The week of yoga

There are many components of Catalan lifestyle that we are yet to understand. The different religious celebrations, the eating times, the language, the supermarket brands: there is still a lot that needs translating for us. But the language of exercise, I think, is universal.

While we still haven’t gotten the hang of the weekly grocery shop — H accidentally bought half a complete salmon this week, including half the head — the desire to better yourself and get fit transcends any differences in the fish section. For example, on that night, many months ago, when we camped outside the police station to get our residence cards, there were joggers running at 7am with their head torches. The sight of MAMILs is as regular here as it is on Lygon St. And as it turns yoga is still yoga.

I have been doing yoga on and off for about 15 years (although I think the correct word is practise, you don’t DO yoga, you PRACTISE it). Through various classes in Tatura and Melbourne, online videos, downloaded PDFs and borrowed library books I got to know the basic positions and routines of Ashtanga/Hatha-style yoga, and learned to ‘move with my breathe’ and ‘move through the tension in my hips’ and other kinds of movements that sound a bit strange but are actually really nice to do and actually really make you sore the next day, especially if you are out of, um, practise.

This week there was a free outdoor class run by a new yoga school in Tortosa, Yuguana. As I enjoy yoga almost as much as I enjoy things that are free, I went along with 15 other ladies, as well as two very flexible guys. And joyfully, the class was very similar to my regular yoga at home. The order of the poses, the instructions of the teacher, the sanskrit names for the positions, and even the music was comfortingly familiar. I found myself acting on muscle memory, moving through the salutations without thinking, and changing positions on my inhale and exhale automatically, even though I only understood half of the teacher’s instructions to make ‘la espalda larga y directa‘.

Downward dogs on the banks of the Ebro. Can you spot my shaking arms? Image: Yuguana

This international resonance of yoga is incredible to me, although I know the non-verbal language of exercise also extends to running, cycling, soccer, and maybe even cricket for Commonwealth countries. You don’t need to speak the same language to kick the ball around. It is just amazing to think that there are people all around the world, in front of rivers, in city parks, in town halls and on bedroom floors, practising the same positions, struggling with their chaturangas and feeling every muscle in their backs the next day just as I do now. And as the weather cools down here, and we are feeling a wee bit homesick, it’s nice to have a place and, and a practise, that is familiar. Namaste.

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