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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.

Source: Allie Brosh (hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com)

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.

One of my favorite “in the moment” dance floor photos.

While I have been diving into 5Rhythms lately, attending as many classes as possible, simultaneously swimming and drowning in Wave after Wave, I’ve only just begun to skim the surface of another movement modality, Nia.

Last week was my first Nia class in nearly two years, and—as I described here—it.was.GREAT! I overcame a mental barrier to get there and gave myself fully into the class, despite it not being 5Rhythms. Yes, it was different than what I am used to, but the bottom line was that I had fun. I couldn’t wait to return.

What I wasn’t expecting this past Friday was how open my heart would be. But there was a lot going on: I had just come from dinner with the widow of my former middle school principal, whose anguish over her husband’s death was still very evident; the “supermoon” was hours away from its monthly fullness; and a lightning storm was buzzing through the clouds. It was the perfect backdrop for an evening of raw, uninhibited movement.

Suzanne, the instructor, structures each class around a theme; this time, the focus was resistance, the dance of fear between holding on and letting go. To demonstrate, she had us clasp our hands together, fingers clutching onto fingers, pulling, grabbing, tension. Then, she told us, “let it go.” Feel the freedom in your hands and arms. What are you holding onto that doesn’t serve you anymore? she asked. Suzanne invited us to think simply, maybe in terms of your kitchen junk drawer. If you keep holding onto something you don’t use, there will never be any space for new, more functional items.

In a very staccato fashion, we executed chopping motions with our hands, banged on drums near our heart center, made punching motions with our arms. As we thrust our legs forward in martial arts-like kicks, I realized I haven’t kicked like that in a while, maybe because I’ve feared hurting my hip or because nothing like that has come up in 5Rhythms. I felt the motion coming from my core, my powerhouse. I felt like a warrior: Grounded, focused, steady. I was onto something.

Photograph provided by Nia Technique (www.nianow.com).

What I think I was doing was letting go, breaking loose the rigidity that often surrounds my heart. I was giving into the moment, immersing myself fully, no commentary about my insecurities running through my mind. It was at this point I began to feel empowered, surrounded and supported by my fellow classmates, my sisters. It was an all-women class, something that doesn’t occur often in 5Rhythms (especially since my main teacher is male). As much as I love exploring masculine-feminine energies through dance, I think the moment a man enters the room, women slip into a bit of a caricature: shoulders back, chest out, come-hither eyes, no matter how subtle and perhaps even unconsciously. But there was none of that Friday night in Nia. I felt unabashedly female.

As the class winded down, we all stood in a circle, swooping down to the earth, gathering gratitude, then releasing it up the sky with a nurturing “Ahhh” sound. I was standing across from an older woman who, during the previous class, was dressed in a blue sweatsuit and mentally struggled with the movements, still profoundly affected by the death of her mother. This time, she wore a short-sleeved pink shirt with sparkling sequins, and every time she lifted her face to the sky, I saw more light entering her spirit. It was beautiful to witness. It made me think of the woman I had just met for dinner, how much she would’ve loved this class; she wanted to attend but was hindered by a knee injury. When I lifted my arms to the sky, I sent my love her way. All I felt at that moment was love, love, love. I wanted to take the yoga studio owner—also a 5Rhythms classmate—in my arms and swoop her around the floor.

Photograph provided by Nia Technique (www.nianow.com).

Before our final moment of stillness, Suzanne closed class by guiding us backward through the “5 stages” of human life: walking, standing, crawling, creeping, and embryonic. We stayed in our “embryos” for a while, invited to move as though we were suspended in time. There on my back, I sunk deep into my essence, floating down, down, down into my true self, my root, my beginning. It was only appropriate, then, that this was when the playlist switched to the final song: Sarah McLachlan’s “Rainbow Connection,” a song with deep personal meaning for me, the song played often during my yoga teacher training, the song that always made me wonder, “Why am I studying yoga when all I want to do is dance?”

