I had my first ever yoga lesson in Goa last November and to say it came as something of a shock to my system would be the understatement of the sub-continent. Whilst I am far from being naturally sporty, I’d always seen myself as being inherently supple, due to a childhood ballet regime and, or so I fondly imagined, being naturally “bendy”.
And then I met Joey, a human yogi-cum-pretzel with an intriguing Swiss-Goan accent, who exhorted me to “straighten ze foot, not point it” and made me try to put my arms and legs in all manner of unnatural positions, none of which were even likely to be possible. After about three minutes, it was obvious that I wasn’t even remotely bendy (apparently, I have “ze tight hips” – who knew?) and that twenty-odd years of ballet work counted for nothing in the brave new world of yoga. And yet, in spite of being supremely crap at something which Joey makes look incredibly simple (“crossing ze legs”, for example) I enjoyed my lessons and went back for more as often as I could last year. Joey lives in Switzerland for six months of the year and teaches Iyangar yoga, and then returns to Goa each November for a further six months, thus cunningly avoiding the Swiss winters. Whilst here, he leads an interesting life which sees him teaching yoga by day and being one of northern Goa’s most sought after karaoke kings by night. Sadly, I am to karaoke what I am to yoga, ie dreadful, but it’s quite good fun and makes a pleasing contrast to the bendy stuff.
Lack of internet access for much of my second week here has resulted in much reading, including “Yoga School Dropout”, which I enjoyed hugely. Lucy Edge had a high flying London based career in advertising, and dabbled in the occasional trendy yoga class, until burn-out led her to chuck in her job and head to India to see which of the many branches of yoga would allow her to find herself and gain inner peace and harmony. She spent five months travelling from ashram to ashram, experimenting with different disciplines and encountering a wide range of gurus, fellow travellers, 1” thick Indian mattresses and random men.
Tantalisingly for me, on a number of occasions she almost came to Goa and I was keen to read of her experiences here, but in each case she changed her mind at the last minute and went elsewhere. However, even without a Goan flavour, it’s a great book and neatly tied together a few strands of interest for me: travel writing, India, yoga, women without gainful employment …!
And, for anyone who does yoga, it contains perhaps the ultimate yoga joke.
Question: How many yoga students does it take to change a light bulb?
Answer: One, but she needs two bricks, three chairs, four bolsters, five blankets and six ropes.