I went to the most bizarre yoga class that taught me more about life and money than anything I can think of. I knew the class was going to be unusual from the second I walked into the studio. Everyone was dressed entirely in white – more than two dozen men and women.
I could leave. But why not stay and see what happens, I thought?
I was aching for yoga and had a limited time slot. Either I went into the class, or my tight body got even more stiff and cranky.
“I’ve been going to yoga classes for more than 10 years,” I thought to myself. “Surely I’ve been to Kundalini Yoga before.”
I paid my $16 fee and stepped into a sea of white. Flowy white pants. Loose white shirts. Knit shawls, scarves, even white knit caps.
What had I chosen to wear that day? Black yoga pants and a green T-shirt with an illustration of an insect under the words, “Me so Hornet.”
I hope these yogis could appreciate my sense of humor.
“So everyone is wearing white,” I thought as I laid out my mat. “Big deal. How strange can this be?”
It was the strangest experience of my life.
And I grew up in Berkeley, CA, where a renowned homeless man wore hot pink lingerie over his shaggy, unwashed garb. Where punk rockers spiked their neon pink hair a foot into the sky. Where being called “weird” was often a compliment.
Back to yoga.
I spread my mat and stretched a bit while the teacher settled into a throne above the class. She was an imperial lady who somehow managed to wear even more white than anyone else in the class.
That’s when I noticed the video cameras.
Today of all days was when the Kundalini class was making a video for their website. And now I was going to be in it.
Was it too late to escape?
I had spread my mat closest to the wall, in an attempt to hide at the edge of the class. But that meant I was farthest from the exit. Leaving now meant absolutely every person in the room would see me pick up my mat and scurry out the door.
“Better to stick it out,” I thought. I really wanted the stretching part of the class to start.
Little did I realize there was not going to be any stretching.
The imperial lady nodded her head and music loud enough to hide in streamed into the room.
The imperial lady spoke.
“Stand at the front of your mat. Close your eyes! Let your body flow!”
I closed my eyes and let my body sway. It wasn’t enough.
“Dance,” the imperial lady commanded. “Let go of everything you are holding onto! Be free!”
I moved more vigorously while weighing whether or not to peek at the rest of the class.
Either I was “letting go” just like everyone else. Or I wasn’t.
I decided it was safer to keep my eyes closed. Then I could pretend in my brain that even though I was wearing black and everyone else was wearing white, and even though I had never been in a yoga video and everyone else had specifically come to the class to be in the video, that I was free dancing just like everyone else in the room.
After five minutes of free dancing, the voice told us to come to stillness. For thirty seconds, we stood on our mats and breathed. I didn’t open my eyes to check if I was breathing like all the other Kundalini yogis.
We sat. We opened our eyes so she could demonstrate the pose, which was performed crosslegged with our arms moving vigorously back and forth for four minutes. To penetrating music. While rapidly and deeply breathing in and out. And while clenching our pelvic floors, which is called mula bandha. I won’t go into details.
After each pose, we were granted thirty seconds of rest.
Each pose for the rest of the class was several minutes long and involved vigorous movements and deep, fast breathing.At a certain point during each pose my muscles would protest, shouting “stop!” But I couldn’t stop. The music, the yogis, and voice all spurred me on.
It was exhilarating.
My body was pumped with oxygen and my blood was coursing through my veins.
We ended the class with a vigorous meditation.
“Meditation for those of us who can’t sit still,” the imperial lady intoned, still seated on her throne.
I could sit still. I liked to sit still. But here I was sweeping one arm across my body, then the other, while picking up pieces of a sanskrit chant I would be expected to repeat for upwards of six minutes.
That’s when it hit me.
I had survived the class. I had given into this totally bizarre experience that was unlike anything I had ever done. (Perhaps the closest thing had been performing – badly – with an improv comedy troupe for an audience of seven, all of whom were directly related to those of us on stage.) I was stronger for having experienced Kundalini yoga, even if I never intended to set foot in a class again.
I knew then that I could be whoever I wanted to be wherever I was.
I didn’t need to move to a bigger city. I didn’t need to live in a better house. I didn’t need less clutter in my closets. I didn’t need more money.
I could be whoever I wanted to be, wherever I was. Because if I could so something in a tiny corner of the tiniest state in the country as strange as the Kundalini yoga class I had just experienced, I could do anything. Right where I was.
The same goes for you.
PS. To see the yoga video I participated in, go here. Fast track to 2:54 for a snippet of the “free dancing” I did for a five full minutes.