You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘danskinetics’ tag.
In an effort to explore some of the things “stirring” me lately, I have done what all people do when they are petrified of looking to the future: Look at the past, of course.
Right about this time 5 years ago, I was grappling with the decision to “retire” from teaching yoga after doing it for only half a year, as documented in my old journal:
“My personal practice has suffered greatly because of this new role I’ve placed upon myself. Before I was ‘teacher,’ I was a sponge. I voluntarily soaked up every ounce of yoga knowledge I could find, and I loved it. I loved reading Yoga Journal, I loved reading Iyengar’s books, I loved taking class from master teachers and learning just to learn. But now that I’m ‘teacher,’ doing all of those things feel like work, like I’m preparing from some huge exam.
“I can’t sit back and read Yoga Journal just because…. I read it like I have to download every article into my brain and remember the key points so I can recall them back to future students. It’s like required reading in high school. Remember all those great books we were forced to read that weren’t so ‘great’ at the time because it was required? And then in college, maybe you picked up The Scarlet Letter just for the heck of it, read it at leisure, and then were like, ‘WOW! What a great book! I didn’t want to put it down!’ The practice of reading is wholly different when there are expectations vs. no expectations. And that’s kind of how I feel, in a nutshell.
“Yoga is very complicated… it’s not just about teaching down dog and savasana. There are so many facets of yoga, very deep concepts that even I can’t into words sometimes. I just feel it. I can’t recite it back to anyone. And I had only been practicing yoga for about two years—seriously practicing it—before becoming a teacher. When I signed up for the teacher training, I thought two years was enough. Yoga had changed my life in two years, so obviously I got it and was ready to spread the love. But…I don’t think it’s turning out how I expected.
“I feel so inexperienced, not just compared with other teachers, but I feel like I’m a little girl trying flop around the house in daddy’s huge work boots. I haven’t grown into this role yet.”
However, just days after I declared that I was done with teaching and requested my name be taken off the teacher list at the studio where I worked, I taught one final, last-hurrah Friday night “happy hour” class. It is the class that has haunted me since, not because it marked the poignant end of an era or that it flat-out sucked.
No, quite the contrary. It haunts me because it was possibly one of the best classes I ever taught, and one in which—possibly because I knew it was my last one and all pressure was off—I stood at the front of the room as Me, Jennifer, Lover of Yoga/Movement/Dance, and not a lofty mental fabrication of what I thought a yoga teacher should be. I took what I loved about Kripalu yoga, blended in some of the things I learned during all the DansKinetics classes I took during my month at Kripalu, and topped it off with my own personal touch.
For once, the shoes on my feet were no longer “daddy’s huge work boots”; I was wearing Cinderella’s glass slippers.
Here’s what I wrote after the class:
“I led a really great yoga class tonight for Yoga Happy Hour. It’s after classes like this when I wonder why I ever doubted my abilities and passion. I planned the class last night as I was listening to some tribal drumming music. I was all set to teach one of my regular gentle classes, but then I thought, Hmm, this is Happy Hour yoga! I need to develop something upbeat, incredibly fun, and rockin’!
“So I based my class around specific songs and music styles, using the tribal drumming, of course (KDZ for all you Kripalu folks out there), trippy Peter Gabriel music from Birdy, and hula songs by Iz. I even managed to incorporate some Stage 3 Meditation in Motion elements in there. I found a really hypnotic song, led everyone through some basic sun salutes, and then opened the floor for some prana response. Man, what fun to watch! They did it!
“I think my plan of integrating several dance elements throughout the practice really helped, too, because I work really well with good music. I had everyone rolling their shoulders and hips and doing some intense hara moves like Breath of Joy and Pulling Prana. I even threw in a few minutes of walking meditation! I was on a roll!
“The best was hearing some feedback from Joe, a guy from Tuesday night Kundalini, who said the class snapped him out of the depressed/withdrawn funk he’s been in for the past week. And he really appreciated the chance to just sway to the music and hop around to the tribal drums and just get in tune with himself. Dude! That’s my main objective. I just want people to feel free.”
I guess what I’m getting at is that these feelings of “wanting people to feel free” are creeping up on me again, becoming especially intense nowadays since all I do in my spare time is dance. I dance before work, after work, every weekend, even in my dreams. I hardly go to the gym anymore; I wear myself out enough doing a self-led 5Rhythms practice in my living room.
The question is: Does this passion need to be a career? How formal do we need to be about something we love for it to feel validated? I remember back in 2007, I was all set to attend a YogaDance program at Kripalu, but I ended up having to cancel due to my husband’s 10-year high school reunion being the same weekend. At first, I was utterly devastated to miss out on this Very Important Dance Program, but as it turned out, going to the reunion gave me the opportunity to be a dance teacher in a different, real-world context:
“What I loved about this event is that I actually DID, truly, let my yoga dance. The music was pulsing all night and stirring the dancer inside to get up and move. Absolutely no one else, though, was on the dance floor, and I withheld. But the second I saw some random guy approach the floor, bopping with a beer in his hand, I leaped on the opportunity and bounded up there to draw him on the dance floor. It worked, and soon D., D., and I were dancing like crazybirds, just the three of us, in front of a group of classmates.
