Life is stressful for everyone; I get that. Stress, for me, manifests itself physically. I get sick, I get horribly painful/almost crippling knots in my shoulders, migraines sneak their way in when I least expect it, and I have started to get cold sores like you wouldn’t believe. So when an opportunity arose to go to Joshua Tree for a weekend yoga retreat, I knew I needed it. But boy oh boy, I sooo didn’t know what I was getting myself into. This is an email that I sent to my wonderful friend Katie upon my return:
“Sorry it took so long to send this. The need to shower after this weekend was far more important, trust me (shouldn’t all “I have a story for you!” stories begin with “I had to shower first before I could even tell you this story, it was that kind of a weekend!”?)
So I have attached a few pictures for your viewing pleasure, but only after reading the email 🙂 (these have been left out to save myself the embarrassment). I won 2 tickets to this yoga festival in Joshua Tree for this past weekend. My roommate wanted to come with me since we both do yoga together (and have the unfortunate ability to attract hairy-thighed old men in speedos in hot yoga. Literally. This man always parks his mat right next to us… while he then proceeds to basically lay on his back for most of the class and fart every once in awhile. But I could write a whole nother email just about him). We pack up my car with camping goodies and yoga-wear (and since it was forecasted to be around 85 both Saturday and today, we brought our bathing suits and plenty of sunscreen). As soon as we pull into the registration area, we knew we were in for a wonderful weekend of people-watching. There was a girl floating around (literally, it looked like she was floating), in a long flowy hippie-esque skirt, some sort of crazy top, a matching scarf draped over her shoulders (I later found out this was for scarf dancing. Apparently this is a real thing), with a bell belt (think belly dancer) and a teal bindi in the middle of her forehead. She also had some other face-painted teal goodness on her face, but I couldn’t tell what it was.
We drive to the back camping area and can hear music coming from the general area, which sounds awesome. I highly enjoy Bollywood/music from India/yoga music, etc, so I was really excited to listen to some live. We get our campsite all set up, change into more yoga-appropriate clothing and head up the hill to the main area to see what this festival is all about (we literally had no idea beforehand. Just knew we were going to get some yoga in and our tan on). At the top of the hill are some booths/vendors with vegan/vegetarian food, which all look delish, a tent to sign up for yoga classes, workshops, etc. After signing up for a class later in the afternoon, we head towards the stage. On either side of the stage/seated floor area are more booths/vendors selling crap. I’m all for handmade stuff and the place smelled like incense, so I was a happy camper. It was mostly stuff that I probably couldn’t fit into, my boobs would fall out of in a good down-facing dog position, or just weird clothing that i envision could possibly be worn at Burning Man, but I didn’t see many people wearing the crazier stuff. When I heard there was going to be music/kirtan music (call and response type chanting), I envisioned a bunch of people sitting cross legged, swaying back and forth. Shoot, I was even prepared to be one of those people sitting cross-legged, swaying back and forth. Give me some music with good beat and I’m there! The stuff during the day was pretty tame, beautiful voices, instruments, chanting (I have no idea what they were saying, but they seemed to enjoy it). We did our yoga class (2 hours. Seriously. Do they want a girl to die?!) where it was ok to put your foot on your neighbor (in down-facing dog it ended up being very confusing for me because they had a couple people walking around, correcting poses, etc. So in my down dog, I felt a hand on my shoulders, so I’m thinking “shoot, what am I doing wrong? Are my shoulder blades sticking out? Are they not squared?” so I adjusted a little and continued on. In comes cobra pose, then down dog again. A few seconds later I feel that girl come back and press on my shoulders again, so I’m like, “I can’t fix it anymore!” Then I realize it’s the foot of the girl in the row in front of me and one person over. She must have had 9 foot legs or something).
