(In late June, I spent 5 days at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Massachusetts. This is another installment in a series of posts documenting the experience.)

It was hard for me to leave Kripalu on Wednesday afternoon, pulling away from the sprawling green front lawn on which two students were spread wide in Warrior IIs, a woman in a red T-shirt danced through graceful qi gong movements, and another pair of women stood with notes, reviewing their YogaDance practice teach plans. This is my life, this freedom of expression without judgment or fear. How beautiful to be able to throw your arms up to the sky with a glorious Ahhhhhh!, knowing that you are more likely to have people join you in such celebration rather than shoot you sideways glances.

Kripalu is a place where in my mind the green grass becomes an aquamarine ocean, and I dance like a dolphin or orca through a cascade of waves. People walk by me, cars pass in front of me, yet I sense nothing from them but permission to be. Kripalu is a haven for silent, mutual respect—my dance receives neither cheers nor jeers, and that is all I ask. I don’t want to be shunned, but I do not want applause. With this sense of freedom, I become the mover who has always lived inside of me, dancing in the wide open because it is an expansive space of grass and sky and earth and sun, and the voice in my gut says “Dance.” So I do, and when my movement feels complete, a blue bird begins to fly around me in circles, continuous loops not very far from my body, giving me the sense that this little creature can feel the sacred energy that my being 100% pure and authentic has created.

* * *

I attended a concert one evening of my stay; John Bianculli, the musician who supported the Embodied Meditation program I was taking, was performing as part of a jazz trio. The Main Hall was set up exactly the way I had hoped: backjacks in the front of the room, chairs behind them, and then a wide open space in the back of the hall…room for movement, permission to dance.

When I arrived, a woman was stretched out on the carpet, rolling her spine back and forth, sometimes stopping to just lie in savasana, taking in the music the way her body requested it be processed. I sat down on the floor as well, sitting still in meditation first, allowing myself to sink down and feel the pull of gravity, as we had discussed earlier during our program. I let my senses take over, taking time to feel the carpet under my legs, hear the music fill the rafters, see the room glowing with soft beiges and browns, a hint of sensual red and purple from the stage lights. A light breeze came through the open windows; the long drapes danced, looking heavenly in this former chapel, so strong and fortified with its brick walls yet still so serene.

A couple next to me began ballroom dancing, and their connection and smiles and happiness were just more ingredients in this recipe of wonder. Just as people had done with my “whale dance” on the lawn, I did not stare or smirk or clap after each dip, and I did not feel the need to match their intensity or technique. It just was what it was, and having that there with me only brought more richness and gratitude into the slow and steady movement that eventually began speaking from my hips, torso, neck, and arms.

Jennifer, remember this.

Remember that place where you were given permission to roll on the carpet as a jazz trio played, moving freely, looking up at the window, your eyes fixated on the billowing beige against the unwavering brick wall, your left side moving a sweet song, your right side planted and fixed. So rooted on one side; the other half a weeping willow, a firecracker, a horse’s mane, the flow of shakti.

Remember the following day, when you were back in that same room, at the conclusion of a Shake Your Soul noontime dance class, one hand on your chest, the other extended into the center of the room, feeling the warmth of the group radiate through your palm and into your heart and vice versa, a steady loop of loving energy flowing all around you.

You looked up at the vaulted ceiling, the same ceiling you had stared at so intently in 2008 and first in 2006, when you had sneaked into the Main Hall at 1 a.m. during your yoga teacher training program, dancing in the dark, sad to be leaving soon but knowing that these memories would live on inside of you.

And here you are again, 2012, the chapel ceiling so high but feeling just a tad closer to it this time around, because you have grown and there is still room to grow.

Your two worlds—Kripalu and dance—have merged, and the union makes you weep, smile, throw your arms up, and drink in every last drop of the present moment, surrounded by strangers who seem anything but.

This is freedom.

Let freedom ring.

Let freedom dance.