“It was fabulous music, the stuff I love, so I was totally into the flow. Before I knew it, I really was kicking off my shoes and letting my hair down. The wife of one of Bryan’s friends said that I looked like I was having so much fun that she couldn’t help joining me on the dance floor. She looked like an otherwise stiff person, and I was happy to see her moving and flailing and sweating and shaking. At one point we were even slow dancing together to some R&B song, because everyone else had left the floor. We twirled each other, tangoed, waltzed, me guiding her along the entire time.
“It dawned on me then that what I was doing there was what I would have been doing at Kripalu: dancing with others, being free, helping others let go and let their bodies take over. I didn’t have to be 5 hours away in a Massachusetts yoga ashram to let my yoga dance. I had brought Kripalu here, in the real world. I was exhausted, sweaty, smelly, and had incredibly dirty feet, but I felt so content and happy for following the call of music and dancing. Just dancing.“
Five years ago (or so) on this day, I wake up in Dorm 129 as a certified Kripalu yoga teacher.
And here I am. Nearly packed. Showered. $1 coffee mug refill. Cereal, yogurt, banana, egg frittata, chai muffin (which I think I’ll save for later). The lentil/cumin cafeteria smell isn’t as strong, and there is no music coming out of the speakers. I see S. at the bread corner; she looks like she has been crying. L. walks in to get a drink. The remaining geese, not quite ready to spread our wings and take flight.
It’s getting a little easier to transit into departure. I go to Megha’s Grace-in-Motion class, and J. and L. are also there. It feels like a safe space among the new, buzzing, ungrounded energy. We do a medley of activities–dancing with scarves to music from Chicago, doing the “Car Wash” shimmy dance, dancing with wooden dowels (to create the feeling of safety), a Lion King dance, the Amazing Grace circle dance, and eventually the Grace Sculpture Garden (“Where am I needed, and how can I serve?”). I cry again, even among strangers. I still crave connection. I’m a newly certified Kripalu yoga teacher, brimming with love, ready to give, ready to serve. We end the garden back to back with a partner, feeling their spine, their movement, their breath, “the motion within the stillness,” Megha says, reflecting the theme from my final practice teach. I continue to cry, cry for my partner B., cry for others in the room who had experienced a moment of transformation, cry for Megha, cry for the death of this month-long journey and the inquiry that lies ahead. We huddle in a “puppy pile” and discuss our feelings, and I am amazed at how many people speak up about how they cried during Amazing Grace or the Sculpture Garden, how they felt uninhibited, childlike, free. One person, one safe space…look at the power of one person, some music, and some scarves. Pass it down, pay it forward.
After class, Megha gives me a brief mentor talk about how to proceed with this, how to s-l-o-w-l-y integrate all this movement into my life, to stay in touch, to use others as a sounding board. Final hug. Thank you. Goodbye. Hand on heart. Hand on heart. Anjali mudra. I’ve been doing that a lot here, holding moments close to me, cherishing moments. Grateful. Namaste. Remember.
I say goodbye to Dorm 129, taking one last look out the window, the now empty trees, no color, the mountains, the clouds, the sky that gave me sunrises and mist, furious wind, and falling leaves. The window I often forgot about at night as I undressed for the entire parking lot.
Do I have any more energy left? I have emotions to unleash, so I head up to the Main Hall for Toni’s DansKinetics class. I’m ridiculously hot from Megha’s class, so I wear just my sports bra and pants. Holy crap, I feel free–again! So much dancing this morning. Dancing with the musicians, a give-and-take relationship. Sweat, ecstasy, gyrations, samadhi. Starting the final dance prayer in complete silence and suddenly having a drum beat break the quietness. Slowly, deep. Testing the waters, testing my body. Riding the wave, finding the edge. Blowing past the edge. Stage 4 Kripalu yoga. I collapse at the end, slow movement, rocking, sashaying, savasana. The tinkling music and rain drops surround me, and I feel like I’m in limbo–caught between a crazy dream of living at a yoga center for the past month and waking up from that dream and having a real life.
Where am I needed? How can I serve?
Before Bryan arrives to pick me up for the 4.5-hour drive home to New Jersey, I shower in the sauna locker room. A voluptuous black woman next to me starts singing “Take Me or Leave Me” from RENT, and I join along, naked, in the communal shower as we lather up. Only at Kripalu, man. Only at Kripalu.
Author’s note. Thanks so much for reading along for the past month! It has been wild to re-visit this period of my life, and I am still Remembering, as I constantly told myself during the program. I intend to write a brief reflection post, a little then-and-now, about the Kripalu YTT program and how it worked out for me. If anyone else out there in cyberland has a blog of their YTT experience, let me know! I love reading about others’ experiences.
Five years ago (or so) on this day, Friday dawns and I am exhausted after only 3.5 hours of sleep. It’s off to 6:30 a.m. yoga–another round robin sadhana–but I feel pretty crappy. I have no energy, and my body shuts down at 7:40; I steadily fall asleep in a fetal position. Sleep is a great way to make the last sadhana ever more bearable, with less tears.
