“Get up get up get up” a deep voice commands as it enters a heated room.
It’s 3pm and I’m inside what used to be the living room of a white house on a corner on Music Row in Nashville Tennessee. I haven’t even started moving yet and I’m already sweating when we’re told to turn to everyone around us and high five, hug it out, whatever - just connect. Slippery embraces wrap me up with six strangers in my immediate vicinity. High fives. Names. Eye contact. It’s the middle of the freaking day and the room is packed. Five of the six people in this interaction are men, and there are more in the room in rows behind me. A welcome surprise as I don’t regularly have the privilege of practicing alongside men and women in equal quantities.
I actually chose this class at Shakti Yoga Nashville because a man was teaching it - a guy named Chris who’s bio online revealed a salt and peppered goatee and a piercing blue gaze - he has presence in this photo that is confirmed in person (I know what you’re thinking and you’re wrong. Have a little faith in me…) ALL of my teachers back at home are women, and on this mentally and emotionally trying day in Nash, I craved Masculine energy so that I could relinquish control and just flow in my feels.
As soon as Chris entered the room I knew shit was about to go down.
“Standing forward fold” he cued without any extra bullshit direction as the starting point of our practice. You don’t get cued to start in a standing fold every damn day.
I was paying attention.
“This is a 60-minute listening practice” he informs us as my neck finds length in the pull of gravity and I smile because he knows what he’s doing and he isn’t afraid to take the room by its balls and I fucking love this shit.
I am about to be SHOOK and I know it.
His cues are direct and intelligent. He tells you what pose to go into and instructs your alignment from there.
“Apply concept to action, connect through your feet and press your inner thighs to the back wall” - he says as we stay a hot second in the fold that starts our practice.
“Did he just say ‘apply concept to action’?!” I ask myself as I almost actually squeal with excitement while still upside down.
But there’s something happening in the room beyond the incredible buildup of physical sensation and the sweat that is literally pouring in buckets off of every single one of us (had to be close to 30 humans at 3pm on a Monday).
Some time later I come into a standing balance, rooting down through my right foot and externally rotating my left hip, opening it towards the wall on that side. I’m fucking exhausted by now and I struggle to steady when the girl next to me reaches her right hand under my left knee to hold me up without breaking her Drishti. Supporting me. Holding me up. My left hand finds the space behind her heart and we stay there in the fire together. She reaches for me several more times throughout our practice and I do the same. When we eventually come to the floor as our practice starts to close, her hand rests on my left shoulder to aid in its grounding as my palm finds her knee in a supine twist. I do the same for the guy on my right on the other side. Never before have I touched a stranger as a student in a yoga class (I rarely do it as a teacher), yet reaching for one another in this way felt..Intuitive. Safe. Allowed.
This is all after Chris has held us in a plank and went around the room asking what we’re “plankful” for - thirty people speaking out loud in gratitude. The energetic intensity is matched by the massive physicality of holding a plank for that long which is entirely by Chris’s design. We came here to feel something and he is not afraid to hold the room in way that challenges your perceived limitations as you are invited to explore the edge that holds a breakthrough on the other side. Everyone is testing that edge. Everyone. It is viscerally felt in every inhale and exhale. When I eventually come out of Savasana, I’m short on words that describe what is moving through me other than - profound.
This is a listening practice. Every time I get on my mat I set the intention to listen deeply for what is asking to be experienced. A listening that is beyond the function of my ears that is heard within the shimmering pools of my spirit. This is yoga as I want to feel it, study it, practice it and share it. Listening, intuiting, for the place where unity resides within. My mat as a mirror and an outstretched hand to be known in my present state by another - by an entire community of others even - with the same invitation to be known by myself.
The door opens at the end of class and Clark walks in - a auburn colored pup known by every person in that room. Boxer ears fall gently on either side of his head with the trust that he’s right where he belongs as his stump tail wags joyfully in the receipt of pure love. Incoming and outgoing yogi’s are happy to see him. They call him by his name with genuine excitement to see him in their voices. They call one another by their names with the same sound moving from their hearts into their throats. Clark scoots his butt up against me in a chair and I oblige him in a lengthy scratch as I listen to yoga doing its real work…
Yoga /ˈjoʊɡə/ - योग - to join, to unite, to yoke.
*Shakti Yoga, the pure, unchanging, unrelenting light of love and good that exists within me, acknowledges and bears grateful witness to the same light within you - humbled deeply by basking in the glow.
I bow to you.