A home away from home, place to meet some friends

Rasha al Raisi – Yogashala is what I could truly call: home away from home. It was recommended to me by my German friend whose friend had practiced yoga there before, as it was nearby in the town’s centre. It was situated on the third floor of an old building, that had no elevators and hence I reached on foot breathless. It was a cosy studio with big windows that brought air and light, along with the sounds of the bustling centre and the cathedral bell chimes. The shala is equipped with materials used in different exercises like ropes and mats. I was welcomed by Joaquin, who owned the place and spoke good English. He was fascinated by the fact that I was Omani and mentioned that a practitioner’s cousin here worked in Muscat. He gave me the timetable and I decided to attend a class the next day.
The classes were conducted by different instructors, depending on the day and the time of the week. In my first class, the practitioners gave me unsure smiles as nobody knew if I spoke any Spanish and were too embarrassed to ask. I kept hearing people wondering to each other: “where does she come from?” while I smiled and pretended not to understand, a trick that I mastered here whenever I’m too lazy to construct intelligible sentences.
The class was conducted in Spanish, which was my first experience ever with long sentences that were not spoken in a classroom context. Most of the words sounded gibberish, but for few body parts that sounded familiar yet hard to locate. Luckily, the instructor seemed to sense my confusion and to my own luck, spoke English whenever I was doing something out of character (bending down when everyone was standing for instance). And while bending, I heard him say: “Now mouth up, mouth down.” My head shot up instantly as I wasn’t sure about this new yoga pose, using the mouth (not something I covered in Oman with my yoga instructor!). Instead, I saw people raise their heads and then lower it to touch the ground and it dawned on me that “mouth up, mouth down” in Spanish meant “face up, face down” in English.
It was also my first experience to use different yoga materials. I stared at people wide eyed as they hung upside down from the ropes, supporting themselves on the wall only. The instructor urged me to do the same and I muttered in Spanish: I don’t have courage! He smiled encouragingly and said that I should try the shoulder stand instead (which I’m not a fan of). I gave a lame excuse of not doing it because my bones hurt. Nodding sympathetically, he brought me a thick mat (which I’d never seen the like of before) and said that I could do it on this comfortably. With a long face, I did what I was asked.
Classes with Joaquin were joyful as he’s full of stories and wisdom to share with the world. He never seized to lecture me about how yoga depends on three things: strength, flexibility and focus. This was always done while I wobbled, flailed my arms and almost fell flat on my face. Followed by “And flexibility is the only thing you have, Rasha! Try to achieve the rest!”. I smile sheepishly, knowing that it’s something that I could never achieve for the life of me.
Whenever I visit Malaga and get the time, I attend a yoga class. It’s always good to meet few friendly faces that always welcome you back with a smile.
Rasha al Raisi is a certified skills trainer and the author of: The World According to Bahja. rashabooks@yahoo.com

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