Body not stiff. Mind stiff – Guruji

Sirsasana on Playa Avellana, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Yoga? Yeah, right.

“Any plans for the Bank Holiday?”

Phil’s question was innocuous enough; friendly chit chat as he helped pack my groceries.

“Not really. I’ll be lacing up the trainers again, I guess. You climbing on Sunday?”

“Yes, we’re off to the Peak District. By the way, you should come to my Yoga class next Tuesday. Might help with the flexibility. I’ve got a couple of runners who seem to benefit,” he suggested as he swiped my loyalty card.

“Yoga? Hmm. Maybe.”

My reply must have sounded sceptical but feeling the tightness in my calves as I reached to put the grocery bags in the boot of my car, got me thinking. I might just give it a go.

Ready for more

By 8.45pm on Tuesday evening, I was destroyed. After Phil’s diplomatic but nonetheless embarrassing suggestion that I remove my trainers, I settled in to what I thought would be a breeze. After all, I was training for an ultra-marathon at the time. OK, I was a yoga virgin, but really, how demanding could this be? Very, as it turns out. Though this was a “gentle” class, my hamstrings were screaming after years of pounding pavements. On Wednesday (and for much of Thursday) I paid dearly.

But the following week I was back for more and after six weeks – stupidly – I’d booked myself on to a Yoga Manchester Weekend Workshop with Ashtanga Yoga teacher to the stars, Danny Paradise.

Though it was a baptism of fire, I loved that weekend. It was the second of my yoga epiphanies. I asked ridiculous questions, could manage only the vaguest approximations of the asanas but everybody was wonderful; welcoming, supportive, encouraging. And I’ve never looked back – well, at least not with a stiff neck.

Ready to share

Since Phil’s suggestion at the supermarket checkout six years ago, my practice has been pretty consistent. I love the discipline. The paradox of pure focus and escape bring me back to the mat regularly and Ashtanga really is a moving meditation.

Late last year, inspired by Matt Ryan, my teacher at Yoga Manchester for several years; and also Phil, who introduced the world’s most reluctant yogi to his mat, I decided it was time to share a little of this practice with others, so I’ll be starting my teacher training soon in due course. Watch this space.