I remember the very first yoga class I ever attended; it was winter, it was dark, the gravelly car park was unmade and potted with puddles. The hall itself was 35 minutes’ drive away and unfamiliar to me. It was old, which is characterful, but with that comes damp, cold and drafty, an unlevel floor of original wood and, needless to say, dust. Stacks of old chairs lined its periphery; unsteady, topped with bags and coats, threatening to topple, rendering one feeling slightly unsafe looking up from Savasana. Underneath, tumbleweeds of dog fur lurked, remnants of last nights’ puppy training class. But it was the smell of the hall that I can recall with this memory; musty, oaky, stale and old.
But I hadn’t gone for the environment; I had gone to yoga with Claire, a friend who was the teacher. I don’t know how it came about that I should go, but I loved every bit; I didn’t know that yoga was anything other than bendy, stretchy postures, and I was oblivious to ‘the rest of it’ for some time. All I knew was that on a Wednesday night I would sleep like a baby, and it became my weekly necessity.
I continued the 35 minute journey to the stale smelling hall, before Claire started a class in a school hall in the village in which I live; I was delighted when my commute reduced to 3 minutes! This hall was big and spacious; gone was damp and drafty, and there was no dog fur! Yet there would often be mud, biscuit crumbs and the odd potato chip on the floor. Its smell was nostalgic; entering via the corridor you could smell the rubber of plimsolls and PVA glue, and in the hall hung the distinct aroma of school dinners; we would certainly know if they’d had fish fingers for lunch. In preparation for the class, Claire had burned incense, not only to mask the school smell, but offer the space a more ‘yogic’ aroma. This was brought to a halt by the Head saying they didn’t like the ‘hippy smell’ that lingered. Thereby, the school aromas became the new norm.
In June 2006 I ‘graduated’ with the TYA. By this time, I had already set up a class based in the gym of another school, plus I was asked to teach at a new spa. I shared Claire’s class that she had been teaching in another gym, teaching on alternate weeks, yet in time I took this over weekly.
When we qualify as teachers, a very easy route to take is to teach in a gym; the room is provided, you don’t deal with hourly rates or overheads, nor collecting cash and having change, you don’t open up or lock up, or even clean it. The biggest bonus is that the clientele is also provided for you! Boom! It’s all there ready! But there are negatives:
A) Noise: No-one within a gym management team ever considered that to hear the pulsating ‘BOOM BOOM’ of the stereo or yelling of an instructor in the spin class next door is not conducive to a relaxing or ‘still’ end to a yoga class.
B) Timing: Aerobics ends at 7:45 and yoga starts at 7:45 – an impossible feat - and you’d walk into the room to the smell of fresh sweat, stale BO and lingering bad breath, and lay your mat, avoiding the inevitable sweat drips on the floor. There’s the rush to the thermostat to switch AirCon off and the heater on, and hope it’s effective. Yoga then ends at 8:45 and the Ballet class literally enters the studio room 8:45 on the dot, whether you’ve released savasana or not, let alone chanted ‘Om.’ Often, I would see the next class attendees lining up, and I would rush the yoga nidra, knowing that that in itself was counter-productive, but needing to end on time. Nevertheless, the class was regular and reliable, and I was enjoying my teaching journey.
All the while I still attended the local class, and teaching alternate weeks with Claire. A few years down the line Claire ceased teaching entirely, and I had the class to myself in the school hall.
In Spring of 2018, the school caretaker went off sick, and the school stopped me using the hall; I was understanding, and shared with my class that we’d have an extended Easter break. He was then signed off again, then again; it seemed indefinite.
There were two Village Halls within reasonable driving distance that were large enough to accommodate my class, and due to limited availability of each, we hopped between the two. The commitment of my yogi’s was admirable; our regular practice continued, only the venue failed in this continuity.
I realised early on during this period that what I needed was my own space, a studio. I had dreamed of this, but never imagined it would happen. I didn’t think I ‘could.’ Samskaras of old ensured that; ‘I’m just not good enough.’ But I needed to do something to keep my class, to take root – I just didn’t know where.
The first place I visited was a local farm with business units. Separate from the heart of the farm was a stand-alone unit, a converted barn surrounded by fields, and cutely nestled in the centre of a miniature railway, and size-wise it was ideal. Yet it was occupied.
My quest took me to large industrial parks (that were hugely expensive), to smaller ones that were all just too ‘industrial.’ I would divert down lanes if a sign indicated a company was there, to see if on the off-chance there’d be my destined haven. Yet the smell of engine oil, the sound of grinding machinery that no amount of chanting the Gayatri Mantra would drown out, nor the prospect of yogi’s carrying mats up two flights of stairs would work. It had to be right.
So, hall hopping continued. Then, early autumn, I had an email from the farm that I first visited, stating the building that I had admired was now available.
This was not renting space for an hour at a time, but taking on a lease with a contract – a proper business commitment. There are times in our lives when we meet a crossroad, we need to make a choice; the path that is easy and predictable, or the path of the unknown, of unseen challenges. I wonder if Nachiketas considered his choices with such trepidation. The path of Preyas for me would have been to remain as I was; reliable classes at various locations, which had worked thus far, but never quite feeling satisfied that I was where I belonged, perhaps even disappointed.
The path of Shreyas was exciting, yet unknown and terrifying; the fear I faced was a financial one. The monthly rent seemed unachievable. The only way I could get my head around it was not to think of the monthly charge, but a weekly one. By holding several classes, nights and days, I could do it. I had to take this opportunity, I wanted it to succeed. And so, with both feet I jumped. I took the path of Shreyas.
I ended my gym-based classes and the Yoga Studio opened two weeks later.
Five years have now passed; I am grateful every time I park outside. Open fields surround me, ponies and alpacas greet me. As we walk the path to the door, the brightest of daffodils put on an impressive display in the spring, and stunning Salvia through the summer, filling the air with an intense fragrance. Within, the atmosphere that welcomes us is as it should be; clean, calm, with a hint of Nag Champa. Candle lit and warm in winter, light and airy in the summer, an evening practice in the garden, under the setting sun.
I am ‘home’ and it smells just right.
Luci Trendle www.lucitrendleyoga.co.uk
©Luci Trendle, November 2023