The doors to Shadowbrook are closed at 9, and we congregate outside before the ceremony. It is beautiful, sunny, perfect. People are dressed up again, this time even more glitzier than last night. I have nothing fancy or flowy to wear, so I wear black yoga pants, a maroon shirt, a silk scarf in my hair, and jewelry–Om jewelry–the symbol that dances in my head every time I close my eyes.
After being very secretive, Rudy finally opens the doors to Shadowbrook:
and there lies an aisle of candles, 62 votives lining the floor, an airport runway extending from the entrance to the stage.
Jurian, Helga, Roger, and Lila are there to greet us, with Megha and Rudy at the front, ringing bells. We enter solemnly, pick a spot to stand, and let the crying begin.
Our names are called out individually, first names only, and we go to the start of the runway. Jurian blesses my forehead with water, Roger sprinkles me with rice, Lila places flower petals on my head, and Helga blows bubbles. Then…The Walk. The longest walk of my life, more difficult than walking down the wedding aisle, because there are the EYES, 61 people not just looking at me but SEEING me, the windows of the soul all gazing in my direction.
I try to look in everyone’s eyes, my hands in anjali mudra, my head bowed. Tears flow freely on all sides. Music plays. The YamaMamas give each other the “Nadi Shodhana” gesture we created as our “gang sign.” I tell myself to Remember. Remember the way I stepped on the crushed rice and petals as I began my walk, the way Roger embraced me in a way I never knew he was capable, the way Helga tried unsuccessfully to blow a bubble in my direction. F.’s eyes first. H. B. J. D. J. Feeling so loved, so appreciated. Rudy at the front, his slow, deliberate application of the red sandalwood to my forehead, so thick, so loving.
The hug, embrace. So slow, slow motion, remembering. Megha. Smile. Certificate. Hug. I squeeze her arm.
The ceremony is long but never dull. Each person brings a new set of eyes. D. is overly dramatic and God Blesses us all. R. does her energy-grabbing mudras down the aisle, S. dances, A. cries, A. looks into each of our souls, J. takes everyone’s hands, J. crawls. Until I look at my certificate, I forget what this ceremony is all about. I simply felt loved.
With our eyes and foreheads red, we gather outside to take in the warmth. We chant Om three times, the sun emerging from behind the clouds only during our chorus. Inside, we dance. We do the Shiva dance, the eye contact/giving-your-heart dance to Om Namah Shivaya. A. leads a Universal Peace dance. The Garden of Grace, to which we all moan. We know this will make us cry yet again, and it does. Where am I needed? How can I support? During my upward dog pose, three people come to my support. I break down.
We gather in a circle, a group huddle. Tight, swaying, warm, close, hand on hand, hand on shoulder.
What qualities did you learn here?, they ask us. We call out our answers: Surrender. Peace. Community. Freedom. Love. Release. Joy. Happiness. Consciousness. Respect. The chorus of words swells. You can only have that which you give away, we are reminded. Love. Compassion. Respect. Devotion. R. is next to me, and his deep voice calls out “Freedom” over and over again. We know this is the end. There’s no pep talk about the Real World, just a very deep understanding that what we learned this month needs to reach beyond these walls. We are yoga teachers; it is our responsibility to extend out and above and beyond. Our circle slowly breaks apart, first dropping arms, then taking small steps backward. Separating. Expanding. Going away to our own place, to spread that love all around.
I am utterly, completely, madly exhausted by the time the ceremony ends at 11:30, but I still muster up the energy to get upstairs to DansKinetics with Megha. I feel depleted on so many levels. I don’t even know if I’ll be able to move. My eyes are swollen.
But then Megha enters, and I instantly feel a jolt of power. She is a conduit of energy and somehow gets me moving. A few times I have to just stand there in awe, looking at the people around me, looking at Megha, who’s probably more exhausted than me, vigorously leading all kinds of crazy dance steps. So f***ing tired but so wanting to move. (Later, I tell Megha that I had no energy, felt drained, to which she replied, “Well, if that was you dancing with no energy I can’t imagine what you’re like with full energy!”)
We end with a dance prayer to Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel.” I got so into my movement that I forgot where I was. I felt all alone, like I was in the Main Hall by myself. I cried afterward, of course, ending the class in tears. Now I was really drained, on so many levels.
I go up to Healing Arts for my deep tissue massage at 2, during which I cry extensively. It is the first time in a while that I was permitted space to just relax and get professionally pampered. My therapist, Elizabeth, puts on the “Mother Divine” CD that is played in all our classes, and that just opens the dam. I just lie there and cry, tears rolling down my cheeks as she massages my scalp and rubs my neck. I feel like she is releasing all the memories I’ve stored from the past month, because all sorts of visions dance through my mind: everyone’s faces, those snapshot images I had earlier this month but now so vivid, REAL faces of the real people I met and fell in love with. I hear Megha’s voice, Rudy’s voice, the harmonium, chanting. I cry, I drift into yoga nidra, I fall into a different kind of Stage 3. Physically, I’ve had better deep tissue massages, but emotionally, this was the best I’ve ever had. Elizabeth knew I was fragile and not to get too deep. It could have gotten a lot worse!