Like that, the theme of the class hit me smack between the eyes: Why are you holding onto all that junk instead of making room for new things?

The class stirred up a lot, and the longer I hung around the studio, the more intense things got. The studio owner must’ve sensed this “stirring,” looking me in the eyes point blank and asking, “So, what are you going to do?” as though she knew I have been longing to fly but afraid to take down the runway. She reminded me that my presence is strong, that she felt me in the room during 5Rhythms class last week (even though I was dancing elsewhere), that my “spirit has touched so many people.” The woman in the pink shirt was there as well, and she looked at me closely, as though she were examining my aura. “You have good energy,” she assured me. “I can feel it. Whatever you do, whatever class or practice you conceive, the energy is there. It will work.” And that’s what she said, just like that. Just like that? Just like that.

And just like that, I walked outside into a lightning storm, electricity circuiting through the sky every 20 seconds, a glimpse of the full moon captured with each burst of light. I could smell the ozone, I could feel the storm, and when I finally reached home, the thunder began rumbling the earth beneath me.

Oprah always made “aha!” moments sound so inspiring and colorful and uplifting, but sometimes an “aha!” moment makes you feel like crap.

My depressing “aha!” moment happened the other day, as I was expressing to a friend my great interest in airplanes:

“The funny thing is, I am obsessed with big planes but I’m actually afraid of flying.”

The enormity of this sentence hit me as soon as the words escaped my mouth. Was I actually talking about Lufthansa and FedEx jets, or was I just exposing a deep, shameful layer of my inner being, that I am obsessed with grand ideas but too much of a scaredy cat to get them off the ground?

After all, “planes” is “plans” with just one extra letter.

The parallels are almost frightening. Take the airplane thing. I love the structure of planes, their sleek design, the technology that allows them to take off and land, to straighten themselves out on a windy day. The choreography of flight patterns, the ballet of metal birds in the clouds, a giant football play sheet in which the Xs and Os are instead 737s and DC-10s.

I learn the lingo, expand my vocabulary, noting that the call sign for U.S. Air is “Cactus” and how the final three steps of an airplane’s arrival are termed “downwind,” “base,” and “final.” My Netflix history shows that I’ve watched documentaries about American Airlines and Air Force One, and I’ve confessed to hiding in a corner in Barnes & Noble, a magazine about commercial airliners between my legs.

But when it comes time for me to fly, I clutch Bryan’s hand as we barrel down the runway and dare not breathe when the plane’s wheels leave the ground. I don’t get sick over flying, but I don’t necessarily enjoy it, either.

I wish I could say I plaster myself against the window and spend every moment in the sky being utterly amazed that, well, I’m in the mother f****n’ sky, but the truth is that I peek out the window with trepidation, afraid that me shifting a few inches to the right will somehow cause the whole aircraft to lurch, and soon we’ll be spiraling out of control through the clouds, all because of my natural desire to fully enjoy the moment of being in flight.

My real-life planes plans are not much different. I think of yoga, how when I was first introduced to it in 2005, I fully immersed myself in all things asana. I subscribed to Yoga Journal, reading each article several times in an effort to memorize the lingo, the Sanskrit that holds the practice together. I attended workshops and master classes, admiring the instructors and their effortless poses, taking notes, itching to become an expert.

I was in love with the details, the schematics. I went to flight school (yoga teacher training). How I loved being around all these seasoned pilots! My fellow students and I talked the talk, stayed up late into the night to share notes and fantasies of flight. We doodled our own flight plans, imaging how one day we’d soar to new heights.

But then when it came time for my test flights, I always felt like I was sputtering and swinging aimlessly between clouds. The feeling of ascending was not as gratifying as I had envisioned. The moment I got my pilot’s license, I already knew deep inside that I didn’t want to fly.

It’s not much different today. I think, I could organize a lunch-hour dance party at my office, I could learn to teach dance to older adults, I could do this training and make movement my second career.

