The acrid smell of sweat combined with the even stronger odor of some type of chemical air freshener assailed Keeley’s nostrils when she opened the door to the gym. She stood at the entrance for a moment, surveying the large room where half a dozen men and one woman were working out at a multitude of weight machines and benches. There was no conversation, and everyone seemed focused on their workouts, most of the faces looking grim and determined. The overhead fluorescent lights seemed harsh and unnatural. No wonder no one wanted to come to yoga in this environment, she thought. She wasn’t sure she could last through the time it would take to observe Nikki’s teaching ability. Nikki was nowhere in sight, but another woman was standing at a long counter, entering information into a desktop computer. Keeley approached her hesitantly.
“Excuse me. Is Nikki here?” she asked.
The woman jerked her head up in surprise. She was about forty, with highlighted light brown hair cut in a short and sassy style, and clear blue eyes, surrounded by deep laugh lines. “Oh, you startled me. I didn’t hear you come in. Nikki? She should be here any minute. Let me guess. You’re Keeley?”
“Yes. I’m here to take Nikki’s yoga class. Do I pay you?”
The woman shook her head, making her long silver earrings jangle. “No charge,” she said. “I know you’ve come to check out Nikki’s teaching style. I'm sure you’ll like her, she’s a good teacher. I’m Amy Hutchinson. I own this place, along with my partner, Greg.” She pointed over at a very fit man who was showing another man how to use one of the weight machines.
Keeley felt uncomfortable at broaching the subject, but she took a deep, fortifying breath. “ This is kind of awkward but are you okay with me possibly hiring Nikki? I mean, I don’t think I’m going to be any competition for you, but…” Her voice trailed off.
Amy laughed, reinforcing the lines around her eyes. “Don’t worry, it’s all good,” she said. “Nothing wrong with a little healthy competition, but once you’re up and running, we’ll be ending the yoga classes anyway. That’s not our strength, or our interest. But it’s sweet of you to be concerned. I might even come to one of your classes myself. There’s Nikki now,” she added as the door opened and the young woman came rushing in.
“Hi Keeley. Hi Amy,” she called out cheerfully. She waved at Greg, and the men working out as she came up to the counter. “Sorry I’m late.”
“You’re not late. No one will be here for yoga for half an hour yet,” Amy said.
“I wanted to go over a few things with Keeley before class. Have you two met each other? Oh good, well, come on. ” While she was speaking, she filled her water bottle from the cooler, and then led Keeley to a glassed in area on the left side of the room. Nikki was wearing navy yoga pants and a turquoise yoga top with the om symbol emblazoned across the bottom. She was a great advertisement for what the practice of yoga could do for the body. She pulled a matching turquoise headband out of her bag and used it to pull her long dark hair back away from her face. She looked about sixteen, although she had told Keeley earlier that she was twenty two.
By the time the yoga students arrived, Keeley and Nikki knew a great deal more about each other, and were on their way to becoming good friends, despite the ten year age difference. Nikki was a very poised, centered and mature young woman, and Keeley was even more favorably impressed with her than she had been when they first met.
Only five people turned up for the class, all of them women, but Nikki had predicted that it wouldn’t be a big group. Keeley hoped that was due to the present location, and not a general lack of interest in yoga from the townsfolk. There was a shy, quiet girl about Nikki’s age, who barely said a word either before, during or after class. There were three women somewhere in their thirties or early forties, who laughed and chatted with each other right up until Nikki started the class. The final participant was a more mature woman who Keeley guessed was in her sixties. Nikki greeted them all by name, and they all seemed affectionate towards her. When everyone had rolled out their mats and sat down in preparation for the beginning of class, Nikki introduced Keeley, and told the group that she was opening a dedicated yoga studio. They were all enthusiastic over the idea, obviously happy at the prospect of a nicer place in which to practice yoga. Thankfully, no one mentioned ghosts when they learned where the upcoming classes were to be held.
Nikki then led the group through a series of asanas, moving among them to adjust a posture here, or offer encouragement there. Surprisingly, the oldest woman, who was named Emily, was the most flexible of any of them, including Keeley. She told Keeley she’d been practicing yoga and meditation for over thirty years. She’d started when she was forty five, she added. Quickly doing the math, Keeley realized Emily had to be in her mid to late seventies. If practicing yoga and meditation kept you that young, she was even more in favour of the practice.
“It’s not a competition,” Nikki reminded them. “Listen to your body, and only go as far as you can comfortably go. Honour your body and your practice. It’s going to be different for everybody.”
Nikki would be a great role model for her as a teacher, Keeley thought. She was feeling a little nervous about the thought teaching for the first time, and was glad she would have Nikki for support, especially in the beginning. After class, she offered Nikki a part time job to start, which both of them hoped would turn into a full time job at some point. Things were shaping up nicely. Now all that was needed was for the studio to be completed.