Walking With Dino: Part 4
The girl is circling around the empty basketball court at Pipka on a bike. She is just going in circles and circles as fast as she can learning how to ride. She has a scarf wrapped around her head. When she stops for water I ask:
“Where are you from?”
“How old are you?”
“I am twelve.”
“How did you get here?” She doesn’t understand.
“How did you get from your home to Turkey?” She doesn’t understand.
“Did you walk to Turkey?”
“And a boat to here?”
“Where are you going from here?”
“Four months here.”
“Where next?” A smile.
“My name is James. I am American.”
“Oh.” She beams.
“American, very good.” And she is gone again.
Yoga has been around thousands of years – yoga pants, stretch yoga tops and fancy yoga bags that are made so you can swing your yoga mat over your shoulder as you head for a smoothie are a more recent invention. Yoga came from many places and there are many schools of yoga, but there’s nothing fancy about yoga in its purest sense.
Yoga, hot yoga and Bikram Yoga specifically is you and a mat and a towel and a bottle of water. It’s ninety minutes of moving meditation. You do 26 postures and two breathing exercises. You do almost every posture twice. It’s the same class at the fanciest Bikram studio in the world and it’s the same class here at the studio where Dino teaches.
Dino’s studio is a multi-purpose back up the winding streets from the port with a metal door, a vacant smell and clothes and broken down furniture in the corner.
All the buildings on its street, like all of Greece it seems, are covered in spray paint. It’s as if the people frustrated with the years and years of adversity decided to protest with paint.
The Greek word for “anarchy” is popular as is fascist and the Communist Party has upped their spray painting game recently and red hammer and sickles often rule entire blocks.
Dino doesn’t pay any rent which is good because he teaches for free and he teaches six days a week. He unlocks the doors and opens the windows to let light and air into the sixty by twenty room which doubles as a performing art center – in the corner Styrofoam gravestones are piled high.
The reception here is Dino in a folding chair. We roll up the mats I brought from the States for him and I go to change in the bathroom where there is water on the floor from a leaky pipe and no lights.
“It’s not Lincoln Street but we make do.”
As it’s summer, Dino borrowed powerful heat lamps from Pipka and soon he closes the windows back up and the room starts to heat up.
We practice three times while I am on Lesvos. Once it is Despina and I and Dino and he teaches while he takes the class as well. One time it is just Dino and I and he tries to play the Bikram audio on his phone, but it’s all screwed up and out of sequence so he leads and I follow.
The last time there are five of us. Despina, who teaches older Greek adults who skipped school to read, Mara who is also Greek and works in Moria, and two women from Ethiopia who are living in Pipka and have been coming four times a week.
Saba is a large African woman, with lots of rolls and a big smile but she is thrilled by the yoga.
“It has helped my high blood pressure and I have lost weight – some of the other women at Pipka have asked me why I am losing weight and I tell them come to yoga, come to yoga with Dino and you will see.”
As we unroll the mats, which she is very excited about having never practiced with a mat – before she was just using a towel on the wood floor, we talk about her journey here.
“The President took my family’s land and many people we know land and when my father and brother protested, they were thrown in jail and then I protested and my picture was in the newspaper. So I left.”
Saba walked across Ethiopia and then across Sudan to Khartoum where a smuggler forged a passport for her that she never saw. She flew to Turkey – walked to the coast and then got in the boat to come over here.
“I was so scared – I thought I was going to die 25 times on the way over.”
“Had you ever been in a boat before?”
“No. I paid $1,500 for them to smuggle me over and I paid $100 for a life jacket because I can’t swim and I made it.”
“Where do you want to go?”
“I want to go to Germany and get an education and become a doctor. Then I want to get my papers back so I can take Dino to Ethiopia and show him my village. It is a great village and it is green and oh, very beautiful.”
Class begins and we begin to move through the practice. I started with Bikram Yoga, found out that I liked Baptiste Power Flow better and like so many, was unnerved by the accusations against the man who started the practice. But here, it’s perfect.
The room gets hotter and I notice a funny thing. The four women in class with me have good practices, no, actually, they have great practices. Dino pushes them and they are able to do postures that I can’t do well and a lot of people in US studios can’t either. They complete the practice and we relax on the floor and I smile as I close my eyes. I just saw right at the end that Saba did the whole thing every posture even the most difficult ones and she did it all in jeans that are two sizes too small.
This story was written by James Cannon Boyce, who has contributed to Longevity before. Keep an eye out for part 2 in the “Walking with Dino” series.