Boulder yoga

I went to my first yoga class in Boulder yesterday, in a very unlikely and non-Boulder-ish location: an outpost of a commercial gym chain in a revamped old grocery store across the street from my apartment complex and next door to the Walmart. (It shocks everyone I know when I tell them there’s a Walmart in Boulder.)

The gym buzzed with activity. Lines of stair-stepping machines, stationary bikes, free-weights and other torture devices lined the cavernous space, canopied with pipes and metal bars in the high ceiling above. Tucked between the men’s and women’s locker rooms a tiny two-lane lap pool and a spa; an indoor basketball court behind glass walls and the yoga space, also behind glass, completed the facility.

The place was full on a rainy afternoon. My companion says that at 5 pm on a weekday, the joint is packed, with people on every machine — even when the weather is fine. That blew my mind a little. In this beautiful place, why would you go exercise inside?

However it does make sense on a rainy day. I was fascinated by the two very sculpted cyclists, backs glistening with drops of sweat as I passed them when I walked into the yoga class, and who were still pedaling strong when we got out. Cycling that much wouldn’t be so fun in the rain, I admit.

Those cyclists are very Boulder, somehow. But not so very Boulder: the sound of clanking machines below the soft mantra-chanting bell music that the yoga instructor played throughout our hour-long session. So Boulder: as many men as women rolled out their mats in the yoga class.

The body shapes ranged from young fit giants (so Boulder!) to the older men gingerly moving through some of the moves or attacking them with vigor, to the plumper women in front of me (not so Boulder? This town is way too fit). The breathing was very forceful. (Work it, people!) The body odor was also strong (which I’m tempted to say is Boulder, but that’s not really true — my companion remarked on it as a breach of etiquette). And the instructor made it both a workout and a mindfulness meditation, which was quite nice but also, so Boulder.

Today I am sore from pushing myself a bit too far, even though I could not confidently perform some of these moves — I haven’t done anything like Warrior I, II and III in succession in about two years, not since my office mate Andreas and our colleague Caddis would do sessions in our attic office below the peaked roof in the middle of Södermalm. She twisted us into swan pose, we flew like planes, we did the “peeing dog” (not its official name, I’d bet). It was really fun and hard, even though Caddis told us she was having us trial routines she would use for old folks to keep them active and balanced. I’m not that old (hello, midlife crisis!), but my feet were sore yesterday trying to balance. I don’t remember that happening in Caddis’ sessions, but who knows, it’s been a few years.

I may not make it to yoga again here in Boulder. If I do, I feel as though I should try one of the boutique storefronts downtown, or even the YMCA. I should definitely try to find a yoga session in Stockholm that I like — it might even help me with my vocabulary, or at least help me learn the word for “legs” (I learned a few body parts in German when I attended yoga in Zurich when we lived there, mostly for “back,” which is rygg in Swedish).

Maybe I’m kidding myself. I hardly understood some of what the instructor said yesterday, usually missing the shorthand that she used for different positions, as though we were all old hands (I kept wondering, what’s a half-fold? How does the sequence of positions for Warrior I go? So Boulder! The assumption of yoga proficiency!).

Even so, the session yesterday was really satisfying. The instructor ended by saying something like, Have nice thoughts and words for yourself, and for others in the week to come. A good thing to hold onto, and hard to practice. Namaste.

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