Why, hello there, dear reader. You’ve been feeling a little neglected of late, and not without cause. I didn’t mean to go away for so long, and you were always on my mind.
I’ve had a very interesting few months – happy, busy and life-changing – and now I bring you news.
I’m about to qualify as a yoga teacher. That’s right, I’m stepping up to the plate, moving gracefully into triangle pose while contracting moola bandha, and putting the yoga into Yoga World & Pesto for real.
I’ve been training almost every weekend for the last three months, when not learning to be a Rolfer, running a half-marathon, contemplating my thesis, or swanning around Hackney. Indeed, you may have spotted me striding up and down High Town Road, sporting a jaunty yoga mat strapped across my shoulder, like some deranged Lutonian homage to Nicholas Cage in 2005 existential crisis-flick, The Weather Man. I am hoping to offer my first public classes as of January next year.
It’s been fun, and it’s been tiring. I’ve not spent much time in Luton, and I’ve drunk a good deal of Tibetan butter tea and eaten more cake than strictly necessary to replenish my energy and sooth my weary bandhas. That’s not to say that I haven’t been following some recent Luton happenings, such as the launch of High Hats, the guided busway offering day-release to disaffected Dunstablians, and the first Luton half-marathon (which, sadly, clashed with one of my yoga weekends), or considered rugby-tackling “Michael” of “Marjorie’s” over his generous “use” of inverted commas.
Time spent away from Luton has also afforded me a moment to reflect on my relationship with Luton, to consider again the thornied question of how best to love this lovelorn, loveless, un/lovable town that has come to be a symbol of real but unused potential. Only this weekend, I had the chance to show a new friend round Luton, and to make the comparison with Clapton, Hackney and the further reaches of the River Lea as it makes its way out to the Thames. I dragged him round on my standard Luton tour, reminded him of my venerable analogy in respect of the Arndale Centre and encouraged him to sample both the ambience and the excellent vanilla and jam cupcakes on sale this weekend at the Pre-Christmas Not Unreasonably Priced Craft Fair, in its usual classic café setting of the Scandinavia Café. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘It’s just like Hackney. There are hipsters and everything.’ He was astounded that Luton remains so little loved by London-dwellers looking to live within easy commuting distance of London, and at an affordable price.
A little reading of the Lea’s Wikipedia entry offers the thought that the Lea might be named after a Celtic god, and/or mean ‘light’ or ‘bright’. A little nominal determinism goes a long way in my books, and I like the notion that Luton is the ‘town of light’. Of course, I am also reminded of the memorable quote from the Knockouts’ film about the way in which the great cities of the world celebrate their waterways. Here in Luton, we hide our bright river under concrete for the most part, and our light under a bushel. The thing about potential is that it needs to be realised.
And here’s the clumsy segueway back to yoga. Yoga, at its heart, is about stilling the mind in order to find out who you really are: the practice of yoga sounds a great ‘I can’ that aims at drawing the practitioner to the true asana, or posture, which is his or hers alone, and which is a more romantic way of saying ‘the thing that you’re really meant to do’. Verse 1.8 of the Goraksha-Paddhati, a very early yogic text, suggests that for every living creature there is a singular pose (beyond the 84 classical yoga poses) that would uniquely express its individual talents, attributes and history. I am rather inspired by that idea. If we stretch the idea a little to apply it to the living organism that is a town, I wonder: who is Luton, really? What’s its true, and emerging identity? Might we also be growing into the kind of place that has a yoga studio, and a bakery, and a mixed, friendly and flourishing community?
I’m gearing up to launch my professional yoga website in the next few weeks, and I’ll post news here when it’s done. If you have any suggestions for venues and times for regular classes in High Town, Round Green and beyond (I have a few ideas of my own), please do get in touch via the comments. I promise that Yoga World & Pesto will return to something approaching business as usual and won’t only be dominated by actual yogic news, though I hereby give advanced warning of one or several painfully extended yoga-based Luton analogies in the pipeline. Namaste.