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“Does anyone have an injury? Is anyone pregnant?”

“Does anyone have an injury? Is anyone pregnant?”

Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes

(Wo)man at work: teacher BodyBalance class

Hannah Lou Kings/ second-year student of Arts and Culture/ teaches 1 weekly one-hour BodyBalance class at fitness centre MAC Maastricht/ earning 13.50 gross per hour

It won’t be very busy today, predicts Hannah Lou Kings while pouring tea for the participants who are arriving one by one for her BodyBalance class: a blend of yoga, tai chi and Pilates, set to music. She’s right. There are only eight participants this Friday evening, on the eve of Dutch Carnaval. Usually, about fifteen men and women attend the class; this evening, it’s all women, almost all of whom are young international students.

Yoga mats are set out for class in an atmospheric, scented space with a large mirror and soft lighting. “Does anyone have an injury? Is anyone pregnant?” No. A few moments later, Kings – barefoot and in workout clothes – is standing like a stork on one leg, with her other leg extended in the air and her arms spread wide. She radiates flexibility. “Try to increase your stretch just a little more”, she encourages her participants. “Keep listening to your body. Don’t force it.”

Very well done, she says encouragingly when everyone is on their hands and feet and slowly lowering their chests to the floor. “Think of the pose as a journey, you can always go just a little further. Each side of your body is different. Feel the difference.” It looks very easy, but it turns out to be quite difficult once you’re on the mat yourself. Kings: “The choreography of my classes changes once every three months. I don’t come up with it myself; it’s provided by Les Mills, an international organisation that develops workouts set to music. This way, everyone has time to get used to all the different poses and movements and it’s very easy to keep track of your progress. Participants are often amazed at how much they’ve learnt over the course of twelve weeks.”

When she was sixteen, Kings decided to make a few changes to her life. She’d played field hockey until then and she wanted something different. “I couldn’t reach the floor with my hands, didn’t get past my ankles”, she explains. She started taking Pilates classes and finally discovered yoga. “It was a good alternative to the hustle and bustle of it all, to running around on the field hockey pitch as well as in the rest of my life. Yoga gave me room to breathe again.”

Upon arriving in Maastricht, she enrolled in the Body&Mind course at MAC. “It’s quite intense, it makes you sweat. It’s a great introduction to yoga.” She chuckles. “It kind of sneaks up on you.” When they were short on yoga instructors at some point, MAC asked Kings if she was interested in taking over some classes. “They approached me, and now I’m teaching BodyBalance classes.” This summer she’s going to Ubud, Bali, to follow a yoga course. “Vinyasa yoga, a flow-style yoga that’s about the connection between body, mind and breath. After that, I’ll officially be a yoga instructor and I hope to get to teach my own yoga class.”

“Yoga is almost the polar opposite of my course of study, Political Culture. It’s very intellectual. But then, both politicians and yoga instructors want to improve the world. Maybe I can change the world for my Friday evening class, just a little bit.”

The participants in said class are currently lying on their yoga mats, covered with blankets, and listening to the meditation that takes up the final part of the class. The lights have been dimmed even further. In a soft voice, Kings asks the participants to focus on all the different parts of their bodies (“slow your breathing, let your body grow heavy and your mind become calmer”) and relaxation sets in. “Everything that’s currently around you, just let it go. It’s alright.”

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