I am so dazed and confused after those 90 minutes that I get lost on the way back to my room–lost!–after a full month of living here. Dorm 129. New people. New women surrounding me, strangers. The safe place that gave me such comfort now feels violated. Reverse culture shock. After a month of such a strict schedule and routine, I have no clue what to do or where to go. Where am I? I have a new nametag now, I’m Jennifer, here at Kripalu for an R+R. The badge doesn’t even say KYTA. I feel unspecial suddenly. I am just an average woman here for rest and relaxation. My last month of being an overworked, drained, spiritually fulfilled YTT student is now gone and forgotten. I walk outside, call Bryan, sob.
I head to to whirlpool next, which is desperately needed. I am alone, no “Roman bath” this time. The minute my naked body sinks into that nurturing, warm water, I break down again. I feel safe in the bubbly water, my womb, but terrified to step out again. It feels so very good, but I cry. Someone steps in briefly and turns off all the lights, and so I chant the student-teacher mantra in the dark, the yoga sutras chants. I swear I hear other voices with me. The water is so loud, but I feel like I can hear the harmonies, 61 other voices joining my one lonesome voice. I smile.
I see J. in the hall, nearly smiling my head off. Seeing a familiar face is so refreshing. We share sob stories. K. is still in 129, and I smile again. The last remaining sisters, the final crew of Kickasana geese. Their presence here alone is gratifying.
I overeat at dinner, because I am empty otherwise. I keep hearing voices in the dining hall that sound like my classmates’. At one point, I swear D. is sitting somewhere. But I look around and see only strangers.
Writing, gift shop, bed. I make a fort out of my bunk bed like K. did when she first arrived,
cry a little, plug earplugs into my ears, and fall asleep very, very easily, 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.
(In honor of the 5-year anniversary of my monthlong yoga teacher training at Kripalu, I am documenting the experience as it unfolded in my handwritten journal. Day 1 can be found here. Fun fact: I just realized today that somewhere along the way I must have messed up the dates, because the events below actually happened on November 16, and now everything is off by one day. HOWEVER! Now the actual days of the week match up, and my graduation will be on a Friday, as it was in real life.)
Five years (or so) ago on this day, it is the Final Full Day. I have no sentences, no complete phrases–just raw, intense emotion.
In Shadowbrook, we do a beautiful “dance” routine to a Cherokee version of “Amazing Grace,” a circular formation with gentle hand gestures and welcoming new partners. We cry, of course. Later, the recording crew comes into the room to record and film us again, this time chanting “Ganesha Sharanam.” The product is sweaty, exhilarating, exhausting, lively, energizing. There are more people standing than ever, instruments, twirls and whirls, stomping, clapping. E. and I hold hands and twirl each other around the dancing room, our faces standing still as the world unfurls madly behind us. It’s a perfect example of my practice teach, finding the stillness among the chaos. We are spinning wildly within a crowd of wild people, but I feel so still, frozen in time. At one point, H. grooves on a cowbell, and I tune into his rhythm, just me and the cowbell–no chanting, no clapping, no harmonium. I am able to look closely.
Someone finds a box of colorful silk scarves, and they erupt into the air like a theatrical volcano explosion. Everyone rushes to grab one, and we dance with our new toys. Mine is indigo, the crown chakra. I fan it around the space, leaping through the cushions, showering the seated chanters with my silken touch. I swirl around them, fanning A., who is off to the side playing a drum. When the music slows and eventually ends, I intuitively fold my indigo scarf into a little square and hold it tight in my hands, a single tear rolling down my cheek.
Megha cranks up “Bootylicious,” and we all rub out buttocks and form a “soul train” line, each taking turns in pairs, grooving among our friends. My brain goes on slo-mo, and I immerse myself in the activity, my eyes zeroing in on each person, each face, each smile, as it parades down the line. I look at each person singularly and feel a deep connection to everyone who wiggles, shakes, and glissades past me.
We start a chanting/sadhana/out-of-this-world experience, starting with “So Hum Shivo Hum,” my affirmation. The passion I hear at the front of the room, both Megha and Rudy chanting, is sweet and beautiful and enchanting. I literally roll in it, coming to my mat and spreading my limbs in sound. I sway, crawl, squirm on my mat, the tears and snot and pain and delight coming out everywhere. It is almost torturous, like someone is dying in front of me. I am dying in front of me. The chants change, Rudy and Megha singing almost a lullaby of sorts. A dirge, a prayer, a worship celebration, a funeral, a birthday…everything. My movement just rolls and stops and rolls and pauses. Why do I continue to move, in spite of the agony? BRFWA to its extent. Roger begins leading us through asana, and I try to follow him, but I end up first just sitting, then curling into a fetal position. Sobbing, breaking, dying. Someone comes up from behind me, brushes my hair back, and props a pillow under my head. To this day I have no idea who the witness was.
