Screen Shot 2013-01-13 at 6.58.57 AMI’m going on a yoga retreat.

First off I don’t “do yoga.”  At first, I declined–this isn’t just yoga, it’s a weekend of yoga–a weekend of quietly turning my energies inward, getting rid of the clutter in my brain, and getting in touch with myself. Or at least getting my leg in touch with the backside of my head and turning myself into a human pretzel while I practice shutting up.

I was speaking with a friend.  “I’m thinking of going to this.”

“You should go.” I had a hundred excuses to avoid going at all costs, but I was honored by the invitation, and so I considered it.

“What about Declan?” My husband promptly agreed that he could care for The Boy–he didn’t have any traveling that weekend, and there would be no problem–my husband’s a big fan of anything that will sort the clutter in my brain and/or promote my inner or outer quiet.

“It’s a whole weekend away. It’ll be expensive.” The next day, I got my check in the mail from work, and an email followed, “I paid you for an extra couple hours, because you did all this extra work.” Excuse two down the drain.

“I don’t have yoga stuff.”  I don’t really know what “yoga stuff” is, but whatever it was, I didn’t have it. My sister called. She’s a yogi. The only other yogi I know other than her is “The Bear” and I knew I didn’t need a picnic basket.

“Oh, I’m bringing you up my other yoga mat and some stuff.”  And she did–she gave me her second favorite yoga mat because I “wouldn’t know the difference anyway,” and didn’t deserve the favorite one. She also gave me a pair of yoga pants. Running pants, I’m told, aren’t the same.

So, I threw my last objection out there in vain, all my silly excuses having been promptly dispelled. “Will they have any food for me?”

That was the granddaddy of the dumb questions–I’m a firm believer that there is such a thing as a stupid question and I had just asked one.  A retreat full of vegetarians at the Kripalu Yoga Center must have vegetarian food. I looked it up. Yes, indeed–a veritable feast of vegetables waiting for reincarnation onto my plate.  They had vegetables on the menu that only I and the yoga people have heard of–those are some serious vegetables. They also had “restorative food,” too, but there’s no need to go that far.  And they even had dessert. I’m not exactly how exactly “Kripalu’s Famous Chocolate Chip Cookie” made it to the menu–It’s probably made of chick peas and carob or something, but at least it’s there.

And so, yoga it is.  I was honored to have been included in the invitation–to have been thought of highly enough of to receive a few emails cajoling me to go, even after I stated my initial concerns, because friends know when you need a bit of a drop kick to get you moving.  One assured me the yoga wouldn’t kill me–if he could do yoga, so could I.  The second said simply, “I wish I could go.  You should go. Money’s not important, having experiences–that’s the most valuable thing.”

He was right. I’ve spent much of my life having excuses to not have experiences–to avoid taking risks and chances. I can think of ten right now–not taking jobs overseas, failing to following through on joining the Marine Corps, failing to travel, keeping safe jobs even when I realized I didn’t love them. There are a ton more. This past year has been a year of analyzing that trait, a quality that far too many of us use as a crutch, and getting out there having new experiences and building new, positive relationships.

Experiences and relationships are the most valuable things. This is about both.

Truth be told, the reason I resisted going was because I was playing it safe.  How often do we all do that–it wasn’t that I felt I couldn’t do yoga. I am sure I can. I’ve studied years of martial arts, and healing arts which included similar philosophies and movements. Martial arts originated from India, and many of the overlapping healing arts I have studied involving internal energy, meridians, and other deep concepts superimpose themselves nicely into the thinking of yoga, because that is, in fact, either directly or indirectly depending on the art, their origin.

I’ve read many great Indian thinkers, read the sacred texts, and even know a few words in Sanskrit from these texts or from watching Bollywood movies–I’m not sure which.  I can do yoga, and I’m not afraid of failure. I have patience to learn new things. That wasn’t my sticking point.

It was the initial objection the inner self makes when we try to do anything new. It happens every day. It’s what holds us back in all areas of our lives if we stop to think about it.

Additionally, I was afraid I’d like yoga, and then what would I do? In my new house in the forest there is most certainly no yoga.

So, I set about preparing.  I read the book, “21 Things to Know Before Starting an Asthanga Yoga Practice” written by the retreat’s instructor, Claudia Altucher. It was meant for people considering the study of Astanga Yoga. I suspected that might be me–my mind had opened itself to the possibility that I might not be going to say hello, kill vegetables, reflect and relax, and regain my mental balance before I self-immolate, but that the yoga part would actually be something of interest to me.  I might like it.  What if I liked it?

The book actually addressed that. “You can study on your own.” Claudia compiled a list of resources for people studying on their own advising to, “Find a good teacher as soon as you can.” She went on to say something to the effect that this is an internal practice, and we must practice on our own anyway, and that touring instructors make it possible to get correction and inspiration when we need it.

Okay, so I have yoga stuff, I have been invited, I got the Friday off from work to go, and I am very much looking forward to the trip. I’m trying to get ahead on work now so I can leave this computer at home where it belongs, on my desk, not at a yoga retreat, and I will drive off away from the sunrise into the Berkshires on Friday morning.

I mentioned this to my partner in crime with whom I am doing some projects, “Yoga retreat? You should go to a place called Kripalu. My wife and I used to go all the time, then we had kids.” he said.

Apparently everyone is a secret yogi. Maybe I will become one too.



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