Edges and Centres

By Jane Mountain | August 24, 2013

5922 km so far.

Despite having decided to get up early and get on the train so we had time to look around Copenhagen before the yoga festival, we had a slow morning at Sara and Markus’ place. It’s just so hard to get yourself out of a comfy bed and resist all the coffee, bread, muesli and other good things sitting around at breakfast.

That’s OK though, because sometimes (all the time?) it is far more important to take care of ourselves and spend time with friends than it is to run around getting things done.

People Swarm

On the walk to the train station, we suddenly found ourselves in the middle of a forest in the middle of the city.

Stephen in the forest in  Pildammsparken, Malmö.

Stephen in the forest in Pildammsparken, Malmö.

The train to Copenhagen was rammed with people. We had to shove our way into the car, like it was the busiest rush hour at Victoria Station in London. Many people weren’t able to get on. As we stood in our eight square inches of space, we remembered some “helpful” advice we’d gotten from one of the men who wouldn’t get out of our way on yesterday’s train.

The best day to ride the train is Saturday. It’s not so busy then.

Thanks for the advice, guy who doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about. Always grateful for your unsolicited help. If we’d had our bikes today, there would be no possibility of us going anywhere.

View from the crowded train between Malmö and Copenhagen.

View from the crowded train between Malmö and Copenhagen.

Not only was the train packed, but the centre of Copenhagen was unbelievably crowded, too. When we’ve been out in the countryside for a few weeks, we find it very discombobulating to arrive in a busy city. Especially if it happens to be on a summer Saturday during Pride weekend.

There were people everywhere. There were bikes everywhere.

There was noise, and traffic, and construction, and stages being set up all over the city for the Pride party tonight.

bikes parked in copenhagen

Bikes as far as the eye can see, Copenhagen.

Both of us were a little on edge as we made our way down the main shopping street.

We quickly escaped to the slightly quieter back streets.

Copenhagen has a vibrant brunch culture, and all along the streets of the old town, sidewalk cafes buzzed with people brunching to their hearts’ content. We checked the menus of far too many of these places, only to discover that the vegetarian offering was the same everywhere: hummus and veggie sandwiches.

Um, that’s what have for lunch every single day. No thanks.

Finally, we found a relatively palatable alternative at a busy bakery – veggie pizza with too much cheese and pretty delicious cinnamon rolls. Much less vegan than we would have wanted, but sometimes you just need to eat. Then it was time to head to the Copenhagen Yoga Festival.

The Copenhagen Yoga Festival is an annual free yoga festival, organised by the good people at Hamsa Yoga. It is a friendly festival, with a circle of small stalls for different studios and clothing manufacturers. In the centre of the circle were three yoga tents, all bursting with students soaking up the free yoga.

While Stephen checked out some of the classes and teachers, I walked along the waterfront. It was nice to get away from the crowds and feel the fresh sea air in my face. Since the weather was perfect and it’s almost the end of summer, it seemed like all Copenhagen was out enjoying the water: swimming, kayaking, sailing, or just hanging out at the beach.

swimming in copenhagen

Some serious swimming in the waters of Copenhagen.

I took a few deep breaths to restore my sanity a little and regain my centre. By the time I returned to the yoga festival, I was almost feeling human again.

Angels and Bats

We weren’t sure how many students Stephen could expect, since he was a last-minute replacement on the schedule, and students would have no way of knowing who he was or what they could expect from his class. But, as time came for him to start, the tent filled up nicely, with students pouring out onto the surrounding lawns.

It seems, at this festival, that the yogis are here to just get a taste of different styles and different teachers, whomever they may be.

The class Stephen taught today was a lot of fun. It’s easier for him to be himself when all of the students are fluent in English, and all of the students understand (and laugh) at his silly jokes. It was a very tough sequence, but he balanced pushing us to our edge with letting us relax, breathe, and find our centres. Even the newer students in the tent seemed up for trying a bunch of new poses and working hard.

yoga in copenhagen yoga festival

Down dog at Copenhagen Yoga Festival.

Today we learned angel wings / bat wings, a technique Stephen picked up from Christina Sell, and at times I felt that Stephen was channeling Christina’s fiery energy straight into the tent.

bat wings yoga at copenhagen yoga festival

All together now. Bat wings in Copenhagen.

By the end of the almost 2-hour class, Stephen had very little voice left, and his students were more than ready for savasana.

Livestock Rolling

While waiting for the train back to Malmo, we got chatting with Eric and Joy, who had been in Stephen’s class. Eric is a Bikram teacher in Malmo, who has recently done a lot of teaching around the world, including classes all across Canada. Joy is a pretty new yogi, but you could never tell it from her practice, which is very advanced. A real natural.

Joy also works for the train company in Sweden. She told us that there has been work on the tracks this weekend, that several trains were cancelled, and the ones coming through had shorter cars than usual. So, when our train didn’t arrive for half an hour, we weren’t surprised. When we had to shove and push and fight our way onto the car, while people already on the train fiercely guarded their space, we just had to laugh.

This is just so un-Scandinavian!

We managed to claw our way onto the very edge of the train, inhaling just to fit inside, and leaving dozens of people stranded out on the platform. Finally the doors slid shut and we could exhale. We didn’t really want to inhale again though, since we were just inches from lots of other people’s sweaty bodies.

In our tiny corner of the car was a young couple who had just arrived at the airport from China.

The woman said to us:

This is normal in our country, but we’ve never seen this many people in Sweden before!

Once again, events are foreshadowing our upcoming journey, making me excited, anxious, and a little frightened about what the future holds. But as long as we can regain our centres every time we’re pushed to the edge, I think things will work out OK.  

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