I’m sitting on my couch with tea and a pile of chocolate callets from Trader Joe’s on my lap. Peering into my freezer, I was surprised to find just how much dark chocolate I’ve hoarded. If Trader’s runs out, come find me. I will hook you up with my Willy Wonkian amounts of cocoa bean goodness.
Anyway, it’s been a while, twelveohsix. I haven’t told you this yet, but my running shoes are getting a bit of a rest since I’ve started doing yoga. Yes. I’ve gone every day for the last week and am loving the way it makes my mind feel. A whole different kind of work out. I mean don’t get me wrong; I still take down the river most mornings, but I needed a supplement, a change of scene. And that scene looks like the up side of the orange Prana mat that I haven’t unrolled in two years.
I’ve tried my fair share of yoga; Bikram, Baptiste.....and generally after a day or three I’m over it. Too much pressure to be good at it. When I think of yoga, i think of really fit humans doing crazy poses with their eyes closed. I once went on a yoga retreat with my cousins to a place called, Kripalu, in the Berkshires. Everyone had names that sounded like a long prayer and always ended in a vowel. I signed up for 5 classes and with the exception of the final class, felt like I was passing the “beginner” test. I could glide through without being found out. If the instructor came near me (I watched for feet out of the corner of my eye no matter where my head was supposed to be) and if he was anywhere near me, I’d just hold my breath and gut out whatever pose was supposed to happen, no matter the pain. See, I was not a real practicer. I was an ex-athlete with limited range of motion and a real competitive edge; a cocktail for yogic disaster. The last class at the Kripalu Institute for Bendy People spent a good deal of time honing the dragon breath. That sounded easy. But my awesome cousin, Molly, left after ten minutes, consumed in a fit of giggles due to a classroom full of extremely intense dragon breathing. She flew out so fast and I was left to fend for myself in a room amongst hardcore yogis with beards and women that looked like they’d taken wheatgrass shots every day of their lives. I was both jealous, fearful, and on the brink of renaming myself Kayalushana. This was in 2004.
A week ago, I decided to take up yoga again and on Friday night, found myself in a class called, “Freedom Joy Yoga”. With a name like that, I was a little skeptical. But I have a two-week pass and was determined to try every class that was offered before my time was up, so that I could decide if it was worth the monthly payments... Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Prana Flow all the other classes had been very awesome and I was actually getting limber and feeling stronger on my runs. This was one of the only classes I hadn’t tried yet. But when I read the description, I was even more skeptical: Inspired by Forrest and Vinyasa Yoga, this class will be set to an uplifiting Indie, Dance and House Music playlist. Tap into your potential energy and strength. Ride the waves of breath and rhythm. Let loose and relax your mind. Be prepared to move, sweat, and have fun! All levels are welcome!
Oh man. This had Kripalu Dragon Breath giggle fit written all over it. But heck. Here we go. People, Peeps, Humans with hearts. THIS class was awesome. Awesome.
So we’re going through flow, only instead of typical chime/gong/waterfall relaxation music, it was all house music...house music was blasting the brick walls and bouncing off 27 pairs of shins as we cobra’d and downward dogged our way to freedom. I’m sweating my spandexed toosh off. I’m starting to smile. This is flippn cool. Then. Then Peter Crowley, our inspiring and energetic instructor dims the paper lantern lights until we’re in complete darkness and says, “okay, we have 15 minutes...” 15 minutes of what? I wonder. He hits a few buttons on his macbook and serious serious house music reverberates off the walls. “you can move your mats, you can move around the room, but dance, people! Let it all out. All your frustrations, your anxiety, your emotions, your work week, your life...dance it all out. Let it GO....”
I stood there, unsure of what exactly let it go meant.
My eyes adjusted to the dark and I saw the silhouettes of others in front of me starting to pulse and move to the beat of the music, their arms wailing above their heads, their feet jumping and heads bouncing. Curvy bodies, stick straight bodies, ponytails, bald men, old people, young people short, tall, you name it. All of them, dancing to a beat they heard outside, but hearing the release the pulse the hum of their own music inside. My arms started, then my hips and my legs until everything all of me the underside of my feet to to the top of my head buzzed with complete and utter happiness. I love to dance and so I danced. I danced and danced and danced and leapt and, as many made their way around the room dancing their own form of freedom, I stepped once or twice off my mat and laughed out loud at the absurdity, the expanse of it all. My heart swelled. This was such a foreign feeling; a breach of what i assumed yoga always meant; a serious silent torture that felt good only at the end when you lay on your back for a few silent minutes.
This. Was. Awesome.
Minutes later we slowed to the sounds of Janet Jackson’s “Love Will Never Do Without You”, stepped back onto our mats and continued to practice. We were one unit now. We flowed in silence but I caught the smile of the guy next to me, and found myself keeping to the beat of the music. Peter encouraged us through Warrior Three and I tried a shoulder stand and thought about the hand stand (in due time, Miller). 45 minutes later, we lay on our mats. I was exhausted and drenched in sweat.
I guess what I found was that things aren’t always the way they are supposed to be. And that what they’re “supposed” to be is very often the story we make up in our heads. Maybe because of experience, or because someone told us this was how it was. And so we live right there in our borders. But maybe we take a risk. We use house music instead of waterfalls to stretch to the sky and open our chests....We step off our mat and dance....in the dark, with strangers. And yoga, with all it’s silences and ohms and namastes, becomes more. Becomes bigger. This class brought me a little closer to the me. And I think that’s the goal, after all.