WLTR: Finding our Bilingual Balance
As the sun started to set over Mont Tremblant on Friday evening, Wanderlust kicked off with a giant sunset group class on the beach. The sky was a perfect, cloudless blue, the mountains kissed the edge of the lake, and there was the feeling of being between two worlds.
Teachers Elena Brower and Lyne St Roch united the worlds. Quebec, the Canadian province hosting Wanderlust Tremblant in the Laurentian Mountain range, has a unique cultural environment. The official language of the province is French, while English, the official language of Canada, is a minority language.
The relationship between French and English cultures can often be fraught with tension, and has become known as the Two Solitudes. English and French, separate and distinct. But with Elena guiding the group in English, and Lyne teaching in French, the Two Solitudes were united on the yoga mat at Wanderlust Tremblant.
"I understand French perfectly," Brower told the 600 yogis gathered on the beach. "But I'm not so good at speaking it." As an Anglophone from western Canada who makes Montreal my adopted home, I can definitely relate.
The class was powerful and moving, with a strong feminine energy. Lyne St Roch started off the practice by guiding the group through a simple flow, theme of heart connection. "This is an incredible opportunity to be and practice together," she told the crowd.
Lyne started off the class in French, setting the tone for the practice. Elena picked up in English, and the two teachers alternated languages for the whole hour and a half class, accompanied by beats by East Forrest and Hannah Thiem on the electric violin. At times, Lyne slipped in English instructions and Elena named key parts of the body (le coeur, les mains) in French.
“I thought it was cool that they both made attempts to speak the other language,” said Audrey Béliveau, a Montreal-based yogi who is bilingual herself.
For the many bilingual Quebecers in the crowd, the practice flowed smoothly. For some unilingual Anglophones and Francophones, there were places where the spoken instructions weren’t understood. But that’s when you listen to the language of the heart and ride the wave of the community around you to be guided through the poses.
Just as yoga is a balance of breath, body and spirit, Elena and Lyne found a perfect balance between French and English, where both languages were represented with equal emphasis.
~ Roseanne Harvey is a writer, editor and geeky girl who lives and loves life in Montreal. She is a co-director of Yoga Festival Montreal and the co-editor (with Carol Horton) of 21st Century Yoga: Culture, Politics & Practice. Roseanne writes about yoga and culture regularly on her blog, It's All Yoga, Baby.