I have surrounded myself with books and blogs and images of dancing, scurrying off to class after class, fascinated with the details, colors, and nuances of movement, painting pictures in my mind of my body as an airplane, a bird, an angel far above this earth. Sometimes during a class I rush across the studio floor and take off, but the flight is never more than an out-and-back.

I feel like somewhere in my notes and doodles and vocabulary there is a flight plan for a trans-Atlantic journey, but the question is whether I’ll ever work up the courage to sit down in the cabin with courage and allow myself to look out that window without fear of falling out of the sky.

Descending into Lhasa, 2006

It’s time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes
And leap…

It’s time to try defying gravity
I think I’ll try defying gravity
And you can’t pull me down.

~ “Defying Gravity,” Wicked

(Note. This post is dedicated to Meg from Spirit Moves Dance, who is already on her way to 35,000 feet and has no intention of lowering her landing gear anytime soon. :-))

At the conclusion of a recent 5Rhythms class, one of my fellow dancers shared with the group that she loves class because “I feel safe to be a child again.”

I understood what she was saying—5Rhythms is a space to be playful, uninhibited, curious, and spontaneous—but I was feeling something much different that night.

5Rhythms doesn’t make me feel like a child. It makes me feel like a woman.


The week leading up to class, I had been privately mulling over at what point in her life a female comfortably begins referring to herself as a “woman” (particularly a female who has not yet carried a child or given birth, which I imagine would be the tipping point for being comfortable calling oneself a woman). For instance, if I am writing up a blog bio, I struggle over what noun to use after “Jennifer is a 31-year-old ____.” Girl? Gal? Chica? Saying “woman” feels so…adult. So mature.

Most of the time, I do not feel like a “woman.” I am obsessing over big airplanes, spilling cereal and yogurt all over my cubicle, laughing about butt jokes, and dreaming about Disney World.

But during 5Rhythms…that is when I feel like a woman. Certain music, certain movers will extract that essence out of me, and I feel wise, vibrant, strong, feminine, proud, daring. There is a head-to-toe, bone-to-muscle-to-blood connection with myself, and I feel so whole, so womanly, so pure.

So Pure, just like Alanis Morissette in her music video of the same name. I have fun, I let loose, I sweat and open up and become the dancer that has always lived inside of me.

I am still replaying in my mind the moment during Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel” when I was dancing on my own, my arms rising above my head to the lyrics “In the arms of an angel….,” and suddenly from behind me, another’s arms linked through mine, now intertwined like angel’s wings. My feet were solidly planted on the floor, but I felt miles above the earth. We remained paired together in the final stretch of Stillness, a wordless song that was eloquent, fierce, passionate, sad, and intense all wrapped into one. I gave myself fully into the movement in a way that no “girl” could do; this was the dance of a woman.

During the sharing circle after class, I began to blush as others in the group commented about being fascinated with our movement, how they loved watching the two of us dance together. Some even thought we were part of a modern dance troupe! One woman had very nice words to say about how watching us was like watching two spirits completely connected with each other.

It was all so overwhelming to take in (I have always had a hard time being complimented on my natural talents) but also so so so so very much appreciated. I had not felt this way since 2006, when during my Kripalu yoga teacher training Megha and I danced our separate solos together at the back of Shadowbrook Hall as Linda Worster performed at the front. That night, a few of my classmates kept showering me with compliments about how beautiful I was to watch.

Despite the words making me smile and squirm at the same time, the compliments from both my YTT and 5Rhythms classmates were a touching reminder that I am still a dancer, despite not practicing in a studio or wearing pointe shoes.

Likewise, even though I don’t necessarily feel “grown up,” dancing has certainly given me comfort in my femininity and allowed me to move beyond the boundaries of girlhood.

Thank you 5Rhythms, for making me feel like a woman.

Five years ago on this day, I am “trying hard to be yogic but failing.” Low energy. Feeling pathetic.

