For the last several years I have spent the afternoon of Good Friday at Southwark Cathedral, on the south side of the Thames in front of Borough Market, enjoying the long, long service, on my own (at least not with people I know, the service is well attended). Regardless of whether you have a faith, and I have no intention of discussing what is becoming an increasingly divisive issue in what is supposed to be a bit of fun blog, there is something special about sitting still in an old, old, old, remarkably beautiful building, and allowing your body to slowly relax and absorb the atmosphere. A time to listen, if you choose, or not, to beautiful music, and familiar stories, and messages, of all sorts. Not surprisingly, the vicar on Friday, spoke at length about love. But not that pointlessly positive, pithy statement kind of love that permeates Facebook feeds and makes me feel hostile toward humanity in general. Rather, the vulnerable, aching, heartbroken love of CS Lewis. The kind of love without which we wouldn’t be capable of empathy and compassion and understanding. The kind of love that asks us to sit still and be quiet and consider life. From here, it wasn’t much of a stretch (a little yoga pun there) for the Vicar to discuss the idea that the simple act of breathing can be seen as a spiritual experience. Of taking in and giving out. Of being within oneself and then of the world. At this moment I moved from a feeling of quiet contemplation to one of self-important smugness, as I had cleverly booked myself a yoga session atop the ArcelorMittal Orbit, in Olympic Park, for the very next morning. Who knew that my interest in altitude yoga was part of the Easter message.
As I have written before, I’m not sure I even like yoga. And I certainly won’t embarrass myself by remarking on the type or variation of “the practise”, as those in the know call it. Because it all seems theme and variation to me. In general, the instructor is cheerful and impossibly bendy. Many of the other participants are terribly young and gorgeous and clearly side-line as contortionists, and I find it all difficult. This Easter Saturday early morning, however, I was eager to test this breathing spiritually thing out. Of course, the fact that I get “inhale” and “exhale” right about as many times as “left leg” and “right leg” (on a good day, maybe 50%) perhaps hampers the experiment. But I did try. Not sure I felt any more spiritual, but I did notice that when I was able to breath when the lovely teacher told me, my body seemed less enraged at what I was asking it to do. Small steps in the right direction.
And what of yoga atop the Orbit? Well, just being in Olympic Park makes me happy, and I adore Anish Kapoor, the sculpture’s creator, but having been there before, once you finish marveling at all the structure itself, there isn’t a whole lot to it. There are views, but the straight ahead view during the yoga is little more than a building site. A city going up. Or coming down, depending on your viewpoint. Canary Wharf is in the distance and the City itself, with all those iconic buildings, is but a shimmering glimmer on a foggy horizon, off to one side. It certainly doesn’t have the same catch in your throat feeling of looking down onto Tower Bridge, as the previous yoga had. But it is still great fun to say it has been done. And some of the best moments of this kind of yoga are the post-practice show off photo ops. This one did not disappoint.
The yoga session itself was very good. Lead by patient, if optimistic, Marta, she didn’t seem to mind that I wasn’t doing anything close to what she and the youngsters were doing, but only praised and encouraged the class, with the occasional hands-on correction. The hour went quickly, which doesn’t happen often for me in yoga. At the end, we had a lovely, long, still, few minutes with folded legs and hands in pray….and that was indeed a promise-laden moment of happy calm. Happy Easter. @mylondonpassion #mylondonpassion For more information about Southwark Cathedral, including history and service times, please visit:http://cathedral.southwark.anglican.org Information about the Orbit itself may be found at: http://arcelormittalorbit.com Specific information and reservations for the yoga are at: http://arcelormittalorbit.com/yoga-sky-2/#.VSVAhYfRxi9 For more information on, Marta, the instructor, and other venues at which she teaches, please visit: Marta at Yogafields, firstname.lastname@example.org of facebook.com/Yogafields.