When it comes to yoga, I’m something of a dabbler. I may not be especially supple, but I’ve tried it often enough to just about know what I’m doing. So, as I lay out my mat, and look around the tranquil mirrored room, everything feels reassuringly familiar.
Except, not quite. This time, things are a tiny bit different. And it’s not just because I’m far from home. It’s more due to the presence of three characters in the room whom I most certainly don’t associate with yoga. The first is my eight-year-old daughter, Leena, who’s standing next to me looking unconvinced. The second is her three-year-old sister, Dora, who can’t keep still. And the third is a six-foot-tall cuddly giraffe called Lollo, who’s larking about on a tiny stage.
This is family yoga, laid on at the Ocean Beach Club, on Gran Canaria’s southwestern coast. And it seemed like a good idea on paper. Up until this point, we’d had a relaxing time, playing in the pools, messing about on the beach and making paper crowns in the kids’ club. But then daddy decided that what this family really needed was a group activity.
My youngest is a worry, as she tends not to listen, and when she does, objects to being told what to do. My eldest lacks enthusiasm, mainly because she’d much rather be by the pool, reading the latest Clarice Bean novel. But then, suddenly, Lollo is upon us, and in no time at all, her antics have Dora squealing with delight, while a spot of hair ruffling elicits a giggle or two from my — usually serious — eight-year-old.
The first half of the session is led by our Finnish instructor, who uses yoga moves to tell the story of the giraffe’s fictional journey from mainland Africa to her current home at the resort. The stretches and poses are accompanied by narration, with Lollo copying the instructor’s every move, whether that’s balancing, one-legged on an imaginary boat, or stretching out towards an imagined horizon. It’s a cute idea, and, crucially, Dora seems to be buying it.
The poses themselves are cleverly worked out, and magically cater to a room of wildly differing abilities — they’re the kind that a three-year-old can convince herself she’s doing correctly; that an eight-year-old can actually make a decent fist of; and that mummy and daddy can genuinely get something out of.
The second half of the session covers the journey of Bernie — the Ocean Beach Club’s other mascot — who has apparently travelled here all the way from Northern Europe. By this point, Lollo has waved goodbye, and even though Bernie doesn’t put in an appearance, it doesn’t seem to matter; at this stage we’re all gleefully performing tree poses and downward dogs, with no need for any extra encouragement.
Most of all, it’s pleasing to see Leena enjoying herself — and, as I lie on my front, I reflect with satisfaction that we’ve found something she enjoys almost as much as reading by the pool. At this point, our instructor asks us to reach backwards and grab our ankles. But this is much harder than it sounds, and I find I need assistance. My partner, Rachel, intervenes and hands me my own feet. Leena turns, looks me in the eye, and gives me a little smile. “Daddy,” she says, “I’ve never seen anything more pitiful!”