We started the morning with a round-robin sadhana, and I had no desire to be up there on that platform. I’m a teacher-in-training who’s afraid to teach. I try to be happy for my classmates but instead I envy their ambition and motivation. I am lowwwwww. I didn’t get to impress myself or others. I could have done it if I went up there, but I didn’t go up and I didn’t even try.

Yesterday, Atma talked to us about Swami Kripalu and the deep history of this place.

The session started off kind of weird, with Atma attempting to play the harmonium and chant, except she had trouble both playing and singing. The whole ordeal was very awkward. She then talked about being part of the initial Kripalu ashram, bowing to Swami Kripalu and Amrit Desai, choosing her guru over her mother, and not understanding one-on-one relationships and marriage. However, I did pick up two things: “Community is stronger than willpower” and the fact that we are part of the Kripalu lineage, a deep mystical past (Shiva > Swami Kripalu’s teacher, supposedly a reincarnate of Lord Shiva > Swami Kripalu himself > Amrit Desai > Megha/Rudy > us). Wow! What a cool thought.

***

Heard at Kripalu:

“She kept telling us to engage our perineum. I had no idea what it was or where to find it. Was it in me heart or somewhere else?!” ~Classmate Y (who’s Irish), on Angela Farmer’s class.

Roger: “Don’t worry, you’re all in the same boat.”

L: “In the same NAVASANA??”

LS (pretending to be impressed): “Oh wow, you speak Sanskrit?!”.

***

I felt so crappy this morning after that round robin. So full of doubt, so disappointed. I didn’t even rise to the challenge. I went into the morning session pretty bummed out, even when I walked into Shadowbrook and heard Sarah McLachlan’s beautiful rendition of “Rainbow Connection” playing. Dance music, lyrical dance music, graceful lyrical movement. It was so touching, but I wasn’t even there. I felt so low, like I’d been hit with a ton of bricks. I couldn’t even sing the student-teacher chant, and my Oms were pathetic.

But the mood lightened because we all got to put on theatrical skits about our experience here thus far, which were SO NEEDED and SO HILARIOUS. Skits about “roll up your mats, get cushions, put everything away, get everything out, relax, breathe, triangle, eat consciously for 5 minutes.” M and E did a fabulous Rudy and Megha impression, and others did a great job emphasizing the challenges here about relaxing, breathing, releasing, grounding, breakfast, lunch, dinner, bathroom breaks, etc. We all laughed hysterically, and for a Friday it was a very much-needed release. I laughed so hard my cheeks and chest hurt.

***

The day didn’t get much better, though. Posture clinic in downdog, and I was not there. I kept breaking out into mini tear sessions while learning about downdog. Practicing the dog tilt prep was really hard because my heart was so open and exposed. It actually hurt. It was maddening at what I had been reduced to.

We ended the posture clinic by an a cappella chanting of So Hum Shivo Hum, which was just so stirring, so soft, but so magnificent. It put me at ease for a few moments.

***

Cried to Bryan during lunch, then went for a walk outside as it began to snow. It snows all the time here–never enough to stick (not yet), but there’s usually light flakes falling around the clock. Maybe just for 10 minutes, maybe for an hour.

***

Our afternoon session was another anatomy and physiology class with Peggy, during which we stuck stickers all over our 22 major muscles. D and I were partners and were both ridiculously exhausted and unenthusiastic. Peggy wrapped cold spaghetti noodles in Saran wrap to demonstrate muscles and how they work. The skeleton fell off its stand and collapsed in her arms. We went into savasana as Peggy recited the names of our muscles.

***

Afternoon sadhana was with Roger, and we worked extensively with the bandhas, especially during kapalabhati and bhastrika pranayama. Wow–what a natural high! I could feel my chest light up with warmth and fire. Slowly, my foul mood began to lift. We did a lot of core work, intense stuff that actually raised my spirits. I did savasana in meditation-mode and felt pretty good afterward.

