Lululemon Athletica hosts lunch time yoga on the front lawn of Parliament Hill every Wednesday. It is something I’ve always wanted to do. I mean, how many countries allow their citizens to twist themselves into (sometimes) respectability-compromising poses while wearing tight-fitting clothing, at the seat of the government?
Yesterday I finally made all the arrangements to attend but when I got there, I found myself among the crowd of disappointed yoga mat carriers. The practice was cancelled due to Layton’s lying-in-state in the House of Commons lobby. We really should have anticipated the cancellation. It wouldn’t have been proper to prance around in teeny shorts while mourners lined up around Centre Block, looped around East Block and down Wellington Street (And yes, I will be paying my respects later).
Still, I already went through the trouble of changing and I was determined to do some stretching. Never one to settle with the first offer life makes, I decided to find another patch of grass and do yoga on my own. However, the idea of doing hip openers alone while a homeless man watched was kind of awkward. So, I asked another disappointed yoga mat holder whether she’d like to join me in a self practice at Major Hill’s Park. I was delighted that she said yes. As we traversed the grounds of Parliament Hill towards Major Hill’s Park, we encountered more disappointed yoga doers so we invited them along. By the time we reached the spot overlooking the Hill, the Canal and the National Gallery, I had a group of 20 people following me.
As we rolled our mats out, I realized that everyone positioned their mats behind mine and were eyeing me to see what to do next. So I awkwardly cleared my throat and asked if anyone was an instructor. Everyone stared blankly back at me. One of the girls who followed me the closest spoke up in a teeny voice, and everyone turned to look at her. “I thought you were… that’s why I followed you”. All the heads snapped back to me and a few still-unfurled mats drooped sadly in people’s hands. It took me about half a second to realize what I needed to do. I stepped up to the plate and stepped onto my mat. “Stand at the top of your mat, toes spread apart…” , I spoke in a voice that emulates the instructor in my MTV Yoga videos, and thus began my first yoga teaching experience.
Even though I’m a strong believer of “Fake it ’til you make it”, I was still a little timid in the beginning. A few downward dogs later however, I had the chance to peek at my “students” from between my legs and I was surprised to see they were actually following me earnestly! This caused me to get really into it and I started instructing them to “reach for the Parliament buildings” and “feel the sunshine on your face”. Few Warriors later, my creative juices really started flowing: When we were in inverted poses, I told them to “Shake your head ‘No’. No, I’ll not take on more than I can handle”, then “Nod your head ‘Yes’. Yes, to more time for myself”. An hour later, the chiming of the clock in the Peace Tower woke us from our savasanas. I closed the practice by asking everyone to share some of the good energies we just created to Layton’s family.
Were there creepy old men watching? Of course! Some of them even took pictures. As I was told afterwards, a Google Earth van even drove by my “class” slowly, with all its recording equipments rolling. So when you next look up Major Hill’s Park on Google Earth, you may very well see me leading the group into a side triangle: I’m the girl in a flame orange top (in a quiet nod to Layton) and as always, a head chock-full of hair.
As I rolled up my mat, people came to thank me and asked me where I teach. I told them that I was actually not an instructor. When they recovered from their surprise, they enthusiastically encouraged me to obtain my teaching license. They also asked for my name, just so they can look for me when I do start teaching. What my students did not know is that I had a really challenging summer and a particularly gruesome week. Being able to bring others peace of mind and strength of body in turn made my day a little brighter. I want to thank all those who shared this memorable experience with me, the healing really went both ways. From the light in me, to the light in you, Namaste.