I do yoga. I have a tendency to start the year with the best intentions of going to a class at least once per week, and do some yoga stretches at home in the evenings. I manage to keep myself on track for about point-five seconds, and then the rest of my life takes over and I forget that I want to be a better, more consistent, more flexible yogi.
My interest is often renewed by spring-time, and fully dies off by summer. I go to the Solstice in Times Square event in June and sweat it out with hundreds of strangers. But by fall… forget it. Come the first snow, I’m in full hibernation-mode, and you’re unlikely to see me anywhere other than ass firmly planted on my couch, marathoning shows on Netflix.
I recently went on a yoga retreat – my first – with a crowd of strangers (whom have since become wonderful, new friends!). Of the 15 people on this trip, I was the only person not on Facebook (this has since been remedied, though I held out until after the trip), and so I didn’t get to have the introduction that everyone else in the group got. I met everyone at the airport. No lie. But by the time we landed in Samana and stood in line to pay for our tourist visas, we were all fast friends. I figured, “Hey, if all of these other strangers signed up for a yoga retreat, we must have a ton in common.”
To answer that question – yes, and no.
In some ways, we DID have a ton in common – turns out I found a fellow friend who is addicted to eyelash extensions. She’s also a cat lady, which speaks to my heart on so many levels. We found other cat ladies, and there were plenty of conversations about cats over the five days. My roomies had wonderful sense of humor (which is great, considering we had an interesting living situation). There were finance people, and creative people, and Deadheads… the list could go on. I had no idea that 15 people could find that much stuff to talk about over a five day period with very few breaks from each other.
However, I did realize that in one way, I was very different from the rest of the group. Upon arrival at the resort, we had an opening circle – it was an opportunity to introduce ourselves and explain why we decided to do this yoga retreat. There were some very touching stories that were very hard to follow – for everyone, this retreat was a very personal experience. For some, it was an opportunity to dig deeper and learn more about oneself. For others, it was an opportunity to recover from hardship. For me?… I literally said, “I’m here because this retreat is short and affordable, and because I want to meet some new people and do some yoga.”
Does this make me an asshole? (Before you go all crazy on me for swearing, please read this post by Mark Manson. Don’t judge.)
No… I don’t think I’m an asshole for being removed and unemotional. I am a fair weather yogi. I use yoga as a supplement to my normal workout routine. I use it to stretch my muscles and work out the kinks. I use it as a chance to do an activity with friends I haven’t seen in a while. I use it to meet new people (which, admittedly, sometimes I never make eye contact with anyone beyond bowing at each other at the end of class, timidly whispering “namaste,” before I roll up my mat and head to D’Angelo for a gigantic steak and cheese sub).
I have been a fair weather yogi for three years now. I have never figured out how to shut my brain off and focus on the breathing. If I’m focusing on my breath, it’s because I’m hearing myself panting in plank, arms shaking, ready to flop down on my stomach and hoping that the resulting gasps for air won’t bother anyone else in class.
My awkward, different stance on yoga came up again during the closing circle on the last night. We were asked to share something that we learned, or something that we enjoyed about the retreat. Everyone had these wonderful, touching things to say. Some people got emotional. I, however, made a crass comment about a discussion a group of us had while frolicking in the ocean one day that covered the topic of how to poo in the open ocean. I mean… sorry. I’m not a touchy-feely person. Never have been, likely never will be.
I’m also a skeptic. Unlocking things inside of my psyche during a yoga class is akin to a psychic reading for me… no. Just no. I respect that it’s very real for other people, but I just don’t get deep and feel all the feels.
Thankfully, I didn’t horrify anyone too badly. I formed some friendships with these new yoga people, and we’ve kept in touch over the weeks since our retreat. I genuinely miss some of them. Though, more than anything, I think I miss the easy vibe of getting along with everyone without having to try. We weren’t trying to impress each other. (I have never been more disgusting in my life – constantly sweating, frizzy hair, no makeup, re-worn clothing. But all of us were there, in that gross place, so it was a-okay.) THAT was the key:
- I never worried about whether or not I could do a pose. I just did it, or I didn’t.
- I stopped worrying about what I looked like while yoga-ing, fat rolls and all.
- I didn’t judge myself for being the one weirdo who wasn’t a yoga devotee.
A favorite passage from Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Have my feelings about yoga changed because of this trip? No. Was it a transformative experience? YES. I realized that in addition to yoga, I’m a fair weather (fill in the blank) for a lot of things. Some of those great discussions really pushed me over the edge from having thoughts about making changes in my life, to actually taking steps toward making those changes. So THANK YOU to my dedicated yogi friends – it’s because of you that I found enough time to relax and BE PRESENT long enough to nurture the thoughts that I have been too afraid of giving real attention to.