Every once in awhile, depending on finances, my schedule and just how desperately I need to get my shit in order, I head off to my favorite yoga retreat. For a few days I can wander around in my yoga pants and a t-shirt, wearing flip-flops that I can easily slip off and stash at the doorway to rooms that contain meditation, yoga or internal enlightenment. I eat healthy food, enjoy silent breakfasts, guided meditations and lots of yoga. Before bed I wind down at the communal whirlpool, sometimes naked and sometimes in a bathing suit. I have finally come to accept the reality that I will always be the odd woman out, never to click with the majority. In earlier visits I was almost constantly mortified by being the only one- either I had a suit on when no one else did, or I marched my naked self into a whirlpool full of women modestly suited. I no longer care. I accept my fate as the fish out of water, even in the water. One thing I have learned from this experience is that there are a lot of different nipple structures. Because I still find it hard to look someone in the eyes when they’re naked, and without my glasses, I don’t know where their eyes are anyway.
My most recent visit featured multiple variations on meditation and yoga. All of the meditation was guided, but each guide had a different route in mind. As per usual, I was the breathing outlier. “Breathe in through your nose.” Damn. Last guide wanted us to breathe in through our mouths. I just mastered that. So this attempt is a bit of both, resulting in a fit of coughing. I’m wondering- can you breathe in through your eyes? Isn’t that how lizards breathe? “Now breathe out.” Wait, what? I’m like ten breaths ahead already. In, out, in out. How complicated is that?
“Breathe in, taking twice as long as you do to breathe out, expanding your rib cage, your belly, let it fill up with healthy new oxygen, expanding, expanding…” I feel like the Blueberry Girl in Willie Wonka. One more second and I’m either going to float away, or….Booooosh! I expelled my air so vehemently the people on either side of me scuttled away. The guide intoned, “and NOW, exhale. SLOWLY.” I could hear the disapproval in her voice. God I suck at this. I can’t get past the belief that these people just breathe too damn slow.
Yoga session. I’m lying on my back on the mat, looking up at the lights. Observing that they look like cosmic death rays. Visualizing the headline: 45 Yoga Devotees Zapped by Aliens. My husband asking, “How could they tell the difference?” The leader is giving directions. I can’t see her because I can’t do yoga with my glasses on, and I can’t see shit with them off. Her voice interrupts my extraterrestrial fantasy “…and your legs are going clockwise…” Nope. My legs are going counterclockwise. I switch direction just as everyone else switches, so I’m still going the wrong way. Now she adds arms. Now I am completely screwed, because the arms are going the opposite direction from the legs, and I am completely incapable of that much coordination. Back in high school, my parents co-produced a musical at our church. I got to be one of the teen dancers. All the other dancers were cast because they were on the school cheerleading squad and dance team. I was in the dance because my parents were the producers. One of my best friends was the choreographer. No matter how hard I tried, my arms refused to work independently of my legs. Maybe they have abandonment issues. Eleven dancers tapped in unison, arms going left, feet going right. Then there was me, tapping to my own drum, my singular taps a lonely echo to their unison. My alternate arm swings caused me to whack the dancers next to me. To this day I blame myself for my friend’s move to Florida.
Shit, I missed the directions again. “From table pose, extend right leg out behind you…keep the foot flexed (“OW, ow! Foot cramp!”)…left leg flat on the floor, not on knee…right knee is bent and directly under your left shoulder…both hands on left knee (“HUH?!”)…crown of head reaching for the sky…now- look up!
I fell over.
We say “om” a lot here. Correction, we chant “om” a lot. Doing it right involves all those damn breathing rules again. Take a deep breath in….and…hold…it. Now breathing out a loo-oo-ng breath we chant together: OOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMsilencesilencesilence.
I can’t breath out that long or that slowly without passing out, so I cheat and grab little breaths along the way. My “Om” sounds more like “omhuh, omhuh, omhuh, omhuh”. Hey, the intention is there.
I leave feeling refreshed and renewed and a little sad to be leaving. I don’t think think the facilitators are as sad. See you next year, guys!