They don’t teach you those words in German class

I enrolled in an intensive course (a must-have when you plan to live in a foreign country and need to assimilate, FAST) within three weeks of moving to Germany. It met five days a week, five hours a day. The learning curve was steep. It was great. Within two months I was able to speak to the Turkish girls in my class who didn’t know any English. That was a rewarding day, when we realized we could speak almost freely with each other. It was easy to make friends after that point.

When you take an intensive course, you learn what you will need to function in your new country of residence. You learn a lot of daily vocabulary. You learn how to grocery shop. You learn telling the time and reading bus schedules. You don’t learn Graphic Design language. And you most certainly don’t learn Yoga language.

As someone who currently teaches English for a language school and understands how the classes and teacher assignments work, I know that I can’t just sign up (or even ask) for a “Yoga German” class. These are highly specialized in terms of subject matter, and there’s just too great a chance that I’ll get a teacher who has never practiced yoga and is teaching out of a yoga deck of cards. It’s way easier, and cheaper, to do the self-study in this case.

Yoga wasn’t something I immediately noticed that I needed here in Germany. When you move to a new country, you think of the most pressing things upon arriving: getting a job, living, surviving. But now that I’ve been here for a while, am nearly fluent and have gotten into a good schedule with my job and training, it became obvious that I was missing yoga. Really badly.

Yoga was something I did in my hometown about twice to three times a week. I had a great teacher at my local gym and even though she wasn’t what we’d imagine in our heads of a yoga teacher, she was really, really good. I think she got me addicted to yoga.

I’m no expert when it comes to the practice… I could probably lead a basic class, but I’d never profess to know everything about it. I have done enough of it, and have had some great teachers, and I know what to look for in a class or studio.

It has been a daunting task, finding a decent studio here. I’ve been to countless Probestunden, tried numerous studios, and they were all missing what I needed.

What each of us needs and takes from yoga is different. I need to get out of my head for a while and stop thinking about work, or my friends back in the US, or what I’ll make for dinner tonight. I need to just stop. And while this often takes an entire class of poses to happen, in a good class I’m totally calm and rested by the time we lay into corpse pose and meditate out. Those last five minutes will make or break your experience with the class.

So imagine, if you will, being almost fluent in a language, or, thinking that you are. All of that changes when you walk into some kind of specialized training, like yoga. Most of a yoga class is pretty plain speak, so it should be easy. It’s not. There are names of poses to know, phrases to understand, things to HEAR and comprehend while not looking at a person’s face. What’s “Downward Dog” in German? Answer: Dreieck. Triangle.

I kind of flipped out during my first Probestunde because of this: the teacher spoke really quickly (not cool in yoga, period), the music was too loud and I couldn’t even hear what was being said because of it. I panicked and never went back.

It’s been especially hard to find a place with teachers who don’t speak some odd dialect (because of course, in a German language class, one learns Hochdeutsch and NOT the Unterfranken dialect), and still manage to achieve my goal of really relaxing. I’m not even taking into account the fact that I can’t understand half of what is being said even in ‘normal German’, because thankfully in a yoga class you can just watch the students in front of you and get a decent idea of what’s going on when you don’t know. Thankfully, I know enough about yoga to know the general procession of most poses/groups of poses.

I finally found a place, just this week. The teachers speak clearly, it’s a beautiful space, and I’ve successfully become a glistening, relaxed puddle of water at the end of each of the lessons I’ve tried.

I don’t know all of the yoga words yet. They’re coming. I can’t stay at home waiting to perfectly understand German. I’m taking the immersion route in this case. I’ve found relaxation despite the slight language barrier that remains. THAT’S the sign of a great class.

– Gina