I just had one of the most Wild weekends of my life-but not how you might think…

Back in February I started doing yoga at Yoga Flow in the Castro. The first class I went to was with Les Leventhal, and I was blown away with the intensity, heart and soul of the class. He was handing out brochures for his retreat in April at Wildwood, and I decided to sign up before even taking a second class. I had no idea why I wanted to go- basically camping on top of a mountain, 6 hours of yoga a day starting at 7am and not knowing anyone else going- what? But I knew I had to go, something inside of me told me that the experience would be one I would never forget.

And I think that’s exactly what happened.

I’m having a really hard time trying to figure just what to say about the weekend to those of you who weren’t there. It’s easy to say “oh, it was a lot of yoga” and be done with it, but that’s not the full story. It was intense but fun, hard but easy, pain but bliss all at the same time-and I’m not just talking about the yoga. We did 18 hours of yoga in 4 days. 18 freaking hours! It actually didn’t seem like that much, broken into 3 hour sessions twice a day. Thank goodness for the hot tub and cold pool is all I have to say!! I learned a lot about myself in the classes- did some poses I never thought I could do, shead lots tears that needed to be released, and had a great time laughing and dancing (yes, dancing) with the others in the room. We did some classes where we held poses for almost 20 minutes- and let me tell you, butterfly assisted with a strap looks easy, but after roughly minute 8, the burn is incredible and you think you might die- until you feel that POP in your hips, and all of a sudden, you forget where you are and feel oh so good.

Let’s see what else… Handstand-check. Tripod headstand-check. Lots of arm balances- check. Lots and lots of sun salutations-check (actually in one session alone, 108 sun salutations, to be exact). Frog- check (and more to come on that in a later post). My body feels different today, just a few days and million breaths removed. Everything feels tighter and at the same time looser, my back has no pain at all and feels stronger, and my ass is rock solid- seriously, I think you could bounce a quarter off it   The yoga was all I expected and so much more.

But what I learned OFF the mat is my real takeaway from the weekend. I didn’t know anyone who was going and have spent the past few months having lots and lots of “Jen Time”. I think in all my months of going to Yoga Tree I had only met one person in class who I talked to only a few times… This was what made me both nervous and excited about going in the first place. I was going to have roommates and have to eat all my meals with people I had never met. I knew I would be able to hang socially in our many hours of down time, but with so much going on internally these days combined with a weekend of ‘going deep’ in yoga, would I be able to handle it? 

Was I going to be able to handle the emotions that bubbled up in front of strangers? Was everyone going to be more advanced than me in their practice? Was I going to get scared and put my ‘wall’ up if things got too intense so I wouldn’t get hurt? Would there be any cute single straight guys?! I had no idea what to expect!! But I was also excited at the prospect that I would be able to build some new friendships…

Most of my fears disappeared the first night in our group session (and after our first Frog….), when we each had to go around and say our fear and hope to the whole group. I saw that a lot of people were there for the same reasons, and it made me feel at home, like I had found people I could fit in with and actually trust- a big step these days. And you know what- the people who I met this weekend were absolutely amazing. We shared so much. I was able to listen and I hope really help some of them. And they helped and supported me too. If any of you are reading this- a big thank you. You have no idea how much I appreciate the talks at Julie Andrews Point, by the pool or in the hot tub (tough life, I know). And coming from a former non-hugger, you all give amazing hugs. 

What really happened for me this weekend was that I was able to go deeper into myself while at the same time starting to break down the ‘wall’ I tend to build to avoid opening up- and getting hurt. For the most part I was able to do this, surprisingly. Unfortunately I did find myself putting the ‘wall’ back up by Sunday, at least with a few people who I had gotten close to in those few days. I don’t know why, I just couldn’t bring myself to say goodbye. I got sad- and scared. I knew I’d see everyone a few days later, but that it wouldn’t be the same. I’m a little disappointed in myself for pulling back, there was no reason for it. I saw myself doing it too and didn’t know how to stop it. But I guess the point is, I saw it. Now I know what it looks like and can try to break that pattern. And I now know that I can open up and be my real authentic self, even with strangers…

Just like handstand I suppose. It’s scary but you keep on trying because you know that once you get upside down, you gain a new perspective and the reward is sooo worth all the work to get there. You just keep on trying to kick up, sometimes you get there, sometimes not- but you keep on trying and relish in the fun and bliss of the journey.

Guess that’s part of what they mean by living your yoga off the mat.