by cheri block
I usually arrive at my yoga class early, partly to avoid the traffic and also to find a spot on the floor where I can see the teacher. I’m only 5 feet 1 inch tall and about 110 pounds, so most people block my view in movie theaters, sporting events, and yes, even in yoga studios.
Tuesday night, I learned how territorial even the most mindful people are.
The “Om” studio is the shape of the State of Utah. If you visualize Utah, I usually place my mat at the lower end of the Great Salt Lake. The panhandle of Utah is the teacher’s stage. There up two steps she places her mat and from this position, we are able to see her and she, us.
The first row of spaces under the panhandle must be coveted, but I’ll get to that part of the story shortly because I’ve never been a person to park myself in the first row of anything, unless you count the blind date I went on in 1968 while I was a student at USC. The chump picked me up late in an old Saab; we drove to Pasadena to see The Lion in the Winter, but the only seats available were in the first row. He bought those seats. For the next two hours, with my neck bent back like a birdwatcher, I studied the collars of King Henry II and the neck and chin of Eleanor of Aquitaine, played by Katharine Hepburn.
There on my mat in the Great Salt Lake, I watch a woman with short grayish hair enter the studio. She stares at me, nods, doesn’t smile, and picks the spot in front of me. Never mind that the entire state, from St. George to Provo, is wide open. She unfurls her purple mat and then goes to the bookshelf with the yoga props. I notice that she is taking out six blocks, instead of the necessary two. She is saving and marking spaces, I observe.
Her friends, all tall and formidable women, arrive. They speak another language. I strain my ears, hoping to understand the Eastern Bloc dialect. In my experience of running a business with customers who are from around the world, I believe that alternating from say, Mandarin to English in an English speaker’s office means you don’t want the English speaker to know what you are saying, such as This tuition is too expensive. Should we go to the Learning Bee to see if their tuition is lower?
The three women now blocking my view are probably Czech, I determine. They sound just like the people I listened to in Prague last May. They rattle on in Czech, which sounds anything but still. At the sushi restaurant across the street from “Om,” I hear English spoken in a crude intonation. It too, sounds anything but still.
I become mindful and redirect the factory of voices in my brain from manufacturing clutter to practicing silence.
The class begins. In our Bhujangasana (the Cobra), we stretch our legs back in an effort to keep the spine supple and maybe help our liver and gallbladder. I listen intently to the instructor’s restful voice. I practice listening instead of seeing since my vision is blocked by the Prague Castle itself.
I am making progress here in Utah.