It wasn’t until I discovered Bikram that I got into yoga.
I’m Aries. Pita. Dragon. I need speed and intensity when I exercise; I need sweat. Or else what’s the point?
“You’ll like Ashtanga,” they said. And, sure, at least it felt like a workout. But I soon grew bored of breathing through round after round of sun salutations (not to mention that I wasn’t making any progress with my headstand. Hello, Aries ego!).
No, yoga isn’t for me, I told myself. Until one day I walked out of my first Bikram class feeling like I’d just woken up from the dead. I called all my yogi friends as I bounced home: “I’m alive!” I told them, exulted. “I get it, I finally get it!”
“Great! But you know Bikram isn’t really yoga,” they said.
When I moved to New York City from London at the beginning of 2012, I brought my hot yoga habit with me: Flatiron, Union Square, Lower East Side. Where there was a sweatbox, I’d go. That is, until the humidity of summer hit, and it started to take me a full day to recover from class. I’m a naturally thirsty person, and all the coconut water in Thailand wouldn’t have been enough to hydrate me. But, by now, I was addicted to the headspace my practice gave me. Maybe it was time to try “real” yoga again.
So, I went Arnold’s Vinyasa class at [TK] Equinox and learned to balance on my arms in crow. I went to a Kundalini class with my friend Gabby and felt afterward like I’d had three espressos. Then another friend, Amanda, took me Virayoga to practice with Elena Brower; something in me seemed to shift. I couldn’t tell for sure, but I was aware that I’d had my first brush with one of the true yoga preachers. At the very least, I felt moved by the way she spoke.
In the meantime, my blog, The Numinous, was beginning to take shape. The title means: “that which is unknown, or unknowable,” which sounded a lot like yoga to me. What unknown depths inside had I never been able to access?
Fast forward twelve months: Lying on my back on a mat at Golden Bridge, I get my first real clue. Gabby is teaching by now with her friend Amanbir and, as we meditate at the end of their Bikini Kriya (including 52 press-ups thank you very much), my mind brings forward a vision.
From nowhere—the unknown, the unknowable: I am my father, and my father is crying, deep wrenching sobs for the fun-loving, easy relationship we lost when I rebelled in my teenage years and just … left. In my mind’s eye, I am my father and my father misses me. There are tears streaming down my face. Forget “Bikini Kriya.” Gabby should call the class “Bikini Crier,” I think, smiling. It feels like good crying. Coming around, I feel the same waking sensation I did that time after Bikram. With shiny eyes, I thank Gabby and tell her I’d better contact my dad. And two weeks later, at the Wanderlust Festival in Vermont, it happens again. Twice. Visions, unstoppable tears. But this time it’s an ex-significant other who haunts me, as I let go into child’s pose: I am my ex, begging forgiveness of us both, for the way things happened.
I’ve been telling everybody about my yogic awakening: “It’s like my body has decided to open up and let all these feelings out,” I tell them, relieved. And they’re happy for me because they know it feels good and right, and because I now understand what people mean when they talk about holding onto emotions and experiences in our flesh and blood.
Speaking of which, I’ve planned a mini road trip from Portland to Seattle with my father. It will be the first time we’ve hung out alone in probably two decades. I guess I have Gabby and her Bikini Crier to thank for that.
-- Ruby Warrington. Ruby is a British lifestyle writer, living in New York City. Formerly features editor for the UK Sunday Times Style magazine, she still contributes to the title on a regular basis, along with numerous other publications in the UK, US and Australia. She is also founder of The Numinous, a blog covering fashion, culture and every aspect of modern cosmic thinking.