I’m still learning that sometimes our biggest gifts materialize in the smallest of packages. Including those that lead us towards healing. Matthew is a case in point. He’s small in stature but big in heart and devotion.
I first meet Matthew when I join Michelle one afternoon at the school where she teaches (Mont’ Kiara International School), because she’s rounded up a group of teens who are enthusiastic about learning yoga. Matthew is Michelle’s yoga teacher and, though he’s never led a class for youth, he’s happy (though slightly nervous) to oblige at her request.
The group meets after school in an all-purpose room. I have settled into child-pose on a mat towards the back of the room and wait for instructions. As Matthew guides the dozen or so students through some beginner poses and stretches, the kids giggle and constantly look around at one other as teenagers do. They comply with his directions; some are clearly more flexible than others.
I join Debby for a few of Matthew’s yoga classes at the Energy studio in Plaza Damas. I’ve already explained my limitations to him, so Matthew lets me move at my own pace. My pain is cooperating for now so I feel at peace in my corner, surrounded by bodies that move and stretch in ways still buried in my memory (I remember how to sit and fold over to touch my toes, really I do!).
I’m in awe of Matthew. He is small in build and height. Born in the UK, Matthew discovered yoga at the age of fifteen. It changed his life. He practiced religiously and then moved to India for further study. He’s been living in KL for a number of years, but retains a strong British (Cockney?) accent; I often need to pay close attention when he speaks.
With a buzz cut and tattoos covering part of his neck and back, Matthew bears that look of a weathered – and wizened – young man who, just possibly, came from the wrong side of the tracks. And was lucky – or, better yet, smart – to get out. His somewhat hardened and muscular appearance belies his agility, gentleness and grace. Moreover, there’s something magical and life-affirming in that impish grin, a playfulness and passion that he exudes at every stretch and turn. When Matthew sits cross-legged on his mat and reminds the class that we must breathe with real feeling and not on auto-pilot, you believe most assuredly that he means it. Which is why it’s crystal clear to see that yoga is not a job for Matthew, it’s his calling.