Respect for yoga after my debut on the mat

Jelani Beckles in some discomfort attempting a yoga pose.  -
Jelani Beckles in some discomfort attempting a yoga pose. -

MY yoga debut was a challenging one. My body was put to the test.

I was fairly athletic growing up, dabbling in many sports, including cricket, football, track and field and table tennis. I would also describe myself as an adventurous person, having attempted snowboarding, ice skating and jet skiing previously.

But although I'm a former top-order batsman in cricket, a midfielder in football and a 400-metre runner on the track, I would struggle as a child while stretching before a practice session or match. It was difficult for me to touch my toes or ankles without bending my knees.

So I am not surprised yoga was not a walk in the park.

At 36, my athletic career is on pause, apart from exercising around the Queen’s Park Savannah or Nelson Mandela Park.

Trying yoga was an opportunity to come out of my comfort zone – literally. As I wrote this story, two days after my maiden yoga experience, there was tightness in my legs.

Jelani Beckles attempts a warrior II pose during his debut in yoga at Naniki in St Joseph, Barbados, on Sunday. -

My yoga debut was not in Trinidad, but in Barbados, at Naniki, a scenic venue which includes hiking. The yoga session was done on a balcony overlooking the beautiful hills in St Joseph Parish.

I was invited to Barbados by the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc along with other journalists, photographers, social media influencers and YouTubers for a week of activities in March.

The session, led by Marita Greenidge of Ekam Wellness, lasted about 20 minutes. Greenidge was supportive, encouraging me and a few other inexperienced participants. Greenidge is a certified yoga instructor.

The downward-facing dog, easy pose, plank pose, warrior II and the extended side angle were among the poses we tried.

The plank pose, warrior II and easy pose were among the manageable, but others were challenging. The poses that required you to keep your legs straight were tough.

My brave colleagues also made a valiant effort on the mat. Yoga is predominantly done by women, but in our small group two other men gave it a shot.

We also learnt about the importance of proper breathing while doing yoga, as it is imperative to know when to inhale and when to exhale.

Yoga instructor Marita Greenidge, right, shows Charlotte Wingham of TT a pose. -

In an interview immediately after the session, Greenidge said, “For me, yoga is a way of life. I often say it is a metaphor for life. A lot of people, in the west particularly, think that yoga is just about the movement and the poses that they see, and really all those poses are meant to bring you to a place where you can sit in stillness. It prepares the body so it helps you get in a sense of balance, it strengthens all those weak areas so that you can just come to that point and sit in stillness so you can calm the mind.”

Greenidge said yoga helps people cope with life.

“Because of the mind aspect, yoga is very useful for stress relief. A lot of times the mind is just going, going, going.

"The same way the body needs to rest, the mind needs to rest. Even when we are lying down, we are dreaming, right? The mind does not get that space to just relax.

Jelani Beckles attempting yoga for the first time. -

"So yoga allows you to actually come to that space so that your mind can have some space and some clarity.”

My first yoga experience was relaxing, but the calm was interrupted when some of the poses were difficult.

Yoga can also help people live a healthy life.

“You need to have strength, balance, flexibility and cardio (exercise) to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Yoga has balance, it has strength and you have that flexibility, and if you do it fast enough it can be cardio. As you start to age, it is a great practice just to get into to take you through life.”

It is safe to say I have respect for yoga instructors and participants. It’s not easy, but I will try it again.


"Respect for yoga after my debut on the mat"

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