So after the first yoga class where my hips screamed louder than they had ever done before, we went and ate dinner, layed out for a bit, and then at night went back up to the stage for some more music. Do you remember that song “the freaks come out at night”? Combine that with the full moon and your end result is what I witnessed. More swaying and cross-legged-ness of course, but there was a lady in front of us that was in an astronaut suit (like the flight suits, complete with patches). In an event full of hippies, she HAD to have known she was going to stick out. Seriously, who wakes up and says “ahhh, I could wear my linen pants, my yoga pants… or my space suit. Yeah, I’ll wear the space suit). Well, maybe a 5 year-old. The flight suit didn’t stop her from getting her groove on though, fear not. But the real gem was the lady and her man-friend that were sitting near us. I’m guessing this must have been a favorite song of theirs (but seriously, with kirtan, some of the songs are 15-20 minutes and they’re repeating the same chant OVER and over. I mean, I know he’s probably grateful and all, but I’m pretty sure Hare Krishna could use a little variety). So this lady near us catches the corner of my eye, and as I turned around to view more, I knew I had found the mother load. She was going to TOWN. I really wish I had my camera so I could have recorded it. She was dancing like there was no on else there (and I use dancing as loosely as I possibly can). It was like the lyrics of the song touched her soul, the holy spirit had entered her body and she was just going full force. Arms flailing and legs going, all in a “dancing” fashion. Then she would make circles with her head and slip her hair around and dance some more. It looked like she was possessed. I fully expected some parsel tongue to start coming out of her mouth. I felt like I was in one of those super crazy churches/cults. Halfway through the song, her man-friend got up and joined her, although he wasn’t as rhythmically-blessed. When the song finished (like I said before, it was probably about 15 minutes long), they both stopped and went completely back to normal. A few minutes later that got their stuff and started walking back to their cabin. Apparently crazytown gets tuckered out with one hard dance.
Then today, we did a Rock to Bhakti yoga class that ended up being half yoga and half dancing. It was all kinds of awesome and since there were a couple of oldies in the class (not like NBA all-star oldies, just regular ones), I didn’t feel too bad about my poor dancing skills. Before we left this afternoon, we wanted to get one more yoga class in, so we signed up for the Bollywood Vinyasa class. I love me some Bollywood and have always secretly wanted to be in one of the movies (even if it was as an extra dancer during the dance scenes where it seems a parade of trained dancers follow the main characters around wherever they go). Right at the start of the class, the instructor says “this is a class where you let everything go. Do everything; don’t say “i’m too shy,” or “I’m too modest,” not today you aren’t!” Great. I am too shy. And I am too modest. What exactly are we going to be doing?! She basically wanted us to be making noises during some of the poses, but most of them sounded SUPER sexual, and I felt like I was in a gigantic orgy at times. So I pretended to be making the noises while I was silently giggling to myself.
And at the end of the weekend, I returned home to discover (in regular, non outdoor desert light), that I got massively sunburned. Apparently I didn’t use enough sunscreen. Actually I think I forgot to apply it the first day, so meh haha. It will turn into a tan, but right now, OUCH.
Oh, and speaking of pictures, I tried to retain any semblance of modesty I could, so I made sure to wear chonies and shorts since I’d basically be showing you my entire back and the twins!
Picture #1: Doesn’t so it justice. I have double sunburn. I’m not sure how that happened, since they both appear to be from my bathing suit, and it looks like there’s such a big difference as to where the fabric actually laid on my skin.
Pictures #2-4: Again, you can’t really tell just how red my back is. When I got out of the shower, I couldn’t even towel off my back because it hurt so bad. Please envision me laying my towel on my bed, then trying to ever so slowly back bend onto my towel to gently soak up the water. True story. Also note the nice archipelago of little red islands that appear on the center of my back. Normally they are tan/brown-ish and appear to be birthmarks that I acquired sometime between the ages of 17 and 20. Apparently they also turn red when sunburned. I also conveniently cropped out my muffin top. You’re welcome.”
Aside from some awkward moments, the weekend was a success (also a success if you’ve made it this far in the post). I need to come out of my shell more, not be afraid to embarrass myself. I heard this recently – “Try to do one thing a day that scares you.” I think I might have to do just that.