On retreat. Nepal. 2012
When I sent out into the biosphere that I wished to teach more in retreat settings, I don’t think I had any idea what I would be in for. This spring and summer I am scheduled to teach 8 retreats between Pranamaya Yoga and Vasudhaiva Institute. The immersion style of teaching is one I relish, but at the moment, I am a bit amused to see how I manage to teach so many this season.
It reminds me of my performance days: the exciting buildup of creation and logistical planning, the saturated, intense communication of the event, the post show hugs, kisses, and reflection, and finally crashing afterwards, walking around in my pajamas for a few days not saying much while recovering before the next inspired idea thrusts me back into action.
Communication is my inspired action. This I know. When I look back thus far at the sequence of the events in my life, it is clear that the through-line; from shy kindergartener who quietly loved the rush of getting up in front of class to show off her favorite new toy during “Show and Tell”, to the emboldened performance artist in my early twenties fighting for my sanity; to devoted Ashtanga yogini starting in my mid 20s, through it all, my refuge, my practice, my check-in, always has been to communicate my journey. I kept writing, I kept teaching, and I kept talking. And I still am. I am still committed to finding the empowered female voice in it all and dare to believe that if I keep working fiercely to develop intimacy with my own inner workings and then offer up the story to others—and truly let the story go with no lingering attachments for external approval—there would be that precious outcome: communion.
And in those shared moments; from the classroom, to the dance studio, to the theater, to the yoga shala to the digital interface of online social media, I’ve always been reacquainted with the truth that while our stories may appear to be different on the surface, underneath we are governed by the same laws that provoke our self-destruction and catalyze our liberation, healing, and insight.
This is why Yoga works. Call it by whatever you wish, but if we did not have the same ailments fundamentally, then this all too common recipe of love and compassion, of fearless action and one-pointed focus, of equanimity and mindful engagement would not be the medicine that heals and relieves us all. But it does.
This Yoga medicine works on us only in relation to how brave we are to take it. Sometimes it feels like a broken bone being reset and sometimes it is like a warm heating pad calming an upset stomach. But either way—sharp or muted—the medicine is preparing us, training us, taming us, reshaping us for awakening.
My master once told me, “You cannot expect to be doing flying jump kicks before you have learned to walk.” True. And digging up the causes of my dis-ease and suffering as well as deeply embracing the process of liberating transformation has been a steady process of learning to walk, skip, run, and maybe even take a few baby hops. My master gave me that teaching about 13 years ago and now suddenly the possibility of doing a spiritual flying jump kick doesn’t seem as far away as it used to.
Proficiency comes with time and practice; simple but potent advice to take to heart. And intimacy is a natural outcome of sustained spiritual practice. I keep thinking we should call it “yogintimacy”, a natural outcome of yogic practice. Yogintimacy with ourselves and then inevitably with all others. Yogintimacy with the human condition. And for the student (and teacher) who has the joy and the opportunity to go into retreat, this yogintimacy is hopefully, something that is nurtured.
So this year, I invite you to retreat with me. Help me further my practice by allowing me to communicate and thereby awaken to more self-knowledge. Let us cultivate some yogintimacy. Let us walk, run, and leap into practice and take this yogic medicine together.
And maybe get one step closer to that flying jump kick.