Lisa Scott tries hot yoga in Otago Museum’s Tuhura butterfly enclosure

Lisa Scott yoga with butterflies
Emerging from a cynical chrysalis, Lisa Scott fails to keep her mind in lock down while doing hot yoga with the butterflies.

Words: Lisa Scott

Yoga is a spiritual awakening for many. Hot yoga or Bikram devotees especially are always going on about the Zen, mind-opening benefits (I don’t want my mind opened, thank you. I like to keep things locked down up there, put away in boxes).

Hot yoga converts rave like loonies in patterned tights, coming up to you in supermarket queues with a ‘join us’ look on their faces, saying “oh you must try it” to me at parties with a glass of tonic in their hands, just about to go home early because they have a class in the morning, while I’m just about to have five wines and dance like the electrocuted.

I don’t know about you, but I’m suspicious of a pastime with so many zealots. And the last time I was red-faced and sweaty in a roomful of strangers I was having a baby.

Lisa Scott yoga with butterflies
Despite an in-built suspicion of anything popular, I admit yoga enthusiasts do look amazing: lithe, bendy, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed − with bottoms you could bounce a two-dollar coin off.

Perhaps I could achieve this after only one session? It was with that yin- and yang-ing between reservation and enthusiasm that I borrowed some tiny pieces of Lycra from my friend Emmanuelle and headed off to do the ultimate hot yoga: in the tropical rainforest at Tūhura, the Otago Museum’s stunning new science development, part of which includes a three-tier live butterfly enclosure.

It’s where you can learn about the amazing transformation these marvellous Lepidoptera go through before they take wing for the first time, and encounter exotic butterflies, giant stick insects, tarantulas, terrapins and other rainforest dwellers. I didn’t know there was a changing room upstairs, so I slipped into something confrontable in the toilets of the café and walked through the lunching (well they were) academics barefoot and pedicure-less.

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butterfly otago museum

They say yoga is a way to quiet the monkey chatter in your mind, but I have never found this to be true. In the part of the class where the instructor is winding you down to ultimate relaxation by saying “my knees, feet, and hands are completely relaaaaaxed” I’m not relaxed at all. My mind is racing with to-do lists and whatever I’m currently most worried about.

Anyway, I am not a calm person is what I am trying to say, and about as spiritual as the Taliban.
Passing through chain curtains designed to catch flitting creatures, I enter a space that is 28 degrees C and 75 per cent humidity. It’s Thailand hot rather than sauna-hot inside; there’s a waterfall falling three storeys over dripping palms which makes you expect a monkey to swing down any moment.

butterfly otago museum

The air is alive with colour on the wing: Paper Kite, Asian Swallowtail and Scarlet Swallowtail flutter by in flashes of blue, gold and red. Butterflies fly slowly like hinged hands clapping, they lift and fall, lift and fall. It’s very soothing. Butterflies are fascinating, and fascinators, especially if they land either side of your head.

For a minute I look like a Fashion in the Field finalist. Strangely, I only seem to really attract the ones matching my zebra-print yoga pants. One zebra-patterned creature in particular stays sitting on my hand for ages while I do the tree pose. I regard his black button eye, his curled proboscis and astonishing Bloomsbury Bohemian wings. He wasn’t long for this world, a brief creature of lightness, so easily crushed and, without trying, I had a bit of a moment.

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Yoga with butterflies is a marvellous metaphor for our own brief candle, I thought, our own fleeting moments of beauty on this earth. Dressing and walking outside onto the crunchy autumn leaves of the museum domain, it must be the endorphin rush because everything smells cleaner, the world is new and I feel ALIVE.


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