New Girl: Hey, how long is this class?
Guy Who Brought Her: Oh, a couple of DAYS.
New Girl: Hey, how long is this class?
Guy Who Brought Her: Oh, a couple of DAYS.
May your food coma be lifted. May your salt bloat be purged. May your Thanksgiving feast remain internal as you twist, wind, and contort your way through class. May all the angels of heaven be with you as you sweat the bullet-like beady sweat of the holiday food feaster.
May you know that although your pulse quicken, your breath come in ragged short bursts, your heart feels as though it will leap, as an excited child, from your chest, each moment in the hot room on this blackest Black Friday brings you closer to god… or at least closer to the shape you were in yesterday before you thought it would be a good idea to stuff your snackhole full of turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, TWO kinds of potatoes, pumpkin pie, green beans, MORE pumpkin pie, egg nog, coffee, and WINE (ohhhh so much wine), and THEN go back for ‘second dinner’ at 11pm at night (Before-bed eating?! What were you thinking?!?!).
Know there is a special place in heaven for the yogi who returns to the hot room, heart on fire, mind on ice, the day after a holiday food feast. You are brave! You are courageous! You are… going to maybe die a little as you work off that turkey! But so be it! Just for today, let your belly hang over your costume! Take pride in your still-crazy sugar high induced glossy eyes! And know that salvation will come… in approximately 90 minutes and in a puddle of your own sweat and tears. May the force be with you, Yoga Girl (and Yoga Boy). Happy Black Friday. Happy Holidays. And NAMASTE.
Before class. I’m signing in at the front desk. The teacher watches as I scan my scancard.
Teacher: Alison! You’re having so many spiritual experiences! I’ve seen on facebook… You went to Peru, you went to Burning Man, you got a Vitamix…* You’re having quite a year!
Me: Yes! It’s my Year Of Self-Realization! I’m doing it on purpose!
During class. We’re doing Standing Separate Leg Head To Knee pose (aka, The One Where You Squeeze The Bejeezus Out Of Your Belly And Sweat Runs Straight Up Your Nose). The teacher is hellbent on getting everyone to take a HUGE step, keep their hands together in prayer, and get their forehead to their knee WITHOUT bending their front knee. I know, CRAZYTOWN, right?!
Teacher: Alison! Bigger step! Bigger step, bigger step, Bigger Step, BIGGGERRRRR STEEEEPPPPPPPPP!!!!
Me: (Grunts and wobbles in pain as I try to shimmy my front foot forward)
Teacher: You said you were on a path of self-realization, now TAKE A BIGGER STEP!
Ohhhhh you guys… This is why you should never tell the teacher ANYTHING about your life, even to justify your wild facebook posts about crazy festivals in the desert and new kitchen appliances.This has been a public service announcement from me to you.
*I don’t really know why he equated my new Vitamix with a spiritual experience… but here’s a picture of it anyway. I mean, it IS awfully nice and does make some heavenly treats… So, you know, maybe my third eye will just BUST wide open one of these days after nomming a kale watermelon apple lemon smoothie. I mean WHO KNOWS.
The first set of Pranayama has just ended. The class is… well, sort of getting it. The teacher takes a moment to clarify appropriate technique for the breathing exercise…
Teacher: So a lot of you are breathing like this (sniffs loudly through the nose) but that’s breathing through the NOSE. You want to breathe through the THROAT. Like THIS (demonstrates correct way to breathe, making a snoring sound).
Teacher: Breathing through the nose, like THIS (demonstrates the incorrect way again) is the way you smell flowers. Or snort cocaine.
Teacher: Oh, I’m just kidding! I mean, it’s not the 1970s! Okaaaaaay, second set, interlace the fingers…
Bottom line, guys, don’t do your Pranayama the way you snort your cocaine.
(I originally posted this on my personal (ie: non-yoga) blog, but since it mentions the word ‘Bikram’ at least twice, and I’ve been pretty much terrible at posting new yoga stuff lately, I’m putting it up here as well. ENJOY!)
I returned to the US from my ayahuasca tour in Peru exactly one month ago today. I was nervous to return. I—along with all the others on my tour—had had so many revelations, learned so much, and CHANGED so much during the week away working with the medicine, that I was afraid once I was back in my old environment, I would go back to my old ways, my old self.
Of course this was unlikely. The English-speaking shaman, a very kind and wise and open-hearted Australian fellow, told us the medicine would continue to work on us after we left for three to six months. He said we would only go back to the way we used to be if we chose to. He also recommended we reevaluate everything once we got home, and not do ANY of the things we used to do just because we had always done them.
