Deep in the mists of time, when we first moved back to England from Japan, I took up yoga. My friend Jane, who lived opposite us, introduced me to my first class, held, somewhat inauspiciously, on the first floor above the town's Tourist Information office. The setting was basic, to say the least - a cramped staircase leading up to a bare room with wood chip wallpaper painted magnolia and an odd, orange aura, thanks to the sodium streetlight directly outside the sash window. But we weren't fussy - yoga wan't common at all back then - we were lucky there was a class at all.
My very first yoga instructor, John, was hard to read - intensely serious, never joining in with any of our chatter as we got ready, or said our goodbyes at the end of a class. He was totally focussed and in complete control at all times. I used to be a little bit scared of him, but he was the most amazing instructor and I came to love my weekly practices and the clarity they seemed to leave me with afterwards. He taught me a lot about yoga, but also about life. One of his nuggets of wisdom was how much energy we use, through holding emotion in our faces. We used to have to mindfully relax our facial muscles, by pressing our tongues to the roof of our mouths and then letting them drop down and consciously relaxing from the forehead, through the eyebrows, across the cheeks, jaw and neck. And he was so right. I used to use his facial relaxation techniques at work during stressful negotiations - it used to freak out the other side a treat! The art of inscrutability.
When John moved away, I found a lovely teacher called Sue. She was very different - soft, warm, nurturing. We did yoga in a barn and I loved looking up at the ceiling, seeing the rafters soar skywards. Her yoga saw me through two pregnancies feeling great and two natural childbirths (okay, one was easy, but the other was a 36 hour marathon that required every bit of deep breathing and calm I could muster). But afterwards, I found a young family and yoga didn't mix. I couldn't find the quiet headspace, or the focus that I needed to benefit from it. Or the opportunity to escape to class during the evening chaos of dinner/ bath/bed that dominated life with little ones. And so I stopped doing yoga.
When my children were bigger, and I toyed with the idea of going back, everyone else had discovered yoga - it was achingly trendy. There were a billion different varieties and intimidating yoga outfitted twenty-somethings and I let myself feel I couldn't join in again. It felt like a competitive sport - not like my kind of yoga, so I filled life with other things and didn't really think about it any more until recently.
My love affair with tennis is no secret - it has been nearly three years since I began, and and I find it more and more engaging, the more I learn. But recently I had a chilling moment on court when my coach announced I wasn't going to get any better until I was prepared to put in more work off the court. Aaaargh. He might even have said the g word (gym - I'm a as far from a gym bunny as I think it is possible to be). But the thing is, I know he's right - stretching, flexibility, strength - I know all those things would help my game. And I do want to keep improving. So I began.
Not in a gym (those feelings of inadequacy and not being one of the cool kids run deep, it seems), but at home. And as I worked my way through some tennis related routines (god bless the power of Google - you can find someone to teach you just about anything on line these days), it occurred to me that some of this stuff was awfully like yoga. And then Helen (who writes a blog called Tennis Love) pointed me in the direction of an online yoga programme that I am absolutely loving. And so, by way of a different passion and a kindly steer, it seems I have come full circle. Even if I am a good deal less flexible than I was 15 years ago. But there's plenty of time to improve. For now I'm just breathing deeply and letting go.