***

It’s Friday, so K, D, K, and I ate together, stuffing ourselves and discussing the Real World, wondering if we should extend our stays here to take some time to digest our 4 weeks of learning and have some time to ourselves. We lingered in the dining hall till almost 8, after which I called the Real World–[my yoga teacher from home]–for almost an hour. I did most of the talking, but it felt good to expel some of these Kripalu confusions. But after an hour of talking to the Real World, I emerged from the phonebooth feeling very out of place, like I had left Kripalu for an hour and just returned. It was strange; I felt like I had just returned to my childhood home, kind of awkward but so grateful to be back. I returned to the dorm, where a few of us chatted till 10, discussing Ayurveda, our Kripalu non-epiphanies, and the possibility of getting group yoga teacher tattoos. I went to bed late–11 p.m.!

Five years ago on this day, I sat outside on the Kripalu front lawn during my lunch break, soaking up the deliciously unseasonable spring-like weather. I open my journal and free write:

I am a deer in the field, my wide-eyed head emerging from the Kripalu knoll. Me, on the hillside, one small deer hidden among many, playing with a rotting, dead leaf. A sad deer, a confused deer. A once sprite and lively deer gradually becoming road kill. Venison.

Suddenly, a movement (a threat or a helping hand?). A purple pixie bounding into the field, a purple pixie so lively and light coming to pet the deer and make it feel special. The purple pixie, coming directly to the lone deer. A mystical, magnetic draw.

What had happened was that as I was drifting off into la-la land with my thoughts of self-doubt, Megha had come outside during her lunch too and scampered toward me as though I were emitting a silent SOS. She was dressed head-to-toe in purple and looked like such a cute little pixie. I blabbered on about not feeling good enough to carry the Kripalu torch, and of course her reassurances were as gracious as always.

***

After a morning session based around assisting, some of us get to use those skills later during a 4:15 public gentle class held in the Main Hall. Megha teaches, and it is a delight to witness her gentle personality emerge after seeing so much of her “bouncy, lively” side. Assisting during savasana was profound and beautiful. I found myself crying as the sun set and the stained glass Om symbol shined brightly. Between Megha’s voice, the people in the room, the stillness…I cried, and I couldn’t find tissues, an oddity in a Kripalu classroom. Rudy put his hand on my back and I felt warm again. There is something deep about the touches here. The vibrations are high. I feel extremely cared for. This is my womb, my village, my safe house.

Later that afternoon, our group stands in a compassion circle. We look everyone in the eye as Megha repeats a mantra about everyone wanting to be loved, everyone feeling hurt, everyone just wanting to be happy. It brought us all to tears. It was very difficult to look other people in the eyes and not feel anything. It drew us together once again, even stronger.

***

In the evening, Shadowbrook vibrates with “Seasons of Love,” “Footloose,” “I Need to Know,” and “New York, New York.” I enter at 7:20, and at first it’s just Megha, Jurian, J and I dancing. DANCING! I feel like it’s my birthday. I am ever so grateful for to dance with these movers and shakers, overwhelmed with gratitude. I want to smile, laugh, dance, cry, and hug at the same time. As a group, we all do a kickline to “New York, New York,” singing and dancing. We are sweating, smelling, laughing. Exhilarated. Breathless. Joyful. Connected. Family. We gather in a group huddle at the end and pound the floor and scream our asses off. Release.

YTT's dancing fools, courtesy of Molly.

***

Shadowbrook calls me after my evening breakdown (everyone has them at Kripalu, it’s totally normal) and shower. I enter the double doors and realize it’s really quiet, so much different than the other night with the howling wind and shaking walls. It is beyond still, so empty and eerie. It smells vaguely of dirty feet, the leftover of our evening hoedown.

I light Shiva’s hand candle and dance, first wildly then refined. I find myself sitting in vajrasana in front of Shiva, moving slowly and intentionally to my Indian music. It’s prayerful and comes from a deep place inside of me. I wonder what I look like to someone watching, unable to hear my music. I wonder if it looks as profound as it feels to me. Then, silence. I try to chant Om but feel so alone. It is unsettling.

Five years ago on this day, my day began with a colon massage.

No, for real.

Our teachers had finally picked up on the fact that everyone was feeling the effects of Kripalu’s high-fiber, mostly roughage-based meals and that most of us hadn’t had a satisfactory bowel movement since we arrived. We all looked a little bit pregnant. Rudy came to our rescue, and in place of a regular morning sadhana led us through a round of bhunaman vajrasana, an abdominal massage that targets the large intestine. Sitting on our heels, we press our left fist gently into our right side, where the transverse colon begins (between pelvis and ribs), massaging the area while bending over our knees. The fist moves across the intestine, bending over with each move of the hand. When we get to the center, we switch hands so that now our right hand is massaging the left side of our colon. After that, we learn agnisera dhauti, an abdominal pumping exercise, in which after a deep inhale and exhale, you pump the abdominal area in and out quickly during the exhale, expanding your lower half like a Buddha belly. Precautions: Menstruation, do on an empty stomach (preferably first thing in morning). Contraindications: Pregnancy. Efficacy: Oh yeaaaaah.

***

Today is Practice Teach #1, and I think I sabotaged myself. In the effort of trying to be so different, so fun, so unique, I ended up being someone I’m not, even though I initially thought I stayed true to myself. Even after all this time of introspection and contemplation, I struggle with knowing my True Self. Yes, I am playful, but is that your primary goal? Who are your inspirations and why? I think too much. Trying to be unique too much. I didn’t feel ME. I felt like I was acting. I don’t know what I felt. Ambivalent. I felt like I had tried on a new pair of shoes–kind of uncomfortable, kind of warm and nice, still a different fit. [Classmate] was amazing. The guy I didn’t trust at all, the weird guy, the black sheep–he was awesome. He nailed all the Kripalu points. His languaging was simple but on. He gave us so much room for exploration and prana response. So many opportunities to take Stage 2 and 3. You know what [my facilitator] told me? You were very loud and clear. She didn’t have to struggle to hear me. My downdog variation with the hand sweep was difficult for beginners.

I spoke clearly.

I spoke clearly.

Great. Awesome. Wow. I can talk! I can talk, therefore I can be a yoga teacher. /sarcasm

So much self-doubt right now. So much negativity. Everyone else is gloating, enamored with themselves and their classes. [Classmate] had this [bleep]ing LSD-entranced smile on her face like she just orgasmed. I don’t feel like that. I feel inadequate. I need to delve deeper, take these Kripalu roots to heart, allow prana to flow to me and my students. Maybe allow students a little prana call and response. Anger, delight, bliss, confusion: Move your body as it feels appropriate. Go. Move. Explore.

***

Afternoon sadhana with Jennifer. By then I feel like crap. Very emotionally vulnerable and kind of sick, too. Feverish. Cold. Hot. Dry, red lips. No energy. Confused. Depleted. I drift in and out of savasana, my little yoga nidra dreams coming and going like waves. At one point, the icy/hot feeling I experienced on the massage table [prior to coming top Kripalu] returns to my belly. It stays warm. I feel like someone tucked six blankets into my core. It does not spread.

***

After some time in the “confessional” (phone booth), I hit the whirlpool. I feel like I stepped back to Roman days, with naked women gathering together, talking, laughing, conversing. Our breasts, our bottoms, our pelvic regions…just there. We sit side-by-side and chat, naked.

***

Bed bug scare [turns out to be negative] in D’s space. Shower. Reading. Bedtime at 10 p.m., my earliest. I get 7.5 hours of deep, dream-frenzied sleep.

About the Author

Name: Jennifer

Location: Greater Philadelphia Area

Blog Mission:
SHARE my practice experience in conscious dance and yoga,

EXPAND my network of like-minded individuals,

FULFILL my desire to work with words in a more creative and community-building capacity;

FLOW and GROW with the world around me!

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