Five years ago on this day, I woke up for a 6:30 a.m. yoga class led by one of our Kripalu YTT assistants, Roger.
He’s on the silly side, and during spinal rocks along the floor, he tells us, “[This movement] is only called ‘advanced’ because you have to have the mentality of a 5-year-old.” Another quote that makes us chuckle: “Lift your front toes…(pauses)…as opposed to your back toes, that is.” Roger shares some yoga wisdom with us:
• “We tend to tell ourselves that standing on one leg is natural, the easiest thing to do…. When you fall out of a balance posture, explore. Go into a different pose before coming back into balance.”
• Instead of hold utkatasana in its normal form, we do the “utkatasana dance,” holding the intense leg posture but being free in the upper body, moving freely, dancing the arms. It gives the pose a paradoxical feel: the intense, demanding base, but liquid, flowing upper body.
• “Blossom the buttocks” during downdog.
Morning. Outside is gorgeous. I feel like I’m in another country. How can I go back home, to light pollution, suburban sprawl, theft, crime, hatred, paranoia? Kripalu is starting the reversal of the mental asylum. The people here aren’t mental–we’re sharing, kind, conservative, conscious, honest, compassionate, yet we’re the ones locked inside this former monastery. The NEW mental asylum is the one OUTSIDE, on the streets, the people outside our enclosed little world. Yes, we’re shuffling around in slippers and wearing our little nametags, but we’re not insane. We’re sane, lucid, in touch with ourselves and others.
Breakfast, to the sounds of Barber’s Adagio for Strings. Cereal with walnuts, raisins, and banana; frittata with broccoli, spinach, cheese, egg, potato. Brown rice. Raspberry gluten-free cake.
We chant Ganesha Sharanam, “I bow to the remover of obstacles.”
We move from slow to fast to hyper to slower to slow and then to profound. After the smiling and laughing, we put on blindfolds and explore our “sacred space,” walking through the room, using only touch to lead us past our classmates. We reach out for the first person we feel, and then we talk with our hands. So intimate, such an experiment in touch as a tool, learning when to touch longer and deeper, when to withdrawal and pull back, determining whether the person responds with “invitation or aversion.”
At night, we do japa meditation with our mala beads. Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya. I honor/make myself receptive to light/great spirit. 108 times.
Our teachers demonstrate a Stage 3 posture flow. It is too intimate for words. At times, I feel like I am invading someone’s privacy. It’s sensual, sexual, almost. I watch the loss of control into ecstasy. I cannot write. I cannot sit here like a news reporter and take notes on such a sacred and profane moment. I watched Megha, Rudy, Jurian, and Roger in their posture flow and was nearly moved to tears. It was like watching someone make love. At times I had to look away because I didn’t want to intrude on such a private moment.
When I do the posture flow, I am somewhat inhibited. I allow myself to listen to my body, but I know there is still resistance, the need for others’ approval. Before I even started my own posture flow, I had the intention of pleasing the teachers. So I ended up doing the flow at 98%, doing what my body prompted me to do, but also 2% aware that others were watching and that I had to be conscious of performing for them in the process. However, my experience was exhilarating. I remember lunging into a low warrior–very deep–and doing something cool with my arms. I remember forgetting.
When I finish the flow and become still, something hits me. I feel alone, like a spotlight is shining only on me.
A bit of a background first: Ever since I came here, I’ve had very vivid images dance in my head when I close my eyes. For example, when in a flowing posture, like standing forward bend or bridge, I’d close my eyes and see random snapshots of people–all Kripalu people. I’ll close my eyes at night or during savasana and see quick flashes of people in bandanas, people with shawls, smiling, happy, introspective, compassionate Kripalu people, like I’m looking in a photo album (in fast forward) of all the residents here. However, there are times (usually during chanting, centering, pranayama, and sometimes during certain poses) that I close my eyes and see us all as a unified group. Amazingly synchronized. Holding hands, or arms raised, our mouths open in Om. I see our group, our tribe, together. So tight, as One.
So, that said, at the conclusion of the posture flow, I was aware that I had cheated myself out of the full experience. But my wisdom reminded me of my mistake, because as I rolled up into thunderbolt pose and sat to integrate the moment, a new image came to my head. I didn’t see the group so beautiful as a whole. I didn’t see random Kripalu faces. I suddenly saw (mostly felt, though) ME and only me. My vision was this:
Me in the Shadowbrook studio, under a harsh spotlight, everyone else lost in the shadows, not even there. The perimeter was dark, shadows, cold, and then me, under this judging light. I tried to push it away at first (I wanted my group!), but I Watched and Allowed and explored. The image stayed with me, and suddenly the feeling hit me: You need to work for yourself. You need to stop performing, being on stage. Stop working for approval.
I started to cry lightly. I put my hands to my face and cried more. I went into child’s pose and sobbed. The group chanted Om three times and I sobbed more and more, audible now. Tissue-needing crying. The sound comforted me; it helped me. I saw warm light, a pulsing “movement”in my head. It felt very warm and nice. I felt like everyone was Om’ing just for me. Stop performing. Start being, Jen.
J and I were co-listening partners. We were both moved and crying. J talked first about her experiences, and I was not a very neutral listener. I kept crying and wanted to reach out and hug her. When I spoke to J, although internally my feelings were muddled, I spoke very clearly about my experiences. So cathartic. We shared a long, deep hug afterward. (However, now I’m wondering whether the vision I had was a positive one, maybe affirming that my posture flow was for myself and not a group act. Is that why the group vanished? Was my flow an act/show, or a breakthrough?)
We all observe that we smell like food all the time. The cafeteria is everywhere, in our hair, on our shirts, in our pants. We are frittatas, we are miso soup and tofu. We are bloated and gassy. Whole grains and roughage and legumes have made us heavy and uncomfortable. We hurt during twists. We are afraid to fart when our classmates faces’ are inches from out butts.