What a day I had yesterday. Heading downtown to practice yoga with 500 other people. The entire experience was amazing. Driving I decided to take the long route and enjoy the river. I did this both ways and the experience was different each time. The weather was beautiful on my way there and pouring rain on my way home. Both were extremely enjoyable.I parked my car in the Byward market and walked to Parliament Hill from there. The market as locals call it always full of people and merchants selling, honey, flowers, vegetables, art and other wares. I am always reminded of the beautiful city I call home. My walk through Major's Hill Park. The gardens around me, the river in front. The Museum of Civilization to the left as well as the National Art Gallery. Straight ahead I am able to view the beautiful architecture of East Block and the Parliamentary Library, so well preserved. I stopped for a while and observed the changing of the locks. Changing of the locks is an amazing thing to watch and I have been privileged to try while boating with friends. The water released by the locks raises the water level allowing boats to move up through the canal. As a boater it is a bit of work but so much fun. As an observer so incredibly interesting.
My walk continued along Wellington street the fences of the Parliament buildings along the street. The surrounding buildings extremely well preserved and maintained architecture from times of old. The War Monument in all of its strength and glory, huge when observed up close. Tourists stopping every few feet or so to take pictures of the amazing sights around them. Locals out for a stroll or downtown workers getting fresh air during their lunch or walking from meeting to meeting. The energy and buzz so positive as the sun shone so high and hot above.
Approaching Parliament I am again amazed that we welcome anyone and everyone onto the grounds of our most prized government buildings and even into them. I passed the eternal flame and am proud that we allow the light to burn eternally but am at the same time questioning the amount of resources it costs and uses to keep it running. The lawn of Parliament is vast and green. Remnants of recent Canada Day celebrations gone but brown spots of grass remain from stages and even spaces. I was a little early for the practice so I decided to walk up the steps of Centre Block and check out the view from up there. AMAZING! The whole of downtown Ottawa right at your feet, literally.
Oh yeah the yoga. Lululemon sponsors Parliament Hill Yoga every Wednesday and they do an amazing job. They get teachers from all of the city to volunteer their time to teach. I think when I am not running a home day care and needed home I will volunteer to teach a class. Ichih was teaching today and she is a teacher for whom I have great admiration and respect. Several weeks prior I had offered to help her either to demo postures or to offer assists to students. She had four of us and asked that we demo at the front. At first I thought this might be a little bit intimidating but once she started to speak I forgot all about the 500 people before me and surrendered to the practice. To be honest I can't even tell you exactly what the practice was, it was just fantastic. Like being served, not having to think about what comes next, just letting the practice flow. Ichih's classes are often like that for me - which is probably why I enjoy them so much. Her directions are so clear that you don't have to question where to put your hands, feet or gaze, you just know.
There were however a few highlights for me. Being at the front of the group it was truly amazing to be in the presence of over 500 people practicing yoga surrounded by West, East and Centre Block. It was mostly a group of people in their spandex and Lululemon's, already mat carrying. What inspired me the most was this elderly woman, no mat, no spandex - in fact she was wearing a dress and if I had to guess, I would say she was in her 70's. Not your typical yogi but she was trying it out. She joined in and did what she could to her ability and when she got tired (about 45 minutes into it) she stopped. Isn't that what yoga is all about - being where you are and who you are, no matter what everyone else around you is doing. I loved that she did her thing and didn't care what else was happening. Lastly the most memorable moment for me was the OM at the end. I was in the front of all of these people so you can imagine what 500 people and a speaker sounds like when all chant OM together. Being at the front of the group I felt as if I was being hit to the core by the OM - it was incredible.
We rolled up our mats, said goodbye and I was able to experience again the walk back to my car. Enjoying for a second time the beauty of my home city with a new perspective and a spring in my step.
Thank you Ichih for another beautiful practice. Thank you 500 of Ichih's friends for being there and sharing your energy. Thank you to the City I call home for being so wonderful.
Jennifer is an RMT, long time yoga practitioner and teacher. Follow her musings as an RMT, yoga teacher, prenatal educator and mother of three.