Last weekend I attended a “BreakThrough Weekend” at my yoga studio (Savannah Power Yoga, or “SPY”). The weekend was led by Mark White, who is a nationally renowned yoga teacher and speaker. We started Friday night and went through Sunday. Our time was divided between asana (the physical practice), meditation and inquiry.
I had intended to blog immediately about the weekend and take you through the days with me. I found myself unable to coherently explain what happened. One of the reasons was due to exhaustion – physical and mental. Even more than that, though, is that it has been a bit of a struggle for me to get my own arms around the weekend, much less explain it to someone else.
The easiest part to describe is the asana portion of the weekend. That can pretty much be reduced to two words (and I apologize if the language is offensive to anyone): HOLY and CRAP.
We had a DJ yoga party on Friday night. After about 75 minutes of that practice, I thought to myself that the rest of the weekend was going to be a cake walk in comparison. Oh, so wrong was I.
The practice on Saturday was for three hours. That is one hundred and eighty minutes. And it was consecutive. We held poses for so long that I swear I could see the hair grow back on my legs. Mark led us through the practices with enthusiasm and expertise, focusing on our alignment, which was very helpful.
Not to give you too much information, but I have never sweat more in my life. The room was, of course, heated. While there were only twenty of us, we were lined up close to each other. I was getting heat from the heating system, my own body, plus the nineteen bodies in close proximity to me. Literally, my towel was sweating – water was running off of it. At one point, it looked like I had a moat of water surrounding me on my mat.
In case you think I am overstating this, glance at the below before and after pictures and the difference in the color of my clothing.
I do not think I am easily beaten when it comes to a physical activity. I have participated in sports all of my life. I played competitive tennis. I compete in running races. I have done triathlons. I do Bikram yoga.
This practice kicked my asana (yoga humor).
The crazy thing? I loved it. (Admittedly, I didn’t gain that perspective until after it was over. During it, I kind of thought about punching Mark a few times.)
The meditation portion of the weekend was challenging for me. I had never meditated before. Actually, I am not certain that I have yet, but I did try. Mark coached us through the meditation, taking our focus to different aspects of our bodies. The first day, my foot fell asleep and my knee hurt which meant that my thoughts were along the lines of, “ok, the honey is oozing through my body (Mark’s imagery) … oh my gosh, my foot is going to fall off my body … crap, back to the honey … I think I hurt my knee at the DJ yoga party … oh no, where is the honey now??? ….”
Prior to meditation on the second day, Mark told us (thank goodness) that if we needed to move our position, it was ok to do so. This bit of advice helped me tremendously and I was able to experience a few moments of calm – enough to intrigue me to keep trying this.
Then there was the inquiry.
And this is the difficult portion for me to explain. To incredibly over simplify it, we had very intense discussions about life. What was shared was at times very raw, and very personal. I feel very protective of this time spent together and do not want to cheapen it by trying to describe it.
I can, however, talk about the effect it had on me. The inquiry portion took me through just about every emotion possible.
I got annoyed at myself several times. I reminded myself of the little kid on the car trip asking repeatedly, “are we there yet?” “Are we there yet?” I fought this constant dialogue with myself along the lines of, “is that my break through?” “Wait, was that a break through there?” “No, this one is my break through.” “Here we go, I am going to have a break through NOW.”
It may be obvious, but I don’t have a lot of patience. I was looking for change so huge that I would emerge from the weekend a different person. In retrospect, and seeing that statement in print, I realize how silly that expectation was.
Instead, it is helpful for me to see my resistance (to change, to sharing, to exposing myself, to growing) and my preconceived notions (no one wants to hear my thoughts, people are mean, judgements) as brick walls surrounding me. In the breakthrough weekend, I pushed some of the bricks out of the wall so that there is light shining through now. Are the walls gone? Heck no, but they are weakened.
And I left the weekend with some new tools to continue to push the bricks out.
I have one final thought. The cost of the weekend was, in my opinion, minimal compared to the return. I am so grateful that there are people like Mark White and Kate Taylor (the owner of SPY), and each member of their respective teams, who are not doing what they do for the money, but who are committed to enriching lives. I urge all of you to seek out those people in your community – and spend some time with them. It is a powerful experience.