Yoga in the Park

We had completed the first set of asanas and were just relaxing into the pranayamas

‘Now alternative nostril breathing.’  Pinch your nose between the thumb and ring finger of your right hand, breathe in through the right nostril,  close the right nostril, breathe out through the left, breath in through the left’.

‘What are you doing?’ 

A man, in his thirties, I’d guess,  looking somewhat weatherbeaten, and dressed in a black waterproof tracksuit sat cross-legged in front of us.  He was clutching a plastic bottle containing beer and proceeded to roll a cigarette.  I felt a bit wary, but he seemed ok. 

‘We’re doing yoga.’

‘Oh I know yoga.  Ali Akbar.  It makes you fit.’

‘ Yes. You can join in if you like.’ 

He looked at me curious, undecided.    

I carried on.  ‘Close the left nostril, breathe out through the right, in through the right, close the right nostric, breathe out through the left…..’ I sneaked a look at him.  He was looking perplexed but I didn’t want to have a conversation with him.  We were after all engaged in spiritual exercises

‘I had a few drinks with me mates last night.  I was so tired, I covered myself with cardboard and went to sleep by the motorway. 

 ‘I walked over here this morning.  I’m going to meet a friend.  She’s got a big belly.’  He winked at me. ‘You know what I mean.  I want to congratulate her’

I abandoned alternate nostril breathing and went to the next exercise.  Take a deep breath through your nose and then breath out and make a humming noise.  As you breathe in count up to five and as you breathe out, count down from 10.’  We all took a noisy breath in, held it and hummed for about 15 seconds.  Then we took another deep breath in, ….    My eyes were closed but I could hear him muttering. 

‘Now lie down in sharvasana.’  We lay flat on our backs.  Hands slightly away from your body, legs slightly apart, breathe gently through your nose.’

‘Ah that’s relaxation, that’s good for you,’  he muttered.

I went through the routine of progressive muscular relaxation.  My eyes were closed.  He was quiet.  I didn’t know whether he was joining in or not. 

‘Now as you lie there, you will be very sensitive to the things around you, the distant hum of traffic, the sounds of the birds, the gentle hiss of the river, the smell of a cigarette,  a light breeze blowing over your face and the faint heat from the sun permeating your skin and spreading into all the cells of your body.  We lay still and quiet, emptying our minds.  I lost all thought of him. . 

After about 10 minutes silence, I said, ‘Just move your hands and feet and keeping your eyes closed, sit up in a meditative posture.  Rub your palms together, place them over your eyes.  Feel the warmth of your hands.  Feel your eyes, your forehead relax.’   I was aware he was joining in. ‘Now take your hands away, open your eyes, blink a little.  Look around.  Say an affectionate Namaskar to the people around you.’  We put our palms together and held them close to our chest in an attitude of prayer and bent towards him and said ‘Namaskar’.   He repeated the gesture.  

‘What’s that mean?’

‘It’s a hindi greeting.’

‘On Hindi, that’s India isn’t it?  I can speak all those languages; hindi, urdu – all of them. 

‘That’s good, I said, so you’ll know this. 

I put my palms together again and together we chanted, Ooohhm, shahnti, shahnti, shahnti-ji   

In our own time, we stood up.  He got to his feet too.  ‘My names Rick.  It’s nice to meet you’.  He then shook hands with each of us.  I thought for a moment he was going to hug me but perhaps my look of apprehension put him off.

 ’Take care.’  I said.   

‘God bless you’, he replied and looking in my eyes, added, ‘I mean that.