Adventures at a Yoga Retreat – Part III

27 Jun

Yoga ladies practicing outside

I woke up Saturday practically aching from head to toe–2 sessions of yoga in a day when i hadn’t done that much in months was a shock to my system. I couldn’t handle another morning of movement without giving my body some rest. So I slept in (!!) until 7:15 (oh, how decadent that was from my 5:45 wake-up call the day before) and decided i would treat myself to a trip to the sauna and whirlpool downstairs. Now, I will admit–i’m a fairly modest person. I’m not one to just parade around naked in front of women, even though I’m pretty comfortable with my body. I don’t know–i’m private and WASP-y. But the day before, I thought i might chance it and try out the sauna sans bathing suit. So I went down to the basement to the women’s sauna, and as i was about to open the door, a girl came out of the whirlpool (the sauna and whirlpool are across the narrow hall from each other) in a bathing suit. And the confident girl planning on going to the sauna au naturel? She crumbled. So on Saturday morning I was prepared, bathing suit at the ready (originally brought because I thought I might be swimming in the lake), and i headed down to the sauna. And of course, what did I see when i stepped into the locker room? Lots of ladies in suits? No, not a one. Naked ladies everywhere! So then it was reverse modesty, and I felt like an ass because i was–how shall we say it?–overdressed. But I didn’t care–I was hitting the sauna/whirlpool NO MATTER WHAT. Being so early there weren’t many lights on, and I flipped the light on to the shower (even though you could see enough to shower without it). One woman shot me a dirty look (either for turning the light on or me wearing a suit and she wasn’t, i wasn’t sure), but I ignored it and went in, showering first (you have to shower before the sauna, then before the whirlpool, then AFTER the whirlpool…it’s very time intensive!) Then I hit the sauna, which was a balmy 152 degrees. People? That’s effing hot. Immediately I drew in a breath and started coughing (you know my lungs were like, ‘Hey, Erin, WTF?’) but after a while I got used to it. The water on my skin evaporated within minutes, and then I was there baking in the dry heat, sweating out the toxins and impurities. Or so they tell me. But it felt good and was frankly kind of soothing (if not a little freaky to be enclosed in a dark, hot place with only the light of the door to see by). Once i’d had enough of that, i headed back to the shower and then off to the whirlpool, and you know how many naked women were there? None! So all of my weirdo WASP-y modesty was in vain! At that point I felt kind of dumb in my suit, although the jets and hot water were quite delicious, and only stayed for 10 minutes (well, and i was hungry, but what’s new there?) I got out, dried off, and promised myself I would embrace my nakedness in the sauna whirlpool before i left Sunday. Or else I was too lame to live.

Breakfast! At this point, I was trying to eat every meal outside. Great food and an awesome scenery translated into a lovely start to my day.

I showered and got ready for our morning session, which was all about the actual ins and outs of a gluten free/dairy free diet, and what happens to your gut when you have a food allergy (you wear away your poor villi so that your body doesn’t absorb nutrients properly. It’s very sad.). Then a few of the girls and I were going to try out YogaDance! (the exclamation point is part of the name) because we’d heard awesome things about it and it was just part of the Kripalu experience.

So…YogaDance! I don’t even have the words. I really don’t! YogaDance! was held on the second floor in a room that used to be the sanctuary of a church–high ceilings and big open spaces. The teacher, Toni Bergens, vaguely resembled Ani DiFranco, and she had this infectious energy about her. There were about 60 people, both men and women, gathered around, most of us first-timers. YogaDance! is the synthesis of yoga, dance and natural movement, really moving with music any way your body wants you to. Toni was our guide, our coach, our cheerleader, and with the addition of a drum circle (the KDZ drummers), she had this African Dance movement thing going on…and it was AWESOME. So basically it’s 60 people moving around the room in a certain rhythm, crawling on the floor, shaking our rears, jumping up and down, moving around the drummers, dancing to the beat–all in all, yoga chaos. And throughout, Toni is giving instruction, encouragement, and spiritual guidance. She even has a CD! Which I bought! She was amazing. What surprised me the most was how people just threw themselves into it…they didn’t care what they looked like, or what other people looked like, or how silly they sounded. They just…let go. And the workout! I was pouring BUCKETS, and i don’t sweat! It was honestly one of the most cleansing, exciting, emotional, exhausting, aerobic, authentic experiences I’ve ever had. It’s hard to put into words, but the girls who did it with me were just in awe after it was over. Rarely do you allow yourself to feel so FREE, you know? See what I mean about the beauty of non-judgment? I swear I’m going to do it in my living room, move aside my coffee table, and have a little YogaDance! session of my very own. Toni said something (in her lovely earth-mama voice) that really hit home to me. She was doing something that celebrated the belly, so she said “Grab a hold of your belly!” (as she was patting her own flat stomach). “You know, I used to have more to hold on to, but then I started being nice to it, and it went away!” And then she laughed. But that made total sense to me…it’s when we move around and eat right and treat ourselves better that we find we don’t have as many physical things to worry about. If I ate healthier and did yoga more often, I wouldn’t have much of a belly to worry about (which has always been the body part I liked the least). It was kind of eye opening for me. So basically, Toni says to stop bitching and start moving…but in a much nicer way than that!

One hour later, exhausted, sweaty and ready to drop, we grabbed some lunch and I sat with some charming ladies who had met at Kripalu and hadn’t known each other prior. A delightful conversation followed, and then I headed back to our last session of the day (slightly more fragrant, but feeling quite alive) and we learned about good supplements for the gut (there are many, they do different things, they are expensive, they are confusing). After the session it started to drizzle, so in the interest in staying indoors I figured I would squeeze in one more yoga class before the day ended in the Sunset room. I headed to class, and got a last minute spot right next to…Mr. Bodysuit. In black! Looking at him a little more closely as covertly as possible, I noticed it was actually two pieces, and the top (long-sleeved) ended in a thong-like bottom over the leggings. WHERE DOES ONE GET ONE OF THESE? The only people who wear thongs are women, and that’s because we are forced to to avoid panty lines. Why would you volunteer? And then I noticed he had a wedding ring on, which was even more confusing. What woman is attracted to a man in a yoga bodysuit? I’ve not met this woman, but she’s a better lady than me. Anyway, yoga began, but the instructor, a man in a his 50s with a Willie Nelson-like handkerchief wrapped around his head, had a nasally monotone voice and a very rote style, and I thought–enough of this. If you sound like you’re teaching yoga like you’re reading from a book, I’d rather nap. I only lasted 45 minutes and then i was out of there, off to the happy land of dinner where I could eat my delicious bread (not GF yet!) and my Mediterranean-style fish and sigh in contentment. I grabbed a seat next to two friends who obviously came together, and it’s amazing what you can hear when you’re doing nothing but eating. One was doing most of the talking, saying how she was having to check email and phone messages 10 times a day because some deal fell through and some guy pulled out and her husband was a jerk and she basically hated life. And then she started whispering to her companion something even more secretive, which almost made me laugh. Lady–I don’t know you. You could say you killed someone, and I have no idea who you are. I can’t tell your secrets. I’m not a corporate spy! But if you want to keep your secrets between yourselves, go right ahead but do so VERY QUIETLY. So they finished up and left, and I realized how much I appreciate my job and its stress level, which is relatively low. I came to Kripalu to escape my stress–I certainly didn’t expect to have it follow me up there!

As the evening wound down to a close, I saw a sign promoting “Kirtan!” that evening with musicians. Not knowing what kirtan was or who the musicians were, I ignored it and was happily reading my book when I heard continued laughter from the main room on the first floor near my comfy chair. Curious (because why would yogis be laughing? Kripalu is not inherently funny!), I poked my head in, and there was a faux yogi, Swami Bananahammock (or some other equally silly name) doing…yoga standup? Or in his case, cross-legged sitdown? Yes, it appeared there was a yogi comedian in our midst, the warm-up act for the singers. And you know what? He was funny! Really! He had us sing silly songs, and bad puns, and had the whole crowd eating out of his hand. That and the ridiculous “swami” costume just topped the entertaining package. 20 minutes later he sauntered out of the room, and the crowd eagerly awaited Shantala, the married couple leading kirtan, which is singing or devotional chanting. Apparently they’re quite famous in these circles from the applause and number of seats filled, and I was curious to see if I would like their music. They were accompanied by man playing an African flute, and a poet who drummed. The husband, Benjy, was really quite an impressive singer and drummer, and for being a white dude, he sure played Indian music beautifully. And his wife Heather had this clear, lovely voice. The chanting goes on and on to a melody, and it’s quite hypnotic. I might get some of their music–good for home practice and meditation, very restful.

Realizing I was going to get up early Sunday to do my last yoga class, I headed to bed around 9:30, exhausted from yet another chock-full day. Sunday it comes to an end!

Oh, and I’ve posted some photos in the other two notes if you want an idea of how Kripalu looks…it’s lovely!

Next up in Adventures at a Yoga Retreat Part IV – The Conclusion!: Erin revisits the women’s sauna with surprising results (no, not really), sees that her bunkmate is actually NOT a bitchy shrew, finishes her weekend with one more bit of delicious yoga, eats her last slice of bread for the forseeable future, and leaves the beautiful retreat of Kripalu. Reflections! Reflections on the weekend are coming!

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