Five years ago on this day, 65 Kripalu YTT students stood on our mats inside Shadowbrook and just did our own thing. Our 6:30 a.m. class was termed “personal sadhana,” meaning we were to lead ourselves through our own private practice. Sixty-five of us stood on our mats and breathed, each of us doing a completely different practice. Some started with Breath of Joy, some with hara breaths, some kapalabhati. M did a headstand; a threesome in front went into kapotasana all together, and the girl next to me did a vigorous ashtanga practice.

I started off slow, physically and mentally. Tired. Stiff. Slow. I did several pratapana exercises, but I couldn’t break into my own rhythm. I kept thinking as though I were leading a class–what would I do next? What should follow this, and how do I get there? It was hard not to look around and see what others were doing. Being next to M was good, a challenge, because she was doing the primary series. I kept thinking, “I can do that! I can do padagusthasana and marichyasana A, B, C, D…I can do that, too!” But I didn’t want to do those things then and there. I was tired and stiff and still waking up. I liked my own pace. But..but…I can do that, too! I can do bakasana, seriously! I just don’t want to do it now.

It took time, but I finally found my flow, probably when I did a downdog into low lunge. I lifted my arms in my dancer-like fashion, and finally I felt free. But I learned it’s hard for me to be me. I always have the desire to be someone else. But for the final 30-40 minutes of class, I finally found me. She felt good. I felt good. Hot. Tapas. Me.

***

Expansive. That is the word S uses to describe the outdoors, the vast land of cool air, fiery colors, dark heavy clouds, and sunlight that greets us like a living painting every morning after sadhana. You walk outside the Shadowbrook studio and see it–the outside–right in front of you. It’s hard to just ignore the glass doors and bypass it. Many of us flock outside the minute we put on our shoes at 8:01 or 8:05. We come from a warm, insulated cocoon to this amazing, breathing, revitalizing environment–expansive.

There is a world outside of here–trees glowing from the sun’s peeking smile, a shimmering lake, rolling clouds that look like they could bring rain any minute. We stand there en masse, soaking it in. Breathing it in, even if it stings our lungs. J emerges from inside and yells, “Good morning, Kripalu!!” except with his accent, it comes out Crip-a-loo. It’s daring to be so “loud” outside, but we all smile at his enthusiasm.

***

The morning lesson is focused on anatomy, tendons and ligaments and nerve versus muscular tension. “The word pain is like the word snowflake,” Rudy says. “There are so many kinds of them.” I learn that the anatomical name for our butt (sitz) bones is ischial tuberosities. We review the six movements of the spine. We go over some pratapana (warm-up) exercises and then at the end of class pair up with a partner and lead them through some pratapana, our first stab at practice teaching. Mine does not go so well.

I need to stop acting like someone else and start being me, I write in my journal. I led the practice teach like [one of my yoga teachers from home], like someone I’m not. I need to be me. Stop copying. Stop being uncomfortable in your own skin.

***

The afternoon lesson is centered around the warrior postures, and we break down every move step by step. Tuck tailbone under. Lightly draw in abdomen. Core stabilization.

***

Our afternoon sadhana is led by Grace, and she uses lots of analogies from nature to guide us through the class. During vrksasana, we move our hands through the chakras, starting at the root with our hands in prayer and rising up slowly to our temples. I experience a very powerful, intense energetic reaction to this deliberate movement. This is what many YTTers label as “a Kripalu moment”:

Vibrating right leg–tingling, shaking, throbbing with energy and vitality. This needs to get out! I’m feeling every hair on my arm and chest tingle, rise, like static electricity, like there is a magnet above me. Every single hair, follicle, tingling–the sensation is overwhelming. So much feeling up my arms, rising energy, rising like the tree. Arms danced, fluid, drawn by an aura of energy and color around me, magnet, heavy light heat, hot, hot, palms sweating, heat.

In savasana, feeling the release, the blanket against every body part–soft, comforting, nurturing blanket. Comfort, support, love. Cry, cry, cry. Sitting up in sukhasana, trembling, needed more release, insulation, hug. I feel a gentle, loving touch on my right thigh, like a grandmother’s touch. Lose it. Cry. Blanket. Still trembling on my right, hence the sloppy writing. [Author’s note: My handwriting was awful at this point in the journal entry.]

After class, I find out that three other girls experienced the tingly arm hair thing, too. Grace attributes it to the mega-release of energy we were building up during our opening hara exercises.

***

Namaste: I bow to the light and the shadow within you (because darkness is as important as the light).

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