Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Mimic By Necessity

This morning I attended my first ever yoga class at a community center about 20 minutes away by bike. Now, I’ve done yoga-ish classes before, but they’ve been a combination of yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, and so forth. This was a pure yoga class, but nonetheless, I was confident that I knew most of the moves.

Oh pride, what a nasty piece of work you are, to lift me up so high before letting me plummet to my doom.

To be perfectly honest, I think my basic familiarity with this family of exercise did help a little, but there’s really nothing more uncomfortable than contorting yourself into complicated knots composed of arms, legs, and torso twists while trying to crane your neck to watch the instructor, who is not on a handy raised platform, for a clue as to what to do next.

After a while, I gave that up and just started watching the women around me and trying to emulate them. Let me encourage those of you who ever try to take a yoga class in a foreign language- after half an hour, you’re timing is only a split second off of everyone else, and since slow, flowing movements are the name of the game, it really looks as if you’re responding to the incomprehensible words pouring out of the instructor’s mouth. Until that moment where you’re so focused on not allowing the leg that’s both supporting you and slowly liquefying into jelly to collapse that you miss the one uttered word that sends everyone else to take a seat on the ground, leaving you alone in all your tree-like glory. What a wondrous thing it is to be able to comprehend words without having to physically see the meaning as well.

On the bright side, I did get a sense of just how much my Japanese has improved in the course of this last year. My yoga-specific vocabulary will take some time to grow, but I was able to understand snatches of phrases, including the all important “release” command.

And, despite the humble pie I can’t seem to get enough of when put in situations where Japanese is the exclusive language used, I rather enjoyed the class. It’s submergence without the crutch of English use where you get the chance to really see where you stand in the area of comprehension. Everyone I meet wants to practice their English with me, so it was nice to be in a place where I was able to practice my Japanese instead.

We’ll see whether I like it quite so much next week.

No comments: