Since undertaking the grand challenge of re-living my entire monthlong Kripalu yoga teacher training experience (Day 1 starts here in case you missed it), I’ve really begun to miss the warm and fuzzy things associated with Kripalu: smiles, breathless dancing, and instant connection with others. While it’s true that I attend a 5Rhythms class at least once per month and that that kind of dancing is no doubt full of healing and feeling, traveling back down this long road of Kripalu memories has made my heart yearn for Kripalu’s brand of free dance (termed DansKinetics while I was there and since updated to Kripalu YogaDance).

Whereas 5Rhythms is largely self-guided, YogaDance is structured enough so that people who have never danced before will have an idea of where to begin while at the same time is still open to interpretation enough that experienced dancers won’t feel restricted. In YogaDance, there is a time to have fun and be wild with the group but also a time for private reflection and personal movement. Most important, you have to come to YogaDance with a willingness to smile, make eye contact with others, and shake your booty (even if just a little).

As if the universe was listening to my thoughts and lending a sympathetic ear toward my desire to be re-acquainted with Kripalu, I recently found out that a woman who was in the Laughter Yoga class with me a few weeks ago is training to be a Kripalu YogaDance instructor and, as part of the certification process, must teach three practice classes in-between her two training sessions. A local yoga studio owner was kind enough to allow Nikki to conduct the classes at her studio, and—just like that—last week I found myself immersed in Kripalu all over again.

Anyone who has taken a “Let Your Yoga Dance” class at Kripalu knows that its founder, Megha, is the spark that sets the place on fire. Taking a class with Megha is akin to studying ballet with George Balanchine—you’re getting the real deal, a 10 gazillion mega-watt (pun intended) practice.

 

I admire all YogaDance instructors and at times wish I myself had done the training, but I gotta say, once you’ve taken class with Megha, the bar is set pretty high. I hate to step into a class with expectations, but my time dancing at Kripalu is so near and dear to my heart that I just can’t help making comparisons.

Which is why when Nikki stepped into the studio and began leading our class, I instantly felt at home, as though she had stepped straight off the bus from Kripalu, still brimming with that wonderful vibe passed down from Megha and everyone at Kripalu.

She was authentic, funny as hell, and just glowing. Her instruction was clear but conversational, giving class the lightheartedness it deserves, not a robotic, “This is what we’re going to do now. And now we do this next. Do this, now that.” We joined together as a group and took turns leading each other in movement like a flock of birds; we took time to ourselves to close our eyes and move in our own little prayer dance. We banged on our stomach as though it were a djembe; we took turns stepping into a circle with our interpretation of a “powerful” movement. A particularly poignant portion of class was the “healing” dance, in which we partnered up and exchanged what we thought of as a healing movement, whether for ourselves, for the planet, or for humanity. I happened to be partners with Nikki’s aunt, who confessed to never having done yoga or a structured dance class before but yet was still able to flow with grace and express herself through movement. It was easy to copy her moves, feel them in my own body, and find my own version of Nikki’s aunt’s healing dance. In YogaDance, the point isn’t necessarily to “copy” each other’s moves but to find inspiration in them and add your own flavor as it feels appropriate.

The healing dance was immediately followed by the familiar tune of C + C Music Factory’s “Everybody Dance Now,” a total juxtaposition but one that instantly made everyone smile, relax, and get their groove on. We stood in a circle again, showing off our best dance moves from the ’80s and ’90s, and then sweated even more as a swing dance number came on.

With 5 minutes to spare, we lay in savasana, the events, emotions, and energy from the past hour seeping into our system and spreading through our bodies. I emerged from relaxation totally revitalized, despite just having come from 8 hours of work. Most important, I felt alive, that kind of vitality I felt at Kripalu. I was amazed that Nikki still has another week of training before being certified; I told her she was ready to teach, right here, right now.

I’ve always had a fondness for Kripalu, but I’m feeling it especially strong now since I began doing my day-by-day documentation of my own teacher training experience. Nikki was able to fill that little space in my heart, and for that I am ever-so-thankful. In fact, when I got into my car to drive home, a song that I’ve always associated with Kripalu was on the radio as soon as I started the engine. Woah. Keep the energy flowing, Nikki!

I didn't even know it was flowing white sweater night!

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