My muscles are stupid, but, thanks in part to Heike's classes, they're becoming more aware. They're starting to assert themselves; making their presence felt and performing their proper functions better than ever.
Heike's Forrest yoga works wonders for me. My muscles are softening—I know, I know ... that sounds counter-desirable, but believe me, soft muscle is functional muscle, it can stretch and bend and compress, like prime steak. My muscles are hard and weak and brittle, like 'biltong'. (That's South African for 'jerky'.) But as I said, they are softening. The various bends and stretches and compression postures improve the blood flow into those muscles; and slowly, as they soften, they're more able to release as well as contract.
My muscles are good at contracting. See, I've never trusted them to carry my weight (trust issues) so I've always tensed them, held them rigid (by holding my breath much of the time) whenever extra effort is required .
I'll be in my version of a Warrior 3, or some other near-impossible balancing pose, straining away, and I'll hear Heike call from across the room – "Huw, you're not breathing."
Oh, right. Thanks for that. You're a life-saver.
Heike's aware of her students, their limits, and their needs. She always, always, always emphasises the breath ... which should never be taken for granted, trust me.
As varied as her classes are, they're underpinned by consistent technical principles. I'm learning to 'wrap' my shoulders, tilt my pelvis, tuck my tailbone, not compress into the lower spine, even flex my toes. Being what they are, my muscles forget what they learn fairly quickly; but Heike drums in those same principles week after week without fail.
I'm grateful for that. I can feel the difference all the little details make, even though I can't do any of that precision stuff very well. Often, she'll come over, help me make an adjustment (or just keep me from falling over) ... and then I REALLY feel the difference. So I'm grateful, too, that she's hands-on, approachable, patient, passionate, concerned and, above all, competent ... as I said, I have trust issues.
She varies the intensity of her classes too, which I appreciate. I like her gentler interludes, where she makes time for set up, long deep stretches, and for in-between banter and relaxation. But even in those 'gentle' classes, before long I'll be holding myself up in a downward dog on the wall (one of her favourite forms of torture) – or something similar – gritting my teeth, and the sweat will be pouring down to my mat . Not to mention those elbow-to-knee ab crunches. She never forgets those. They're in every class of hers that I've been in. Heike's a sweet girl, but jeez, she makes you realise, Forrest yoga's not for sissies.
Sometimes I stuff around, watch the clock, chalk up another class when it's done, and go home; other times I focus, try do my poses exactly as instructed, and adhere to all her subtle corrections. Those times I don't even notice the clock; and when it's over, my mat, once again, is speckled with sweat, but I feel stronger, looser, straighter and calmer. (Or I should say 'karma.')
There's a metaphysical dimension to her classes. It's nothing over-stated, but I always feel, in Heike's presence, that I'm conditioning my body and my soul ... which is cool.
'Making space in the body.' That's a phrase used extensively by all the teachers at the centre where I practice. I first heard it about a year ago, from Heike, in one of my very first Forrest classes. Back then, to me, it was an empty phrase. I had no concept or experience of 'space in the body'. (My hips = locked iron gates.) I kept on thinking: what on earth is she going on about? Space in the body?
She persisted, and lately, along with the delicious clicks in my joints and the shooting groin tweaks, I'm feeling my muscles stretch into space that wasn't there before – beautiful new, clean space, infused with exquisite sensation. I'd recommend the making of this space to anyone. It's great! And it's available through the practice of Heike's yoga.
I discovered one day – again in Heike's class – that this space in the body develops space in the mind. There I was, sitting on my block, my thighs up at an insanely tight V angle. That space came in a wonderful rush that washed away pain, melted anxiety, and made me want to sit still like that forever.
In my experience, if anything's better than space in the body, it's space in the mind. It is, (again in my experience) quiet space – such a relief from all the noise! ... which makes me think I should stop this now and just be grateful, that there is the practice of yoga, that there are switched-on people who care, and that there's a place like The Yoga Republic, in Randburg, South Africa. It's a genuine gift from heaven ... and Heike complements it perfectly.