I thought it would be nice to take a little Vinyasa workshop in honor of the Solstice. “Purifying vinyasa sequences, meditation, powerful breathing practices” – all that sounded good on the flyer. Plus I like to take Vinyasa classes occasionally for a little sequencing inspiration (helpful for me in my teaching considering my own personal practice is a set sequence).
OK, before I continue, let me be straight with you. I’m a “spiritual” person (define that how you like). I’m deeply committed to my practice, to living a pure and conscious life. I have great respect for my teachers and the lineages of the various spiritual traditions to which I ascribe. I love chanting, I pray, I meditate, I listen to mantras while I sleep, I wear tulsi around my neck and I have Sanskrit tattooed on my body for goodness sake! I’m not straight and narrow. I believe in all sorts of “out there” and cosmic things. I lived in Crestone for months and that’s a pretty out there place.
But, that said, I am not woo-woo. I’ve never been woo-woo. I’m too much of a Scorpio, too much of a Truth seeker and too much of a cynic and an intellectual to ever get too woo-woo.
I love the practice and discipline of Ashtanga Yoga, it makes sense to me. So therefore you can probably imagine that gooey, ungrounded, woo-wooness is not my thing. I see through it.
Back to the Solstice workshop I attended last night – It was themed around darkness and embracing our shadow side and how this is just as important as celebrating the “light overcoming the darkness” (the typical Solstice jibe). Nice idea. I dig that. The shadow is definitely important, it’s super powerful to face that part of yourself honestly (it’s a huge part of Jungian analysis). I’m not normally afraid of my darkness, I’m pretty darn familiar with the dark and nitty-gritty, in fact I used to actively seek out more darkness to add to my life!
I’m pretty familiar with and honest about my fears (immobilizing injury, falling on my head, brain damage, losing one of my 5 senses, losing my most beloved one, being raped and tortured, getting really fat….yea…those are my biggest fears probably, some of them are silly, I know…but fears aren’t rational!).
I also don’t like being in the dark and having strange men come up from behind me, so you can probably imagine my discomfort during the workshop when we were all in down dog, in a dark and crowded room, wearing black blindfolds while a “strange” (and I mean that in both senses of the word) man walked around our mats.
Yes, I said blindfolded. Apparently the best way to get in touch with your shadow self is to do yoga with black fleece tied around your face. It sure makes balancing in tree-pose a bitch. But then again, that’s a great opportunity for the oh-so-wise teacher to share some open-hearted advice about how we should be “compassionate to others in life when they fall down”. Blech.
This teacher sat and spoke for the first hour of class. Often in the middle of a sentence he would pause and stare into the rafters for fifteen or twenty seconds. His stories and the manner in which he told them were definitely woo-woo, he quoted the Tao Te Ching, talked about 2012, Watsu, Yin Yang and Army Rangers all within the same context. And worst of all, he pronounces his own Sanskrit name incorrectly (hehe…I know I’m petty, but this really bugged me from the start!). The point of his long story was that it is so important to be grounded in one’s body, and that it’s hard to “hold the space” for others if you are not in your body. The irony of this lecture was that he was so clearly not grounded in his body. He had already lost me by this point, despite the little voice in my head reminding me to stay open and to be patient.
After almost an hour of this and then some silent meditation we began our “yoga practice” in the dark with blindfolds. It consisted of long child’s poses then long down dogs a few times, then standing up and folding over a few times, utkatasana and then tree pose….. all of this took so long and the whole time we were doing this he walked around the room playing the part of the wise master. I didn’t find much insight in his continuous words of advice and reflection. It felt totally rote. But I guess other people do. This guy has quite a following. Of course that doesn’t mean much to me. I took classes at Bhakti Fest with some of the big teachers with their many worshiping followers and I was not impressed.
What I couldn’t help but think while we sat there holding a rose petal to our hearts in the darkness, “infusing it with our intention” was ….”wow, we are so lost. All of these lost souls, desperately looking for meaning and purpose and so in our desperation and ignorance we will turn to anything, to any made-up ritual in hopes that this will quench our thirst for authentic relationship with God, how sad…..”
By the way, I really did try to infuse that damn rose petal with intention, I prayed hard to let go of my cynicism and my judgement, I prayed for open-mindedness and compassion, I tried to open myself up, to be receptive so that I could learn what it was that I needed to learn from this experience.
And I see now that I did learn from this class, despite leaving early. I didn’t learn what my fears were or how to be grounded in my body (easily done by tapping one’s shoulders three times while saying “home sweet home” according to this teacher). I realized that I didn’t need a physical blindfold to look into my darkness (I have plenty of opportunities to face my fears and dark nature in the daily tapas of my Ashtanga practice). I felt very clear that I do not need go along passively with some sappy dribble when it doesn’t ring true for me. I already have a discipline, I have a path, and I’m really grateful for that.
So with 45 minutes left to go, I took off my blindfold (which was irritating my eyes anyways) and rolled up my mat and then as quietly as I could I fumbled through the dark room, grabbed my bag and coat and got the hell out of there. It was pouring rain. I got in my car and starting hooting and hollering just for the fun of it after the forced quiet and imposed reverence in the yoga workshop. It felt good to laugh really loudly and turn up the radio and drive fast home to my sweetie.
I told FY all about the workshop when I got home. I told him that the worst part of it was that I could just imagine the train of thought in this teacher’s head as he watched me walk out of his very popular workshop (he’s taught it many times he said), something along the lines of “She probably wasn’t ready to face her darkness yet, that’s OK, frustration and fear are natural reactions to being brought face to face with one’s shadow side…” When in truth, my frustration stemmed from the absurdity of the experience and the lack of groundedness in this teacher and his practice.
Fiance Yogi smiled and laughed and said to me “Well, seems like this yoga and japa is obviously working, so you’ve got that going for you, which is nice”.
And that rang true.