This weekend, I took two of my primary yoga teachers, (and my daughter), to a Rodney Yee workshop in Miami. This was my staff’s Christmas bonus, and I sure am glad I made the commitment for us to attend. The seminar was not only highly educational, but tons of fun and good for our morale and feelings of connection to each other. The weekend consisted of 4 three hour workshops taught by Rodney Yee and his wife, Colleen Saidmen, an insightful yoga teacher in her own right. The first day we worked on grounding poses, then had a three hour class on hip opening and another on backbends and on the last day we did a killer flow class. The focus on intense flexibility work and correct postures was a killer but these teachers were fun, filled with humor and wisdom.
On day one, Friday, we got there several hours early. As the first people in the huge ball-room sized studio, we were invited to set our mats up wherever we choose. We placed our mats about 8 inches away from Rodney and Colleen’s mat up front and center feeling lucky beyond belief. Needless to say, it was exciting to be so close and looking into the teacher’s eyes as they talked.But there are certain demands to being up front in view of over a hundred people in the room. The work was challenging, and thanks to our enthusiastic positioning we had to just plug through.
On day two we chose to move to the second row and over to the side, thinking we might have been too eager at the beginning of the seminar. We no longer wanted to be on display as we struggled through the work. By Sunday, we were laughing about where we might be able to hide. We again came very early to the studio, but this time we did so wanting to get away from Rodney’s direct line of vision. We still wanted to see him though, so we ended up in the front row way off to the side of the room by the big pane glass windows where we could absorb the natural light and watch from afar. As it happens, Rodney spend more time in that corner than anyplace else in this session and he was nose to nose with me, lecturing and making corrections for much of the class. My staff laughed and said they were made uncomfortable with the way he crouched down and talked right at me for 5 minutes straight as he guided the class in a complex pose. They said it just seemed so intimate, but it didn’t make me the slightest bit self-conscious. He is a beautiful man, and a passionate and intimate teacher who truly is present in the process of sharing his yoga. I just felt connected to the work and the intellectual understanding of it and I was honored that he thought I was worth speaking to directly.
(Neva and Melina crashing between classes.)
My daughter was amazing all weekend. She was the youngest person in the room, but just as focused as the mature hard core yogis attending. She has a huge range of motion, so she is able to handle even some of the most difficult poses. I caught glimpses of her in the class, her beautiful long neck and luminous skin making each pose seem so elegant. She had this soft expression in her eyes, and she was mastering some very difficult poses effortlessly. At one point, Rodney touched her foot and said, “I need to see less ballet, and more yoga in this room” and we all laughed knowing who he was referring too. But it was kind kidding rather than a reprimand and simply proof that she was being noticed. Neva’s only complaint bout the weekend was that much of the lecture material went over her head – not the physical stuff, but the Sanskrit terminology and the references to yoga philosophy and energetic plains, (talk about the nadi’s, chakras, and other eastern approaches to energetic fields and how to feel these things.) I told her to just absorb what she can and be patient with the rest, because it takes years to unfold and go deeper into yoga. There are multi levels of understanding and I’m still getting “ah ha” moments every day. And much of it is still beyond my grasp or I have just an inkling of a bigger understanding. We all started where she is now, at the physical doorway where yoga is just poses and basic ideas of compassion and dealing with the world with integrity. There is a reason it is a lifetime study. When we got home, she asked to see a film that I reference often in conversations with my staff, one that is my ultimate favorite documentary, “I am.” I have seen it a dozen times and I’ve given it as gifts to others and I include it in my yoga training program when studying certain sutras. The movie, a study in humanity, consumerism, contentment, and connection, was at the studio, but I promised her I’d watch it with her later this week. I was delighted. I absolutely loved how the physical experience of this yoga seminar tweaked her interest in a more spiritual and intellectual understanding of the practice. She will be one heck of an amazing yogi someday.
(We didn’t feel it was acceptable to be taking pictures during the seminar, but I stole a few with my phone to mark the occasion. One of my staff, a fine yogi and Reiki master: Mandy Main)
Anyway, the thing I will remember most about the weekend is the laughter. We were all so sore the entire weekend from the intense flexibility work that we could barely walk. We ate our meals at Whole Foods and my right hand man, Melina, who teaches my RYT 200 teacher’s training with me, bought a huge bottle of organic defamatory vitamins which we were downing like candy. We laughed each time we had to stand up, or walk down stairs, or pick up a sock. We were groaning and hissing and making jokes about our decrepit state, which somehow struck us as funny. I guess you laugh so you won’t cry. We made jokes about “Rod”, our famous yogi bud, and made jokes about the studio, and jokes about our physical inadequacies and jokes about the weird questions or overall appearance of Miami students. It was good spirited teasing more than judgment. Our laughter was balanced out by some great talks about life and our relationships with work, money, love, yoga and more. The camaraderie and sharing of opinions and attitudes for three days made for a fantastic weekend.
For me, there were poignant personal moments too. I used to travel to teach dance seminars with my ex, and I couldn’t’t help but face a flood of memories of those past experiences as I watched this husband and wife teaching team work the audience. Life is interesting. As you grow and evolve, thanks to maturity distance and life lessons, you can look back and see your past with an entirely different perspective. I won’t go into detail, but I will say that the weekend offered me a lot to think about and some fresh insight about my work, my former marriage, and the surface experiences that formed my personality and career in certain ways. The revelations were not good or bad, just a new way of framing and processing memories of my former life. The older I get, the more reflective I seem to be. Yoga tends to uncover d
eeper truths which is sometimes uncomfortable, but always leads to an authentic acceptance of things as they are.
It was good to get home to soak in a bath. I called David to share news of the weekend wishing he had been there to experience it with me, but honestly, I don’t know if he could have handled all that hip opening flexibility stuff with his tighter body-type. He had to spend the weekend driving to Baltimore to collect his belongings and haul a trailer home and he told me he was so sore from driving and working on his boat, he must feel worse than I was feeling, but I insisted he didn’t know the meaning of sore. After describing some of the work we had done, he agreed that perhaps I was the winner of the “who’s more sore” contest.
I assumed I wouldn’t be able to walk on Monday, but shockingly I felt rather fine. I guess a bit of the hair that bit the dog helped. Everyone else on the trip had a quick recovery too. All that yoga always ends up good for the body as well as a person’s mood even if it is grueling at the time.
It is nice to get out of the rut and get some distance from your life, even if it is just for a working weekend. Now, I am back to the grind… but with a smile.