Savasana. What a wild ride that becomes. My eyes are filled with pools of tears, and I ever-so-slightly crack open my eyelids to have slits of light come through. The effect is something incredible, a swirling, glowing, lake of light–all in my head! It was so brilliant, so fluid and heavenly and golden that I thought maybe I had reached samadhi. I felt crazy. I felt like I was high on drugs. Glowing swirls of liquid light, in my eyes, in my brain. I saw several visions: a Buddha figure, then a vivid image of the Dalai Lama. A mental image of F. and L. standing by the ocean, looking out at the beach from the boardwalk. I got the sensation I was sinking into the ground as the ground rose under my heavy limbs. How many times have I lay in savasana, and this is the first time I get this wild sensation of simultaneous rising and falling, the soft earth greeting my back with a gentle nudge. I sink and the whole class sinks with me, my friends, all gently sliding into the ground, kind of like the wave vision I had weeks ago. At the end of meditation, we chant Om, and I envision our entire class in white clothing. As the sound swells, I so briefly and vividly feel like we’re back in the ashram, our gurus at the front. It’s very beautiful.
All of the above is labeled as “Completions” on our schedule. Before it had started, I asked Rudy what exactly “Completions” meant, to which he responded, “We’re going to be exploring some unearthly terrain.” Huh. Touché. I emerge from the experience in a complete daze, unable to make eye contact or speak.
We end with what Megha calls a stereophonic affirmation exercise, where one person sits in the “Hot Seat,” one person serves as the Witness, and the two other people whisper into the “chosen one’s” ears good things about them. It’s jarring and reassuring, so many words and concepts. My brain went on overload trying to process the affirmations I received from my third aditham group, C. and B., as K. watched. The one moment I recall from this exercise is when all I heard was mumblemumblemumble in each ear, and then the word “grace” came out of both C.’s and B.’s lips simultaneously. K. noticed it too, and B. got overly excited, exclaiming, “Oh wow!!! That’s your new name!! Grace! Jennifer Grace!!” [Author’s note: Coincidentally, my cousin’s first child, born only a few months ago, was named Jennifer Grace.]
During lunch I take a leisurely stroll outside, but it feels very lonely and sad. It’s extremely mild, but the effects of late fall are evident, with most vegetation browning or dead. The difference even in one week since our silent nature walk is huge. Almost no yellow anymore. Dead trees, fallen limbs, fallen trees scatter the road I walk along. It reminds me of the Elephant Graveyard from The Lion King, but with bare tree limbs instead of elephant bones.
But I witness it all–a fallen evergreen or spruce, maybe–looks like a rejected Christmas tree. I walk behind Kripalu, on the hillside visible from the dining hall. It’s my first time seeing the place from behind. There’s the Main Hall, Shadowbrook, Marketing and Development, the dining hall windows, so small-looking from here. I stand by the trickling waterfall and fall in love again with the soft sound of dripping water. I am thrilled to be outside, in Massachusetts, in November, hardly needing a coat and not wearing socks.
I come inside and make a deep tissue massage appointment for tomorrow morning.
Our Celebration party kicks off at 7:30 p.m.; everyone is dressed up (jeans, blouses, makeup, jewelry) or DRESSED UP (saris, flowing ensembles). There is awesome drumming, almost KDZ-like, that gets me energized (and keeps me dancing through the night, lured onto the floor by such earthy, deep sounds. I end up dancing till 11:15, even though I’m utterly exhausted).
There is a giant (real) chocolate cake, to which we sing the birthday song, replacing “our dear friend ____” with “our dear tribe Kickasana.”
Cookies from the Kripalu Cafe (like, the real cookies), dark chocolate Hershey’s Kisses, and hot cider. A talent show of music and poetry follows, some humorous, some serious.
A. leads a chant, L. sings the Awesome Song, G. reads poetry, a group sings together, D. belts out a stunning “Amazing Grace,” L. sings a teary song from Wicked–a cappella–that gets everyone crying, and M. shows a DVD from her Cirque du Soleil show, Quidam. M. and I perform our Stage 1-Stage 3 yoga dance, which we choreographed in about 15-20 minutes the night before.
It’s amazing how well it is received, with loud hoots and hollers. Megha pulls me aside and tells me that the performer persona in me needs to “play” some time. M. and I get so many compliments, so many people approach me and tell me that I am amazing, that my movement is beautiful–so many compliments that I feel awkward a bit. M. was just talking about this, how it’s nice to hear people praise what comes naturally to you. All I did was dance my heart out, do what I do when I hear music, and so many people were blown away. I had a difficult task of accepting praise with grace and not belittling my talents.
And now, without a doubt, I know I have to move more. Everything here has pointed me to dance, to movement, to standing on my own two feet and expressing myself through my body. Even Jurian comments about the wild movement, and I am flattered. I feel like I am being praised by a professional Rockette.
We present Om mandalas to our teachers, and so then we gather around all six of them and chant Om, a continuous loop.
Rudy looks intensely serious, and I wonder what goes on in his curious, quiet mind.
The event ends with us all in a circle, singing “We Are the World,” led by A. He sings his heart out in his thick Japanese accent, and we sway while holding candles.
