Can the Kiwis’ Hakka be likened to Sanskrit chanting?

There is a perception out there that yoga is a bit flaky, only practiced by women and a bit ‘spiritual’ – whatever that might mean to people. I remember going to a friend’s party a while ago and being asked by this alpha male city boy, “so do you do any sport?” When I answered by saying that I didn’t really do any sport but I did exercise by practicing yoga, he soon wandered off to get himself another drink.

And so it was with great pleasure that I taught this very chap his first ever yoga class on Monday night. And how he groaned. “You expect us to be able to do THAT?” was his best line during the class.

The group comprised a bunch of predominantly very blokey rugby player types (now who’s stereotyping?), who had never done yoga before. They’d been coerced into taking the class by a mutual friend as they’re training to do their first Ironman. That night I learnt that an Ironman is an even harder version of a triathlon, with the running part alone being the length of a marathon. Apparently under 13 hours is a good time to complete the whole ordeal.

The focus of the class was on injury prevention – by stretching their muscles, the chance of injury during the cycle, swim and run would be much reduced for them.

I decided to pass on the chanting to open the class, mostly because I didn’t want them in stitches (from giggling) before we’d even started. We began by practising yogic breathing lying in savasana, and then moved onto some toe squats to open their toes and feet, strengthening their ankles, combined with gurmukhasana arms. I was also aware that these aren’t the most pleasant thing to do and I hoped it would make them take the class more seriously. Me? Mean? Never…

People performing a toe squat
Toe squat (from

The sun salutations indentified some very tight hamstrings and although they had strong shoulders, they were incredibly tight. Much giggling was had when they looked around at each other and realised who couldn’t touch their toes. I took the opportunity to mention about ego and yoga not being competitive.

Shoulderstand/sarvangasana allowed them to open their shoulders, followed by bridge/sethu bandhasana to open their chest. We focused on opening the hips and hamstrings by practicing butterfly/baddha konasana, baby cradle and then janu sirshasana (seated forward bend with the sole of one foot pressed into the thigh).

Crow/kakasana proved fun with a couple of the guys being able to come up into a headstand on their first attempt.

As the class progressed, the giggling and groaning subsided and they were ready for their well earned final relaxation. After the class, whilst putting their suit jackets on, feedback was positive and I’m teaching them again this coming week. Who knows, perhaps I’ll even introduce some chanting.

Hari om tat sat

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