My first yoga class ever, at NAMO Chiang Mai

20:19 Amy 1 Comments

So as you may have guessed, I was kinda nervous about going to a yoga class. Here's what happened.

Photo from Flickr creative commons user lyn tally
After I had swerved my motorbike into the tiny, practically invisible lane that led to the NAMO Chiang Mai building, I sat for a few moments at a table in the pretty courtyard, taking it all in. There were over twenty colourful flip flops lying outside the door, belonging to the people I was about to join for my first ever yoga class. I decided not to take any photographs out of respect to the people exercising: not everyone is comfortable being photographed when upside down with random limbs in the air, hair in disarray and a red workout face!

A nervous entrance

I went inside and paid the 220 baht class fee, managed to wash my feet without falling over and said hello to a few friendly people. I tripped up the old teak wood stairs, where I could see exercise mats hanging over the banister. I grabbed one and sat down crossed-legged and tied my hair up, trying to make out I totally knew what I was doing.

I took in the scene: around fifteen people were squeezed into a rather small room. Fans stirred the hot, lazy air. It was pretty much silent, except for the lady next to me. She was already in some kind of complicated pose, breathing loudly. Suddenly, she performed a series of rather violent movements that I wasn't aware humans could do. Shit, what had I gotten myself into? I looked over at a woman I'd spoken to downstairs and was relieved to find that she was watching the uber-yoga-lady with a similar look of amazement as must have been on my own face. Phew. She was sat on a little cushion. Oh... everyone in there had little cushions! And they each had a hard green foam block, and a kind of black belt. I walked across the creaky floorboards to sheepishly pick up the extra equipment, worrying that I had disturbed the lady meditating in the corner. I had butterflies because nobody was really speaking and I felt pretty flustered.


At last the instructor walked in, and greeted us. She was instantly likeable and friendly. She informed us that the yoga style we'd do is called Hatha Flow. This is apparently a fairly easy-to-handle kind of yoga, perfect for beginners. I relaxed a little. After we'd closed our eyes, she asked us to join her in chanting 'om' three times. I totally hadn't expected that. I have to confess that I peeked; everyone else was om-ing very seriously so I shut my eyes again quickly and joined in. She guided us in a few moments of conscious meditation and it was really quite lovely. She had us focus on what we could hear, feel and smell. I could hear birds, traffic and a water pump. It was hot. She used her singing bowl, and woah, it was other-worldly.

She asked if we had any injuries. I really hate informing people of mine; a smashed up knee that's been held together with wires for over four or five years. Yes, it's limiting, but I try not to let it affect my life too much so I rarely bring it up. I timidly raised my hand and told her: I have a fake knee (it's easier than describing the whole situation, especially when I can't be sure of someone's English ability). She said I could use the little cushion under my knee when necessary.

Bums, dogs and dancing dragons

Despite being a yoga virgin, I totally knew what a downward dog was before I even stepped into the room. This was one of the first moves we did, and we moved on from there with a whole load of other poses. I have no idea what most of the other moves were called. Each movement was supposed to flow into the next. It's safe to say that I need to work on my transitions: I don't flow so much as flop myself around the best I can. The series of movements that we performed were some kind of dragon dance, or something like that. Cool eh! I could do most of the poses, but a few were kinda difficult: one hand on the floor, the other pointing at the ceiling, my belly button facing the wall, my right hip positioned directly above my left. She had to come and help me with that one. Because it was pretty busy, I had my bottom in my neighbour's face quite often. She managed to keep her bottom to herself, but mine was pretty wayward. I'd apologise but honestly I expect it was quite thrilling.

Bamboo legs

My favourite pose was one of the stretching poses we did after the dragon dance finished. We put the foam block under our tail-bone and stuck our legs up almost straight in the air, finding the point where it felt like we could hold them up there for hours. It was called the Bamboo Forest Pose, because, our instructor said, a whole room of people doing it looked like a forest of bamboo plants. It was very peaceful.

The class ended after almost two hours with a longer meditation in the dark. I was pretty exhausted by this point, and I don't have any experience meditating. I'm not sure if I was meditating, or simply lying there. How do you know the difference? After the meditation, the instructor said that we should all chant 'om' again and this time she added in a few 'shanti shanti shantis' after each om. It reminded me of India, and the movie Children of Men.

The afterglow

When class started I couldn't quite touch my toes, but by the end I could touch them easily - my hand was almost flat on the floor. I walked out of NAMO feeling taller, leaner, and very... well, grounded! That's the best word for it. Like I was deeply into my centre of gravity, standing and moving very steadily. Is it possible to feel those things after just one session!?

I am totally inspired. It felt like a pretty intense workout, but it was enjoyable and I didn't feel like I was killing myself to get fit! Perhaps yoga is much more suitable for me than hardcore workouts like T25?

Find NAMO yoga down a tiny alleyway (Moonmuang soi 4) that isn't listed on Google Maps, but starts about here. It's about the width of a path, but you can drive a motorbike down it to park outside the NAMO building:

The next day, a whole lot of me hurt... and I couldn't wait to go again. I went two days later. The second time was a new teacher, and a new yoga style. A really freaking difficult yoga style - at least for me. The next installment of my journey into the world of yoga is coming soon: watch this space and please tell me any yoga tips and share your first-time stories!

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