I begin my day in the dark, waking long before dawn, leaving behind my dormitory bunk for a room called Shadowbrook at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health.
The sky is still dark an hour later when Shadowbrook fills with Let Your Yoga Dance teacher trainees who take their place on mats in front of me.
What am I doing here?
How am I the one on the dais?
At 6:30 am, we begin the practice of yoga, the last class before their graduation. After centering, I guide them in a series of warming poses, at which point I look down to see that in my rush to get dressed in the dark, I grabbed the wrong top, and the one I’m wearing allows my cleavage to spill out each time I bend in front of them.
In a wild act of incompetence (unimaginable in my previous incarnations) I ask: Could someone tie these straps to my bra?
And with that, the spell is broken–the one between me and them–as two women jump up to restore my modesty, and I step down off the dais.
“Kelly,” someone calls from the back, her voice freed, “Would you turn off the lights? The sun is about to rise.” (Others nod their approval.)
I walk the length of the room to the back of Shadowbrook, turn the dial, and then return through the rows of mats toward the platform.
Just before I step up, I turn to share something that I’ve only just realized: I feel so much better down here with you.
The students smile and tell me that it will be fine if I teach from the floor, “We can see you.”
I exhale, relieved, and guide them through a series of strengthening poses before inviting these brave warriors onto their backs, into the 4th chakra, the sweet pause–the heart of the Let Your Yoga Dance classes–that soon they’ll be leading in their hometowns around the country and abroad.
I return to the platform and bring my knees to my chest, and we roll toward one another,
breathing deeply, in and out, in and out.
In the sweet pause of breath, I see in them a sea of babies,
“A room full of Let Your Yoga Dance Instructors,” I say,
Ready to be born.”
Like soft bubbles rising from the mats, I hear giggles,
which slowly, then rapidly, swell across the belly of Shadowbrook,
and pop into a chorus of joyous release, until no one can hear or cares to hear my directions.
There are still giggles as we lift our legs into the air,
Happy Baby, while the sun lifts over the mountain
birthing this new day.
The last spell to be broken is the invitation to leave behind the mat and come to the front of the room where we gather in a circle, arms around each other’s backs, Virabhadrasana III, Warrior III–flying toward our destiny–and as we take in each other’s gaze, it’s as if we are flying in the sky, together, in mutual bliss.
I can’t remember what came next, not the inversion or Savasana, because when the class ended, Pam came from the back of the room to tell me what she now knew (and what we all long to remember):
“It doesn’t have to be so hard.”
After the last of the students thanked me and went off to breakfast, I returned to my room, and changed my shirt, and lay down on my bunk, and pulled the curtain around me, and teared up, in raw humility, for my perfect imperfection.
I had wanted to be so much more, but I can only be myself.