The room was hot and humid, much like the weather outside but stronger. My sister, who frequented this studio over the past year, told me to get acquainted with the room before class started. Sitting cross legged, I settled into my space in the sauna-like, wooden panelled room. Mirrors lined the front wall so I could see myself slowly melt – I decided to keep my focus inwards and away from my reflection.
The cute, yet serious teacher greeted the class. I prepared myself for what may be my most difficult yoga class to date: hot and in Korean. To my surprise, our teacher began leading us through a few body awakening movements which I followed smoothly. Neck stretches – right then left, forward then back. Then arms into a standing half moon on each side. Hey, I thought, I’m actually doing yoga in Korean.
I had no clue what she was saying vocally, but the universality of the practice made the class much easier to follow than expected. She counted aloud in English a few times, which my sister says she always does. In mountain pose, she explained the correct stance thoroughly in Korean and it was as if I understood word for word what she saying, “have your feet hip width apart, tuck your tummy, engage your core, and relax your shoulders.”
It is amazing how something can be completely foreign, yet thoroughly understood in the same breath. Despite how displaced we may be culturally, we can still find a kula through yoga, even if it’s in a place far away from our community.