Seavasana (Road Trip Part III)

When the alarm went off at 7 this morning, my mom and I both groaned and rolled over in our cozy little four-poster bed. Usually we’re early risers, but we were up late talking with our marvelous friend and host, Mary. Mary usually lives in Seattle, but has moved back to Cape Cod for the summer. Her house is a gorgeous blend of new and old, antique and crafty; every time I walk into a room I discover an eccentric trinket or fascinating piece of art that I hadn’t noticed before. And she has a deck with lounge chairs, so my mom and I are enamored.

We eventually crawled out of bed, hopped into our yoga clothes, and made fun of each others’ hair for a few minutes. (Hers was sticking out in matted, wavy chunks, while mine had frizzed up in every direction in some kind of psychotic halo; I swear I looked like Kramer from Seinfeld. Humidity is not our friend.) If Mary noticed our ridiculous ‘dos, she politely pretended otherwise.

We hit the road by 7:30AM, in what I have come to believe is the only way to travel around Cape Cod in a heat wave: via convertible.

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Top down, hands up, fingers playing in the warm breeze, cruising to a private club to practice yoga on the beach. If it weren’t for our accidental afros, I’d have thought we were celebrities.

We arrived at the fancy little beach club just before 8 and met our instructor, Nancy, who explained that we would be practicing Yin yoga. She told us to grab a mat, a blanket, and a block, and that we could take a spot anywhere on the beach.

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The spot was so beautiful, she probably could’ve told us to start chopping wood and I would’ve found a way to be happy about it. But when I asked Nancy to explain the basics of Yin yoga to me before class, I had a feeling I’d be in for a challenge.

“Are you familiar with the ideas of Yin and Yang?” she asked.

“Oh yes, I think so,” I nodded enthusiastically. (I probably should’ve known that having jammed to Get Low by Lil Jhon featuring the Ying Yang Twins at high school dances didn’t really count, but I had a feeling she was going to explain things anyways.)

“Yin and Yang are the opposing forces of the universe; they’re in everything and they’re in each other,” she explained. “But our culture- our lives- are very much dominated by Yang. Yang is the force of doing, while Yin is the act of observing. Today we’ll be exploring this Yin energy, holding gentle poses for 3-5 minutes, focusing more on just being rather than doing.” She ended her explanation with a friendly smile, truly excited by the 90 minute meditation that lay ahead of us.

“Thank you,” I smiled back, “I’m looking forward to the practice! I’ll see you out on the beach.” I gathered my items, turning to my mom as we descended the wooden steps to the sand, “just a warning. This is a very meditative form of yoga.” She groaned.

Meditation is not our strong suit.

Mary, however, let out a cheer when she heard we had chosen a more gentle form of practice. (She’s biked across Martha’s Vineyard, windsurfed on Cape Cod, and once learned how to snowboard on a whim, but for some reason she feels her yoga skills are lacking.) We set up our towels, found a comfortable position, and waited for class to start.

For the next hour and a half, we practiced the most gentle, kind, unassuming form of yoga on the planet. Short of laying in shavasana for an hour and a half, I’m really not sure how it could’ve been any more relaxed. In each position we were encouraged to support ourselves with either a blanket or a block, to make ourselves comfortable and let go further into the ground with each exhale. The goal was to stay present and relaxed.

“In almost every aspect of our lives, we’re encouraged to reach more, do more, stretch more. In Yin yoga, we are just trying to let go. Don’t push yourself like you would in a regular yoga class. Find your edge, where you’re present but comfortable, where you feel a little bit of that delicious relaxation.” She used the word delicious several times. I’ll admit it was an unexpected choice of adjective for a yoga practice on the beach, but every time she said it I couldn’t help but smile a little. Delicious. Like a fresh nectarine, or Daniel Craig’s jawline.

Relax. Breathe. Inhale. Exhale. Western culture is packed with Yang energy- the need to strive, to judge, to have more, to do better. (Mary observed that the abrasive yet lovable Grey’s Anatomy character Christina Yang was probably named with this energy in mind, and also admitted that she had been thinking about Christina for a good portion of the meditation time.) Yin energy, the ability to simply be, seems to us a totally foreign concept.

So naturally, my first instinct was to fight it. I wanted to flow, to move, to sprint, to do something besides lay on my side and breathe. It was truly one of the harder yoga practices I’ve ever done. I found meditation for a few minutes at a time. I tried to match my breathing with the crashes of the nearby waves. I wished death upon every fly that took a bite out of my legs. (There were several.) Overall, I think Nancy would agree that my Yin could use a little practice. But at the end of class, there came something spectacular enough to give Yin yoga a special place in my heart forever.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present, “seavasana.”

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I really can’t decide which is better, the posture or the pun. Floating like the most relaxed of buoys, rocking with each wave, listening to your own breath as ocean water fills your ears. It was magical.

And of course we couldn’t leave without a beach photoshoot.

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cheesin’ with Nancy

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I surrendered to my body’s plea for physical activity and went on a run through Mary’s neighborhood after class. This was an undeniably Yang-like thing of me to do, but working up a sweat after all that relaxation just felt so good. And really, I’m not sure that Yang-ing all the time is such a terrible thing; after all, Christina has become one of the best cardiac surgeons at Seattle Grace. (That’s what I’d guess, anyways. I more or less boycotted Grey’s after they started killing off everyone and their mothers.) I think everyone needs a little Yang- the motivation to strive and to act. But I think everyone might need to step back every once in a while and find their Yin too. Especially if it includes a shot at seavasana. (Seriously, next time you’re at the beach, seavasana your heart out. You won’t be sorry.)

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Somehow we’re already coming up on our last day of the trip, but I hope it’ll be something of a grand finale. Tomorrow morning, 7AM, dreams will be coming true. Two words: paddleboard yoga. I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow night. If you want a preview, we’ll be looking something like this:

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Namaste,
Hannah

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Marcia Imbrescia
    Jul 19, 2013 @ 02:51:13

    Wow, kudos to you & Rina for so much yin – an exercise in patience, for sure. But, paddle board yoga, now that sounds awesome! Enjoy!

    Reply

  2. Annabelle Eliopoulos
    Jul 19, 2013 @ 16:50:55

    can’t wait to talk to you about all your ventures tomorrow!!

    Reply

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