Back in the dorm, people begin packing, except me. We are hyper from all the sugar at the party, we are all friends now. We talk like we’ve known each other for years. We compliment each other, ask each other if everything’s OK, joke about snoring, burping, pooping, and D.’s expanding closet of doom. Tomorrow night I will among a new set of strangers.
It is so late–so late–but after I shower, I head to the second floor and dance alone in the Main Chapel because the doors were open and the carpeted floor and vastness called my name. I am beyond tired, but I soak in the old carpet scent of the hall and find myself leaping and crying and anjali mudra-ing. I feel so at home, so peaceful, so hum Shivo hum. The wind is intensely wicked, and I swear a tornado is going to bust through this place. Being in the chapel during a whirlwind is pretty scary, and it’s probably been the scariest and most blessed moments of my time here. The lights are not on, but there is illumination from outside and I can see shadows from the trees dance like ghosts. The wind creeps in this silent chapel so intensely that it sounds like someone is snoring in the corner. I’m reminded of Egypt and the way people would sleep in the mosques. I roll around a bit on the floor, my eyes on that wood-paneled ceiling. I leap, I cry. I imagine myself with a headset on, leading a DansKinetics class. I wonder how many people have rolled around on this very floor in ecstatic movement. I stand in the chapel, awed at “Wow, here I am.” This “foreign” place with the giant Om symbol and vaulted ceiling, the place I only once knew from pictures in the catalog, here I am. I am here.
When my body says that I am done, I head to the second floor lobby to write. A security guard named Dave W. checks out my little nook across from the chapel, and suddenly we’re talking for 30 minutes about his dragon tattoos, the howling wind, the animals outside (bobcats, owls, deer, coyotes), campfires, tattoo bias, the safety of Kripalu, the nice people at Kripalu, the stars, the darkness, the silence, and how many people from the cities are frightened by Kripalu’s darkness and silence. He describes to me a thunderstorm that once passed over the grounds, the rolling, low clouds flickering with lightning. I am fascinated, hungry for more stories about this place, but so achingly tired. He comes back to tell me that I am welcome to write in the silent dining room because there are newer windows in there and it’s not so noisy.
But I am too tired to continue staying awake any longer, and I head back to the dorm around 2 a.m. for a nice 3.5 hours of sleep.
Five years ago on this day, Roger leads his final class for our group. Even at 6:30 a.m., he is an adorable goofball, making jokes about teaching a class of gay men and telling them to find their dristi, or “gaze point” (gays point) during balancing poses. Fire hydrants, side leg lifts, and 5-minute long utkatasana followed, with much loving commotion, groaning, and screaming, “And now take the next 30 seconds to find and explore your own movement,” he tells us, adding, “There’s a little secret trick of the trade. It’s something you can say when you have no idea what to do next.” 🙂
It’s our first extraordinarily foggy morning. I can see nothing when I wake up, and even when I go outside at 8 a.m. after class, most of the mountains are hidden. I feel betrayed in a way, that nature is hiding my panorama, and how rude to do it so soon before we leave. The mountains are there, I know, they are real, they are living, they extend just beyond the soupy white cloud cover. For someone standing on the mountains, Kripalu is unseen, hidden. You can’t always see Kripalu, but you’ve seen it plenty of times, you know it’s there. Shielded, so seemingly distant, so out of hand’s reach…but there. Real. The clouds will be rolling over my eyes very soon now, but I know that when they clear, Kripalu and its people are always here.
We revisit our three atitham groups in the morning session, discussing our affirmation. Mine is “I am that I am,” So Hum Shivo Hum. We get crayons and large sheets of paper and sketch what our future look like.
Right before a walking meditation later in the morning, Megha presents us with two giant boxes of chocolates from Chocolate Springs, really beautiful, art-like creations. I take a dark chocolate square decorated with musical notes.
I go to DansKinetics during lunch because (a) I was tired of sitting all day and needed to move; and (b) I want to experience different DansKinetics teachers, see how they operate, in case I come back here for certification.
The teacher ended up being pretty lame and kind of boring–I think I had more energy than she did. But luckily the music was good, and that’s all I needed. I stayed until 12:40 and then ate lunch with a few of the girls from my class.
For the afternoon session, there is talk about advanced training and the Kripalu Yoga Teachers Association. Lots of talk about sex and energy, with Rudy at the helm. Break for a dance party.
Rudy ends the session early by accident: “…and I just realized this class does not end at 3:45.” I check the notice boards and see that Megha is leading a Grace-in-Motion class this Saturday, 9:45 to 11:30. I see her in the hall and she says I’m welcome to join the session. I am overly grateful I extended my stay.
Afternoon sadhana with Micah, who greets us by saying, “It’s an honor to be in the presence of so many great teachers.” !!!
