I didn't have too much to do in Port Vila so Francois's twice weekly yoga classes gave my week some shape. They were held in a 'Sport Club', a down at heel venue with cracked walls and a full bar. Though it was not intentional the high heat and humidity made it Bikram by default. Francois, then in her late 60s would prepare by standing on her head before joining students for a short black at the bar, shortly before the scheduled class time. Francois had been raised by yogis in France, and had practiced Iyengar yoga her entire life. Since she was my first teacher I had no way of comparing her, or her class. Now, a decade later, I can more fully appreciate her eccentricities as well as her experience expressed by her effortless teaching style. Of the dozen or so teachers I have studied with since none paid the same attention to pranayama, the art of controlled breathing. It was her specialty. She led meditation with a masterful control of silence.
I returned to Australia with a different body. Aside from the sun damage – I could have passed for Maltese – I was leaner, more muscular. Some of my Canberra friend's didn't recognise me. I had lost my beer baby.
This week I am going to a few casual yoga classes. They are general classes with students of mixed levels. Yesterday I thought I have been doing Adho Muka Shvanasana for a long time. The teacher, possibly an ex-professional sportsman bellowed instructions across the room at us. He lacked Francois discreet manner, her melancholy demenour and sensitivity to breath.Even with his shortcomings it was still the very best place to be.
Clifton Hill Yoga Studio