The native Peruvian shaman simply said, in Spanish, “The medicine is unending.” Meaning, this medicine—the ayahuasca, the plant spirits, the energy of the universe, whatever you want to call it that we drank while we were way down in the jungle—is in your body now and it will stay with your forever, or as long as you want it to.
Hey, I thought, that works for me! I want it to stay in me and keep working FOREVER! And while it seems illogical (I mean, how long do substances like this really stay in the body? Would it show up on a drug test if I had one tomorrow? Or would it have been thoroughly metabolized and all traces peed away long ago?), if this experience has taught me anything it’s that logic—while lovely and often comforting—is a very narrow window through which to view the universe.
So, as we’ve been taught, I’ve continued working with the medicine. I haven’t drunk again (tricky business with the legality in the states), but I’ve been, you know, talking to it. Listening to it. Watching for messages and visions and dreams. Paying extra attention to my thoughts and emotions. And it all keeps coming in one way or another, sometimes subtle like a light breeze in the night, sometimes subtle like a brick through the window. Last weekend I had an experience of the latter variety.
Since it’s been approximately one trillion degrees and nine thousand percent humidity here in NYC, I spent all day Saturday at the beach. It’s the only way to survive the unrelenting heat of New York Summer. You lay in the sand, soaking up sun until you just can’t take it anymore, then plunge yourself into the icy waters of the Atlantic. Lather, rinse, repeat. All day long. Maybe somewhere in there you grab a pineapple coconut water smoothie. Perfection.
I returned to the city that night thoroughly blissed out. The sun, the sand, being in nature, it was all so great. As we learned in Peru, water—specifically natural salt water—is incredibly healing, and provides both cleansing and grounding. That evening I decided to maximize whatever cleansing benefits I had reaped that day, and saged my apartment, chanting for cleansing as I went. I went to bed feeling spiritually and emotionally fantastic, but with a burning feeling in my stomach…
You know where this is going.
I woke up Sunday morning with my stomach on fire. Ran to the bathroom. Diarrhea. Got dressed, packed my bag for a day of yoga and more beach time. Stomach bubbled. Diarrhea again. Hopped on the train to the studio, ran in just in time for class, but WAIT! I had to stop at the bathroom for diarrhea. Again. Are you even kidding me right now?
So at this point, let me set the scene for you. It’s one bazillion degrees outside, one shmillion percent humidity. I’m sweaty and hot from rushing to class, sweated through my clothes before I even enter the hot room (this is Bikram, mind you), and shaky, squirrely in the stomach, and exhausted from thrice voiding the contents of my belly into the porcelain throne. This is a GREAT way to begin a 90 minute Bikram yoga class, yes?
The class, as predicted, goes horribly. It’s early in the morning on a Sunday, so not so crowded, but due to the design of the studio and temperature outside, it’s terribly hot, even more than usual. I’m dying by the second posture. My heart is racing, my mind is racing, my thoughts and my breath are all over the place. I try to calm down, using all the strategies I learned in Peru (this is really just a difficult energy to manage, much like what I experienced drinking ayahuasca, right?), but nothing is helping. I finally just sit down and cry.
Oh dear lord, I do not like crying in yoga class. Nor do I like sitting down. But there was no way around it. The tears blended with sweat so I think no one noticed, but yarrrrrrgh did I feel like a big hot mess. I managed to stand up for the second set of Standing Bow, having only sat for about two minutes. But it was rough. Then, somehow magically, two postures later, I felt better. Not dramatically, I was still shaky and tired, but I could breath again, the speed of my thoughts and pace of my heart more normal, and I wasn’t feeling the urge to jump out of my skin. Everything, I felt, was going to be ok.
And then I realized what had happened. I had been in the ocean on Saturday all day. I had saged. I had chanted and prayed and whistled very specifically for cleansing. And I got it. I had just purged. Something—who knows what—on the darker side of the energetic spectrum, had left me. Apparently, the medicine truly IS unending…
As I was thinking all this and how ludicrous it would sound to, well, pretty much everyone, the door quickly opened and closed, seemingly of its own accord.
"What was that?!" the teacher asked, momentarily distracted from her dialogue by the swinging door, "A poltergeist?"
Of course, it could have been the wind. It could have been the result of a release of the pressure created by the disparity in temperature between the air in the hot room and the air outside it. Logic would seem to point to that. But then, logic is a very narrow window through which to view the universe.
In fact, I think the teacher was right. It was a poltergeist, in a way. It was the dark energy, the spirit, whatever entity had exited my body that morning now making it’s quick and quiet exit from the room.
And somewhere in my mind, I can see the shaman smiling. The medicine truly is unending.