And holy f***ing crap, his class blows my mind! I started the class feeling pretty exhausted, but now it’s quite different. His presence, his voice, his intensity…I got totally absorbed in the practice, especially in kapotasana, especially my left hip. I sunk into the pose, and then some, going into Stage 2-3, completely enraptured with the deep stretch, wanting to hold it forever. I got hot, deep, aaahhhh. And then we did Camel, yoga mudra. After that, the rest of the class was bliss. Micah’s voice, the mood lighting, the music. I melted into supta matsyendrasana, fluttered into savasana with hesitation. During closing meditation, I envisioned a Sharpie marker drawing an atomic bomb explosion, a mushroom cloud. Very disturbing! During our enchanting continuous Om, I saw a billion little whitish-gray stars fall against a black background. It lasted for a few seconds after everyone’s Jai Bhagwan, and then I left Shadowbrook completely on fire.
Rosemary biscuits for both lunch and dinner. Oh god, so heavenly.
The day ends with a DVD of Vidya talking about being a teacher, which keeps blipping and skipping. However, it was still inspiring, despite the part about not being “self-employed” but rather “God-employed.” Hmph. Despite that, I appreciated all the talk about how great teachers are, what the world would be like without them. What would your life be like without your yoga teacher?
M. and I stay in the room afterward to practice our celebration party dance, sans E., who dropped out due to illness. No more parading around in our bras, exposing our Buddha bellies. After nailing our routine, we stay longer just to dance…to trance music, to Simon and Garfunkel, Coldplay…how awesome. The two of us just going inside ourselves, music blaring, dancing our assess off in front of Shiva. We both talk about the pure ecstasy of having such a giant, empty, expansive space in which to dance.
Five years ago on this day, I wake up to a non-YTT guest in our dorm room, right above me. Her name is Donna, and she is fine. She woke up at 6 this morning, but after she crept down the bunk ladder and hit the floor I was already asleep again. I woke up at 7 to the sun bright as all heck shining in, a huge cloud of mist hanging over the lake like I was in Narnia. I noticed that the bright yellow and red trees outside our window are almost completely bare. Their once luscious, vibrant leaves of fire now make a huge puddle around their bases.
I am sick. I could feel the congestion building up over the past 2-3 days, and last night I went to bed with a sore throat. All during the night I kept waking up, trying to swallow. I wonder how often Kripalu cleans those purple and white blankets and yoga mats.
I look at myself partially naked in the bathroom mirror and notice although I think my butt has gotten bigger, everything in that area is more toned and muscular, especially my thighs. My inner thighs are solid, and stuff doesn’t jiggle as much. My abs are more defined. I have the biggest sleepy circles under my eyes, but my face feels glowing, flushed, radiant.
I realize how much of an impact music has on my memory. In the cafeteria this morning, a song was playing, the techno/dance version of “Simple Gifts” that Megha and Rudy played on opening night. A sudden feeling of love and warmth wash over me.
After breakfast, I hope to catch the “walking train” of people that decided to head into Lenox, but I apparently missed the group by 10 minutes. That’s OK. I went off by myself, backpack in tow, and set off past the gates of Kripalu. Real World. The sign at the entrance of Kripalu is so small and humble, our little safe haven. Our little secret.
There is a “Welcome to Lenox” sign, and now I’m on the open road. I notice lots of noise, cars, trucks…it’s loud. I realize I haven’t truly been “on the open road” in about 3 weeks, and hearing the sounds of speeding cars is a little bit of a shock. I walk and walk, uphill, downhill, kind of knowing where I’m going but also not. Where is the monument [in the center of town]? How far ahead are the other girls? Will I see society soon? I walk past houses, some with pumpkins on their front steps, some with Christmas wreaths hanging on the doors. Christmas. Holy crap, it’s November 11, and that means the stores are probably bursting with Christmas stuff. Where have I been? What a time warp.
Where am I?, I think, continuing with my walk. It’s so much different than walking around my hometown or other familiar places, when I know precisely where I am in relation to the county, state, and country. But where am I now? I have a vague feeling of it being in Massachusetts, but it feels like a different planet. I know nothing around me, and in a way it feels good. Not knowing. Living in the inquiry. I feel like my trek on this foreign road is like the journey of a college student–I know I want to do something in communications, but what? TV? Radio? Film? Print? No idea where to go or what the destination is, but enjoying the journey, the walk, the various classes and lectures and teachers and books and friends. Being OK with not knowing the destination.
When I reach downtown Lenox about 45 minutes later, it feels like Disney World. There is a bank, a pharmacy, a book store, a health food store, cute little shops, a gas station. I’m tickled with delight but also worried. Choices. Decisions. Learning to control the urge to hoard and want and possess. I find the Lenox coffeeshop, and D. and M. are inside. Soy hot chocolate. We talk a lot about Kripalu, the people, our staff, how we are overcome with gratitude and love when someone reaches out to us. I am not the only one falling in love with love.
Twenty minutes after returning to Planet K, it’s DansKinetics time. I try not to think about how this may be my last DansKinetics class with Megha, to just be there in the Main Hall, in front of the stained glass Om symbol, to enjoy and participate, to dance and just let go. It works, because I see the transformation around me. I see people around me smiling and singing and laughing and sweating, and I know it is partially Megha’s influence that has made everyone open up this way. Her energy is boundless, and it is fascinating to see how it rubs off on one, two, three, four people, and how that energy rubs off on more people, spreading until the whole room is ALIVE, like really ALIVE…living. How one person and five drummers can create that openness is a marvel to witness, and I knew then that (for the 1,000th time) that is was my duty to take this energy, cultivate it in myself, and spread it to people in my life.
