Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Yoga Report

My search for the right yoga teacher is sure leading me into some interesting environments. For those who haven't been following the yoga thread that is a minor part of this blog, here's the back story. When I lived in Northland I discovered a wonderful yoga teacher at the Yoga Space in Whangarei. I organised my weekly trips to town around her classes and worked steadily at improving my yoga under her tutelage. One of the hardest things about moving south was leaving that behind, and I have been searching for an adequate substitute ever since.

My first foray into the local yoga scene was Yoga for Life, a heavily advertised franchise offered at Raumati Primary School, not too far from where I had a studio in Paekakariki for a while. Everything about that class bothered me (the music, the incense, the teacher's lack of attention to students, the cold smelly hall...) and there was little that I recognised as the robust Iyengar yoga I had developed a passion for. Fortunately, that very evening Ngaere gave me a pretty good yoga CD I could follow at home, and so I've been practicing regularly while I continued my search for a teacher.

Some time later I tried another Raumati yoga class, this time in the basement of someone's seaside home. The atmosphere was nicer (sea views), but once again the class was tainted with new age muzak, the content was yoga-lite and the teacher and I just didn't hit it off. After that I stalled for a while, unable to find any other yoga happening on the Kapiti Coast. So off I went into the big city to check out one of the many yoga offerings a urban population can support.

A trip to Wellington involves driving for an hour each way, about $25 worth of petrol, and often a hefty sum for parking, so I didn't want to risk another yoga-lite debacle. I did some research and tracked down a real Iyengar school. Upstairs on Cuba Street, the 5.15pm class was huge, with two young, muscley, male teachers and the only background music wafted up from the buskers on the street below. It seemed promising, but the other first-timer walked out in the first 15 minutes due to the fascist teaching style which demanded all participants perform the full poses perfectly, without props and at length, drawing attention to any failure to conform. I began to wonder if I had wrongly read the timetable and found myself in an advanced rather than beginner's class. I didn't let the teachers bully me too much and hung in 'til the end of the class, trying to keep up without injuring myself. Afterwards, as I paid an exhorbitant class fee, the teacher confirmed that it has been a beginner's class, and sneered at my gentle comparison of it to the robust yet compassionate teaching I had found in Whangarei.

It took quite a while to recover from the aches and pains of hard-core yoga and I began to understand the appeal of yoga-lite if that was going to be the best local alternative. However, my search had to continue to find a teacher I at least liked! I returned from the South Island with two local yoga leads to follow, and tried the first of those today.

Does anyone else remember the Amirita Cook Book (hand drawn, vegetarian, the NZ answer to Moosewood?) that was in every flat kitchen in the 1980s? Well I have returned to the source and talk about brown rice and tofu! The Lotus Centre is where the Amirita Cook Book sprang from and it probably hasn't changed much in the 20 years since. It's in a big sprawling villa painted purple and yellow, hidden behind masses of trees in a Paraparaumu suburb. The teacher is one of those limber, glowing 70 year olds who makes you believe in the power of healthy living. I was a little distracted by the cream and purple velour warm up suit he was wearing, and the paint-by-numbers art on the wall, but he was knowledgable and sincere and funny and the class is CHEAP! Unfortunately it's not Iyengar yoga, and it was pretty much on the lite end of the spectrum even though it wasn't for beginners. It was a comfortable environment and wouldn't be a total waste of money, but I do have one more lead to follow. Stay tuned for the saga of Saarsha House and kundalini yoga coming your way soon, I hope.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I'm looking on behalf of a friend for a class to attend while she's in Whangarei hospital for treatment. That's how i came across your blog. She has kidney problems , needs regular dialysis and is new to yoga. Do you think the class you attended would be suitable. If so, could you send me a contact number?

In regards to finding a new teacher for yourself, I think it's easy to become attached to a certain teacher and to throw the baby out with the bathwater when trying new classes. However I too hate incense and new age and the "fascist classes" you spoke of in Cuba St. However here was a class there 2 mornings week run by Linda Meyers-Hennevold who was a fantastic teacher. Her knowledge of yoga and of anatomy is exceptional. I believe she has set up her own school now and i think that Peter-her brother and the owner of yoga central -would know where that is. I live in the Hokianga so have lost touch of Wellington yoga.
I too am an Iyengar fan though someone once suggested to me that Iyengar can appeal to the control freak side of one's personality and, in my case, i found that to be true. So i try to attend other classes once in a while to keep my mind open and minimise my attachment. As long as the teaching is not unsafe, i recommend it.
Good luck.