This Happened at the Yoga Pool – Anne Skyvington

This Happened at the Yoga Pool – Anne Skyvington

Jeannie is one of these inch worm types. One toe in, one toe back. The cold has always been alien. From birth, really. Even today, she shivers with the water temperature around 20 degrees. Babies are gurgling in mothers’ arms in the pool, for God’s sake.

Cassius with the lean and hungry look is descending the stairs. Italian background, perhaps? You can’t help but notice him. He’s wearing long black tights. Nothing else. She sees the bulge as he mounts the cement block. Has he just come from yoga? The Breathing Space? That would explain the tights.

A shallow dive from his perch on high. The deep end is not so deep. Heart-stopping … gasp…! The thin man’s head emerges intact, midway down the pool. No problem. She breathes out, a sigh of relief.

Breaking the ice is the problem for Jeannie. Rubbing water on her legs, her arms. It doesn’t help much. She flinches. Retreats, as a small child jumps in, splashing her.

Immersing the neck and the head is the worst. Actual pain. What a waste, if you’ve just washed and primped your hair. Still, it’s over once your hair is wet.

She knows … knows it all… seeking enlightenment, even, doesn’t help.

Cassius is doing laps. Such style, such graceful ease, arms arced at the elbows, breathing in and out on either side.

She’s immersed now in maternal liquid. The whole body baptized. Is the water getting warmer? Or has her body adjusted to the cold? There are warm spots in the water. Do adults urinate in the pool? She thinks of the French word for swimming pool, piscine, that reminds her of this possibility.

Jeannie notices people. The matriarch with the white cotton hat. Standing in the water up to her neck. Watching. Greek background? German, perhaps? The middle-aged man with white hairs on his shoulders. Like a bear. A new baby makes swimming motions, safe in its father’s grasp. Little arms and legs moving back and forth like a turtle. The French family, doing perfect Australian crawl.

Cassius is heading for the block again. Another shallow dive. Effortless. She breathes through it this time, knowing now that he will avoid smashing his head on the rock-hard bottom, avoid causing crimson blood to rise to the surface.

The white-hatted woman stares at him. Frozen. He meets her gaze. She points to the signage at the steps of the pool. Dozens of small icons. Jeannie follows the direction of the sharp finger. Hard to see from here. A dog with a slash across it? A diver with a red cross through it? Is there one for urinating? She thinks not.

‘Diving is not allowed in here,’ the woman scolds, ‘it says so on the sign.’

‘I know how to do it,’ he says, ‘without hurting myself. From years and years of practice.’ He’d chosen a space when it was clear of bodies too. No children in the way.

‘It is to protect others,’ the woman says. ‘Children … from getting hurt.’

Jeannie can see both sides. She’s seen teenagers jumping and skylarking from the high cliffs at the Surf Club tidal pool. No one’s ever said anything to them. Not even the lifesavers.

As she treads water, half-wading, towards the end of the pool, she meets his gaze. Dark eyes. Intelligent. Brooding.

‘I don’t care,’ he says, ‘about other people’s fears.’ She flinches inwardly, desiring to know more. Perhaps he’s read that recent book she’s seen somewhere about not giving a care. Four-and-a-half stars on Amazon. ‘I’ve recovered twice from brain damage,’ he lets slip out, ‘anyway.’

She wants to ask questions, find out more about him, but he’s off, probably sorry that the words have escaped his secret mouth. Smoothly tanned, his hair a little longer than the norm, but neat.

She watches as he springs out of the pool at the deep end. Lithe. Self possessed.

Cassius sits in a lotus position on the block at the deep end of the pool. In profile like a sphinx. Lost in meditation. Upright. Lean and Spare. Like a statue, head and bust, legs invisible.

What is going on inside? Inside his belly? Inside his brain? His mind?

Looking at the sphinx man, she wonders about the snake uncoiling secretly within; no movement on the outside of the belly. Nothing. Not a flicker. The surface hard and still.

She has read about the kundalini, a dormant energy inside all of us. “Dharma”, ancient Buddhist teachings, and ‘The figure of a coiled serpent — a goddess not of gross but subtle substance’. Lovely words that have stuck in her mind. Words of poetry. Not to be confused with reality, of course.

Other words come to her now, slipping like small blue sea creatures out of the slumbering depths of her mind. Something about the thousand-petaled lotus at the crown of the head. Waves of light and energy coming from the lowest point in the body, to the seventh at the top.

and with each awakening, the psyche of the person will be transformed.’

She swims to the other end of the pool. To the shallow end. When she looks back to the block at the other end of the pool, the sphinx-like man has gone.

The Yoga room—Photo by the Author

The next day is Friday. There is nothing left to eat in the flat. She hasn’t had breakfast, so by lunch time, Jeannie is ravenous. She dresses to go to yoga, and then to have a swim in the pool. At The Breathing Space she looks at the program for the Yoga classes: The world is the great gymnasium, where we come to make ourselves strong, (Swami Vivekenanda), it reads out the front.

She walks into the yoga room. A lovely warmth engulfs her body. She finds a spot in the corner at the back of the class, places her beach towel on the floor. The sun is streaming in through glass windows. She takes off the tee shirt she’s worn over her swimsuit. She sits cross-legged, her palms facing up on her thighs. Straight-backed and peaceful, she thinks of the sphinx-man at the pool.

The meditation teacher is plump, a motherly type in soft cotton harem pantaloons and a flowing jacket. Belly fat oozes over her waist. She exudes love, her voice soft and maternal.

It isn’t necessary to close your eyes, the matriarch is saying. Better to remain open, so as not to fall asleep. She feels spirit arise from deep inside her belly.

A lit candle glows in front of Jeannie. There’s a strip of paper at her feet with a wisdom mantra on it: OM A RAPA TSA NA DHIH: ‘May the wisdom mind find you’ or something like that.

Her heart swells within her breast. She closes her eyes. She notes the video at her forehead, flickering on and off in tune with the woman’s voice. The colors are those of the rainbow, pink, green, orange, that flood the shapes in her head.

The serpent goddess of subtle substance slides into her mind.

The lulling voice of the teacher is telling them they can lie down now.

Ah, great! Horizontal.

The teacher is talking about love now. About sending loving rays out towards friends, acquaintances, nemeses. Transmitting love direct from the heart.

Would the objects of her love receive the message? It doesn’t matter. She will make the sphinx-like man the object of her transmitted love? Why not? Would she recognize him again from the brief encounter at the pool? It matters not. Love is all that matters.

Was he real, or was he an illusion, like so much about life and love?

Takeaway: This is a story about mystery, Buddhist topics and Zen notions, which are themes close to my heart. It’s also about the beauty of language that invites the reader to pause and to listen to the sounds, not just to the ideas. Skimming is okay for some purposes, but let’s not forget that language is meant to be heard as well as assigned a quick meaning.

This Happened at the Yoga Pool was last modified: September 12th, 2023 by Anne Skyvington

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