I keep telling myself to remember, remember, remember. It is my new mantra. I remember the wood-paneled ceiling, I remember smiling at my fellow classmates, I remember standing next to the drummers and hearing their beats, moving my feet to their sound. I remember standing at the edge of the circle, letting my body succumb to Stage 4 (another dimension), my hair loose and all over my face, thrashing on the floor, dying, dying, alive, alive, a birth and death cycle over and over again. I was 150 different Jens that afternoon, coming and going. I was a banshee wild woman, raw, terrifying, peaceful, sexual, dying, breathing, living. A tiger and a dove. Sweaty. Gross. Sweet. Sweat. Remember.
During class I realized that what A.M. said about silence is right–you can’t have music without it. There were times during KDZ’s intense drumming songs when they threw in a pause–and the release, the notes that followed that hold, were thrilling, wild. You could see the effect on us; everyone loved it. Those short little pauses that gave us two seconds of craving, anticipation, mystery–then gaining it all back again. You can’t have music without silence.
We trickled to the floor as the music slowed, a graceful surrender and death. The musicians padded around us, their delicate music lulling us into relaxation. A little blonde girl named Roberta played her rain stick over my head, and I smiled. I felt emotion, tears. Grateful. I Jai Bhagwan’ed with appreciation and rested. When I saw Megha in the doorway, I immediately zeroed in to hug her, even though she and I were both saturated. I did not care. I embraced her and my voice trembled, and I thanked her. She called me “My dancing sister,” something she’s probably said to thousands of other women, but that melted my heart then and there.
Mexican for lunch, and I overeat again. Burritos, tacos, beans, rice, salad, corn soup. I go overboard and now my tummy is not so flat anymore.
I shop in the Kripalu Store of Doom for over 2 hours, buying more than $150 worth of lovely yoga stuff. 2+ hours. M. and I are practically employees in there, listening to CDs, looking at clothes, yadda yadda. Dinner in the cafe, then an in-depth discussion with E. about her talk with Angela Farmer, who talked with her for 45 minutes about how yoga is meant for men, how it’s angular and rigid and masculine. The story, says Angela Farmer, is that Shivo witnessed his wife Parvati bathing while doing really graceful, flowing, organic postures. Fascinated, Shivo went into the woods to mimic her postures but ended up doing very rigid forms, militaristic. His followers copied his movement and thus yoga became a “movement.” So, what was “supposed” to be fluid, feminine movement was transformed into masculine warrior postures. So Angela Farmer is all about bringing the feminine quality back to yoga, and E. was purely fascinated. And it was fascinating to listen to her fascination!
Where did learning about yoga go? I’m so concerned about dancing and poetry and woman issues that I’m completely forgetting about Practice Teach #3, anatomy, and our test, whatever that may be. But I’ll never forget that sitz bones = ischial tuberosities and that the digestive system–sing it with me now!–“Digests, Absorbs, and Eliminates!”
Two nights ago, I crept into bed and was able to see the new moon from my pillow. I stretched out in my bunk, watching the clouds cover and expose the moon, and I was completely content. I shower in flip-flops every night, smell like cafeteria food all the time, get 6 hours of sleep, but I am content. So f***ing happy.
Five years ago on this day, I woke up at 7 a.m. for my second free Saturday at Kripalu. There are so many R+R people here, so many workshop attendees. The place is supposedly booked this weekend. Dinner last night was maddening, so loud. But it’s good to have this outside energy here every now and then–a little taste of culture shock in bits and pieces.
Angela Farmer is here now. She is so regal, so graceful. She has perfect posture and perfect grace. I almost feel like bowing in her presence.
M. and I talked about how deep the conversations are here, that we’ll be in the cafe and overhear discussions about addictions, recovery, therapy issues, relationship crises, Kripalu breakdowns–intense, emotional stuff. There’s no talk here about Paris Hilton’s latest shenanigans, Britney’s babies, the weather, no talk about superficial junk. Everything happens on a different level here. It’s a different planet, this Planet K.
DansKinetics today with Toni Bergens is another round of Awesome. It’s the live drumming, man, KDZ. I could just dance and dance on my own, even without a teacher. At one point I whipped out my hair band and claw and just let my mane flow like a wild woman, whipping it around like I was on drugs. I’m surprised I didn’t hurt my neck. We gradually sunk into the floor, and I moved gracefully into the ground, lullabied by the musicians and their natural chiming, tinkling sounds. DansKinetics is the true cultivator of prana.
J. and I go into town in her Prius. We drive into a shopping center, find Chocolate Springs. I inhale a cappuccino (woah, caffeine!) and chocolate chip cookie. One of the first things I did upon walking into the place was look for people’s nametags where there were none. I feel slightly awkward being in the Real World and appreciate arriving home again. I felt very vulnerable and fragile “out there.” It’s a beautiful, full moon evening.
I call my mom. She tells me everyone is nice here because it’s not the real world and just wait till I get home. And that is why I waited 2 weeks to call home.
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!