I've found some extra hours in the week. It's been like Narnia. My best friend and I have pushed through the winter coats in the magic wardrobe and found a whole new dimension of time. This is no mean feat, given our unforgiving schedules of school runs, toddler wrangling, rolling deadlines and remembering to book everyone's flu shot. We wanted to exercise more. We wanted to see each other more. So we vowed to rise for pre-dawn yoga, followed by an overpriced breakfast that sometimes includes "superfoods" and porcini salt. I know. I hate us, too.
‘There’s something particularly tormenting about a whisperedconversation just near your head.’Credit:Simon Letch
We slip from our houses these frigid mornings – a suburb from each other – and meet at my local yoga place. In the dim light, the studio's street frontage glows and beckons like a portal to the afterlife. Step in and you find yourself inside Instagram: the Scandinavian-inspired minimalist interior – all blond timber and tasteful indoor plants – is instantly relaxing. Or perhaps it's the incense. Either way, we slip our feet from shoes and pad down the back to the yoga room, which is warm and dark like a womb. I cherish these first minutes on the mat, totally still and flat on my back next to my best mate. Until, that is, the chatty women turn up.
Just to be clear: the start of this yoga class is not necessarily a sound-free zone. Even as people lie in contemplation or do a few, quiet, warm-up stretches, there's a lot of low-level noise going on: pre-breakfast stomach gurgles, yawns, sneezes. There's the Tibetan bowl meditation music, the swoosh-ding of a tram passing, the rattling of expensive water bottles.
But there's something particularly tormenting about a whispered conversation just near your head, especially when you are trying to quieten your mind. It's not a great time, really, to hear about how Justin, the new guy at work, was so hopeless he didn't even know how to operate the photocopier. You try to tune out the conversational detail, but still the whisper – excitable, rushed at times, and punctuated by a short return-whisper from the co-chatter – still pervades the inner ear like a dripping tap at night.
If you've ever done yoga, you'll know that the instructors will sometimes offer little sermons, or personal spiritual reflections, before the class. At my yoga studio these vignettes are sometimes life lessons, like the importance of setting boundaries; others are about the challenges of the physical practice itself. One of the common themes, though, is that very Buddhist philosophy of welcoming the difficult, unpleasant and challenging things in life: the unedifying wobbles of one-foot standing poses, the fellow meditator who starts snoring, that moment when you realise there are no more new episodes of The Letdown left on ABC iView. These, they say, are opportunities for practice, to grow, to cultivate patience, to remember that we can never be in control of the rudeness of others, just our response to that rudeness.
Which is all very well, in theory. But at 6.30am, when I've dragged myself out of bed and into the freezing cold to enjoy some rare peace and stillness away from the cacophony of small children, I'm no zen yogi. I'm plagued by thoughts about helping these women into Downward-facing Corpse or maybe hitting them with a Warrior Two.
Okay, that's not really true. I'm consumed less with murderous thoughts than with awful generational judgements about the selfishness of Millennials. I don't like "our-generation-is-better-than-yours" crap. It's mostly boring and meaningless. But there is a generational divide in our yoga: it's mostly beautiful 20- and 30-somethings whose lithe, sag-free bodies betray the fact they've borne no children, and a handful of Gen X mothers like us (the class is mostly, but not exclusively, women).
We co-exist like different species on the African savannah; us the wizened buffalo in our yoga pants from Savers, them the graceful gazelles in Lululemon. There's no way the chatty gazelles could ever understand the hair-pulling insanity that two young children can sometimes invoke. They have no idea of the crushing responsibility and balancing act of parenting and working. They have no concept that five minutes of relative peace is, for us, like an hour in a tranquillity float tank for everyone else. And, if we are really honest with ourselves, we were them, once: young and oblivious and whispering exceptionally unimportant things to each other in totally inappropriate places.
Of course, we could complain: to them, or to the teacher. But that doesn't seem very namaste. It would kill the communal vibe. So, for the moment, my bestie and I suffer the chatty gazelles, trying to cultivate intergenerational compassion and enlightenment. And, although I really don't think poor Justin is a character we should encounter in our magical yoga-Narnia, maybe we'll be blessed with the next instalment of his inept adventures with the photocopier.
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