Five years ago on this day, I fall out of bakasana, and I don’t even realize it until my foot is on the floor. I didn’t freak out or criticize. It was natural, human, almost expected. This is a personal accomplishment with my balancing poses.

I rise into a belly-down backbend during Jurian’s 6:30 a.m. sadhana and realized that such poses are very dramatic for me. I lift so effortlessly, I feel like I am flying. Maybe it’s the root bandhas pressing into the floor. Afterward, the exhilaration, the buoyancy I feel is incredibly strong. I cry. I tear up. I feel a movement inside of me that feels like my blood is dancing.

We do a belly-down navasana, followed by a spinal twist. Jurian allows us to go into Stage 3, and I was craving a heart-opener–I could feel my heart wanting to scream to the world. I did ustrasana, Camel, but afterward my heart ached so much that I could not lower my arms in savasana. I had to keep them over my heart and chest protectively for a few minutes before putting them to my sides. Perhaps I ache to share my heart. I ache to rise to others and be open, loving. But eventually, my heart aches in a sad way. Recoil. shell, hide out until the next opportunity for Locust or Boat.

***

After breakfast, we discuss modifications and assists. Somewhere in between, I question why all the Kripalu staff drop the letter A off of most Sanskrit words and call pranayama pranayam and utkatasana utkatasan, so on and so forth. “I think all the older people dropped off the A to cool,” Rudy joked. Added Roger: “I’m so cool, I just say yog.”

***

Observation: My Oms are getting stronger, starting from the belly, the diaphragm, the heart. I no longer hold back; I am vocal, I am filled with life. I have a voice, I am not afraid to use it. I carry my “mmmm” until my very last breath.

Group Om

***

Rudy leads an afternoon sadhana during which we do standing yoga mudra, and my mind escapes into another realm. The visualizations I have are wild, something one might expect from using illegal substances. For instance, as I am hanging over my knees, I see an image of something like a paper towel roll, spinning down in a waterfall-like cascade of vanilla yogurt and what looks like chives. It is spinning, pouring down, down, this white liquid with green speckles. I see a garden of eyeballs, and where there should be heads of lettuce planted in the earth, there are eyeballs instead.

I see Kripalu’s walls, but it is empty. I go up and down the staircases, but there is nothing on the walls, there is no color, no people. It is very lonely and very frightening.

I see my body in the form of a body bag. My body has a zipper, and I am being zipped from the neck up. The zipper is on my face, my face is over my face, closing over my face. (Author’s Note. Yes, that is what I wrote.)

After yoga mudra, I inhale, rise, and feel amazingly buoyed. There is a force under my arms, and it keeps my arms afloat. I want to dance with this movement, this watery motion. After doing sun breath, my arms lower and I feel more energy in my left hand. I feel like someone has ever-so-briefly slipped their hand into my left hand. So gentle. The loving grandmother appears again.

During our Stage 3, I find myself going into setu bandhasana, very quickly, very forcefully. I feel like someone is hovering above me, as though Jurian is standing over my head and Megha at my feet. I then thrust up into full Bridge, then Wheel, very quickly, no preparation, no thinking involved.

Rudy, the "Gentle Yogi"

***

After a long and deep deliberation on the yama of aparigraha (way too involved to include here), I reflect on my ahtitam (small group), A, G, and E. We felt pretty separate until today’s sharing of the yamas and niyamas. Everyone divulged. Here we are, four strangers, confiding in each other about what we feel holds us back in life. Once strangers, now connected in 30 minutes. How? Why? It is because we are safe. Kripalu, Megha, Rudy, Jurian, Roger, Leila, and Helga have made us feel so loved and appreciated that we do not hesitate to be honest. Satya = truth. We are no longer afraid.

***

The camaraderie continues into the night, as Dorm 129 has a “late-night” after-hours party from 9:15 to 10:30. Whee! Everyone brings a snack, so there is juice, tea, apples, chocolate, gummy bears, cookies, pretzels, chips, popcorn. We talk about Kripalu’s dense food and our constipation. A puts on Irish music and a song about witches to celebrate Halloween, which apparently is just days away. The sugar in the gummy bears tastes sensational. We sit in a circle and share our stories. Everyone has incredible stories, and lil’ ol’ me feels rather boring next to the gypsy living off the grid in California, the former Peace Corps member who lived in West Africa, the chick who used to serve in the Air Force, the lady whose house is being sold during her stay at Kripalu, the woman who studied with a Reiki master in India, the former Seva volunteer who spent time living in New Orleans studying animal acupressure, and the Cornell grad who’s taking a break from her career as an aerialist in Cirque du Soleil. Blah. Wow. Shit. In 45 minutes, we become acquainted. The tribe is strengthening.

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