher as she gives us instructions, or finding something much more sensual in the poses than the rest of the class.

“Raise your left leg-“


“Now turn it sideways and stack your hips.”


“Gently release into Downward Dog.”


I know it’s not intentional on his part, but I’m finding myself infected by this pseudo-enthusiasm, and have to check myself from adding an extra “You Go Girl!” after his exhortations. I manage to keep my mouth shut, but it is difficult.

We finish class, and the teacher approaches me.

“Where do I know you from?”

It turns out, she can say my name correctly because she has done it before. Not just my name as a name, but my name to ME- we ran with some of the same folk in the college days, me being a punk rocker, her being part of a bohemian troupe that ate fire at street corner performances. Still, it doesn’t diminish the fact that she said my name correctly, and it’s pretty neat to meet up with someone I know, as I don’t yet have a lot of friends here in the Bay. I make a note to attend another of her classes- again breaking my itinerant rule- but that was already broken, and so what of it? Still, I have to meet the Subramanya, and so my last lunch-punch on my 3-class card will go to him, at the level 2-3 class. Hope I can do it.

*While unfortunate when I was a kid, my name served me well when I began teaching. My first year was at a public high school, on the south side of Chicago. At an all black school, the students are rather suspicious of you if you aren’t black, at least in regard to how you pronounce their names, which is reasonable. Before I even tried to read their names off the roster, I wrote my name in full on the blackboard. When I got to LaQuisha, which I pronounced like ‘quiche’, she emphatically corrected me, saying “It’s La-Kwee-Sha!”, moving her head side to side in the way that indicates either Attitude or Indian Classical dancing. I corrected myself and said “Now pronounce my name.” We got along stellar after that.

** the (h) indicates a soft ‘t’, aspirated with your tongue aginst the back of your front teeth rather than the palette. I totally made up the “t(h)” nomenclature, and somehow doubt that I just used the word ‘aspirate’ correctly, but oh well, it’s my blog.

No comments: