When preparing to travel to Kauai to vacation with family (and get mysore practice in at Pineapple Yoga), I didn’t feel all sweet excitement. Indeed I was a little sick the day we left. I felt further unease looking at the Kilauea ashtanga studio’s website. Reviewing this authorized teacher and former professional athlete named Eagle, I wasn’t fooled by the studio’s adorable name. No: Upon viewing the athletic ashtanga man with ten years of mysore travels and avian moniker, my brain cued up a parade of sour scenarios of an authoritarian ashtanga space (of the likes I’ve never even seen) where I would be punished for each and every off the mark dristi (a fear compounded by my longtime bird-phobia thanks to an Alfred Hitchcock movie and relentless pigeons on the streets of New York City).
OK, I’m exaggerating, but still I took comfort knowing that I could always practice on my own.
Dear Diary: Heather told me she teaches people ‘real life.’ She said, real life sucks losers dry. You want to f*ck with the eagles, you have to learn to fly.
Yes; that’s right: my delusions came with their own inappropriate soundtrack– a relentless loop of a certain sound byte from an 80s cult movie, Heathers, featuring foul-mouthed, murderous teens. And yes, that’s right, I’m driving to yoga practice repeating in my head a slew of highly inappropriate (but awesomely funny) and profane movie quotes. (Hey, it’s no worse than drinking margaritas the night before practice, is it?)
F$#@ me gently with a chainsaw, do I look like Mother Theresa to you?
Goddamn it, I can’t stop…
That is, until I cross the threshold into the mysore room, located in a church Parrish house, no less (the irony!), and my ignorant fantasies are revealed as ridiculous as Donald’s Trump’s tweets. Boy was I wrong– about everything. First, it’s a magical space– humble, historic and holy; the room practically gives me a hug. And Eagle, it turns out, is the opposite of anything I’d manufactured in my head– he was sweet, welcoming and encouraging.
The Pineapple fits.
With skill, Eagle reminds me of things I’d taken for granted: Feet, work on my heels in pasasana, breathing, (attempted) transitions out of Karandavasana. He’s smart and collaborative and I learned so much.
But I grew the most, perhaps, when we rolled up our mats. The metaphorical hugs continued: Fellow practitioners chatted me up after practice. A longtime resident helped me with childcare ideas, offering to check in with some babysitters she knew, as well as to babysit my little one herself. I got schooled in the beaches I had to go to. When word of a potential storm rolled in, I had this feeling that I had friends on this island if things went south. Eagle, upon finding out I was going to mysore this October, further gave me lots of information and stories and the who’s and what’s I had to check out there. The day I left the island, I received instructions to give ” a head’s up” next time so they could set up play dates for my kid in advance. Seriously?
I’d just arrived and I had friends. Like magic.
Back on the mainland I’m regularly reminded of negativity in the yoga world. Scandals abound; you’d think Oprah was giving them away for free: You get a scandal and you get a scandal and everybody gets a scandal! Or you practice/teach and thus get asked about “people out there doing negative things in the name of yoga”* or you spot someone throwing an assholian fit in a coffee shop post-savasana, or you behave like an asshole yourself, and how can we forget the din of internet squabbling over the precise angle of your elbows in chaturanga or the various cues you should or should not say. Don’t get me started on tailbone tuck-or-not-troversies.
Dare I suggest that perhaps we’re all suffering from a paranoid delusion, perpetuated by the dominance of negative stories that, like bullies, obscure the reality I’m growing to see– all the day to day good people I meet everyday and everywhere doing this yoga and life thing?
Sure, Jean, in Kauai. But no, it’s not just in aloha-land: A few weeks back, I posted a vulnerable bit about my fear of traveling to India; what resulted was a care bear stare-onslaught of helpful comments and messages from ashtanga teachers and practitioners to non-mat-toting friends who’ve traveled abroad for work, to former legal coworkers with family in India. Indeed I have two very long messages detailing everything I need to know about visa applications and accommodations in mysore, as well as a number of private messages with offers of places to stay, connecting me up with friends who’ve been to mysore, and longtime yoga friends messaging me details of their exact flights should I want to get on the same one.
It was like the internet gave me a hug.
The real meaning of Aloha in Hawaiian is that of Love, Peace, and Compassion. It’s the guidelines of how to live – a life of Aloha is one when the heart is so full it is overflowing with the ability to influence others around you with your spirit.
If I want to f*ck with the eagles, perhaps it’s the Aloha I need to learn to fly.
*from a public Facebook post by Shanna Small of Ashtanga Picture Project