I drove home having to physically lift my left leg on to the clutch. I was that exhausted, that sore. But I am not worn out but rather blissful and invigorated. Donna calls Kripalu – “crippleyou” and a laugh and think of how my driving style now supports her affectionate nickname.
Friday we are expecting a foot of snow, work is canceled and I have it in my head to leave early for the Berkshires and beat the storm. The morning was delicious for lingering and Christopher’s alarm clock was flashing 8:34 from a power cut. All this conspired at me leaving just as the snow was starting to fly. The roads in Vermont were dry blowing snow and easy fare. The Mass border with the addition of salt made for slush that progressively got worse. The turnpike was slippery and the back roads when I finally got to them at twilight were deep and the snow was sticking to the windshield making it hard to see. I tried four times to make it up the hill to the parking lot and was scolded by the plow driver and told to park anywhere. It was snowing so hard and fast that I was covered with the short walk in. I checked in and thought about what to do. I was told there is a yoga class I can make but I didn’t know what the workshop would be for the evening so I didn’t know if I needed to conserve energy. I went to my room choose my bed, explored a bit and opted for dinner. Walking around I felt out of place and a little shy so I popped on headphones and escaped into a genius mix starting with Darkness Darkness by Solas – fitting for solstice weekend. Dinner was fabulous making it hard to eat lightly, something good to do right before yoga.
The room had about twenty pink cushions on the floor, mirrors on two sides of the and a few people seated. Rouben started by asking us for introductions, to talk about why we were there, and what are expectations for the weekend were. Already feeling a bit shy I heard a few phrases that made me feel even more out of place: senior yoga teachers, nationally presenting instruction, lululemons (I didn’t know what that was but it sounded chichi) when you pose for yoga journal. It isn’t that I was feeling outclassed by the yogis but it was feeling very New York City and I am very woodchuck. So as the introductions progressed I contemplated not saying why I ended up there. People at work bought me the gift certificate, it was on my desk the first day back to work after my mom died. They intended it to be a weekend to heal and grieve. I picked now dreading the holidays without her and also because the workshop seemed like it would be just my style. So I mentioned the intention to come for a while, the darkness, holiday avoidance and glossed over the intention of the gift. Rouben honed right in on it. “Why did they send you here Christine?” Well I could see that my shy evasion wasn’t going to fly here and explained that after my mom died I had a daily practice that kept me sane and about the intention of the gift. He then pointed to a picture in the center of the circle. It was of a man – could it be a young photo of some guru? Rouben said that it was his father and that he taught him more about yoga than anyone else could, even though he wasn’t a practitioner. He invited me to put a photo of my mom on the alter for the duration of the workshop. The only photo I could produce would be from online, and would be on my phone.
“I can not put my iPhone on the alter”
He said that it was fine but knowing my practically worshiping attachment I have to my phone I thought not to give it that due. I will draw one and put that there and then he went on to the next person for introductions.
Friday night was an anatomy lesson. Lots of things I had no idea about. There are apparently a subculture of muscles under the ones that you can see flexing below your skin. The idea this weekend was to engage some of them. This proved difficult mentally to feel if I had it right, well until Sunday driving back when I could really feel the muscles every time I shifted or turned. Rouben wanted to inspire wisdom in the practice, do not get length in one area by compressing another. He talked about how habits turn into posture eventually and we did some neat tricks to figure our which hip is more forward, which side of the neck is tighter.
On Saturday I woke ate and drew the picture of my mom. I am trying to focus on the part of her that I got (her smiling twinkle in her eyes) and not that it doesn’t look much like her as I put it up with Ganesha and Hanuman. A woman arrived crying, set her mat next to me, couldn’t introduce herself and I handed her a box of tissues. Rouben turns and says this is for you and starts the practice cranking I am What I am remix of Gloria Gaynor. This is the quintessential gay anthem and I am thinking that I sure am going to like this as we start sun salutations. Alternately heating us up and focusing on the inner muscles and specifics of the basic poses the day progressed. The afternoon included a new understanding of forearm stand and handstand so that I wanted to play with the balance of it over and over.
Before lunch there was a strong recommendation to go to yoga dance. This had five drummers and a lead with a microphone. Very playful very high energy. This woman was a master liberator who could make event the shyest or rigid person jump into the center of the circle and throw their arms around. Through five or so sets of drum beats she led different highly charged improve dances. “find your feet find your feet now let the drums tell them what you need” Unfortunately for my experience of this, every time she asked what my body needed it was lunch or rest.
Saturday night was a choice of a concert of holiday music or a do your own practice with Rouben to his music. I ditched the holiday fare and we studied handstand scorpion to Madonna music. I also did a bunch of poses I don’t like much or are hard for me because the music was so lovely I had a fine time in all of them. Then I took a long sauna-cool shower-whirlpool set and hit the hay.
Sunday morning was the last yoga practice together and we lost a few more people trying to get home to eat the second storm that was coming. The first ten minutes of vinyasa almost wiped me out. Some small changes added a lot to the physical challenge. Who knew holding your right leg out to the right in a down dog would be so exhausting? The idea was to add some arm balances to the sequencing of the flow that are often tucked in their own little section. He put a forearm stand from a down dog for a short hold. The really interesting one was to do eagle then drop the arms off to the side and fall into a scissor arm balance. All the while Rouben kept up the joyful attentive city-gay-boy banter to keep us on track and inspired. “Nathan you have a lovely butt but why are you sending it to Lenox? Put that tailbone down!” “Girl your face is so much prettier with your chin not flying off it” “No laying down babe the PRANA is ON” (that last one was to me when I was collapsing.) The harder he pushed the more I adored him. Then it was over and we took a few group pictures and exchanged big hugs and contact information.
I am adding a contemplation to my practice that goes with putting the drawing of my mom on the alter. Can she teach me more now? About yoga? Well definitely about wisdom and acceptance. We’ll see how that goes and feels like a good path and I am thankful for it.
If you have a chance to take a workshop or a class with Rouben I recommend it! He is in Connecticut on Sundays and goes to LA for part of the winter.