Playing With Flight.
When Brett and I arrived at Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort after four days camping in Yosemite, we were covered in dust and nursing tired, cold bodies from miles of hiking. I was not only excited about my first yoga retreat, but also having a decent shower. While a bit unsure of my level of yoga fitness (I’ve practiced for about 15 years, once, sometimes twice a week), I wanted to take my yoga practice to another level. I also wanted Brett to enjoy the experience and share in the joy and release I receive from yoga.
Our hosts, Billy and Patti Asad – with a jovial and warm attitude – stated that this weekend was about bringing the space and time we have for yoga into our relationships and giving the same effort to our relationship practice as our yoga practice. In the midst of a series of restorative poses, I fell back into the peace I found in the natural awe of Yosemite. It felt like being home again.
I left the yoga dome feeling tranquil and rested, but could see Brett hadn’t entirely let go of his tension. I attempted to coach him with my best learned yoga philosophies, “It’s not about ego, nor is it a competition, so just do what you can do,” “Turn your brain off, try not to think too much” and “focus on your breathing.” The look on his face indicated I was in danger of confusing him even more, “Ok forget everything I said – just enjoy yourself.”
Halfway through Patti’s Saturday morning level 2-3 class, I noticed the mist covering the dome’s windows and the sweat dripping from my body. Billy described Patti as the ‘Velvet Hammer’ and it was a perfect treatise of his wife’s gentle, yet firm, Ashtanga-Iyengar style. While surrounded by serious yogis, I surprised myself: the morning’s practice made me realize that I’m much stronger than I gave myself credit for, and I left feeling invigorated and ready to tackle a more vigorous practice.
The Saturday afternoon couples session proved to be the retreat’s highlight from our perspective. Billy and Patti led us through a fun series of coordinated partner poses progressing to increasingly difficult poses. The pinnacle was a posture with one partner effectively flying, propped up on the other’s feet with their back on the ground. I enjoyed seeing Brett challenged and gaining an awareness of both his body and our sense of mutual balance and trust. We finished partnering in Thai-style massages using our feet to find marvellous pressure points. Brett smiled in the serene way really relaxed people do, and I walked away with a sense of frivolity as well as increased trust and closeness.
The week before my stars perplexingly read, “This is a week to make the sacred fun and fun sacred.” Once home, centered, laughing and thoroughly enjoying my partner’s company, I understood.
Natalie D-Napoleon is a yogi, songwriter and writer from Fremantle, Australia who now lives in California. She has an MA in Writing and works as a Coordinator at a Community College Writing Center. Her writing has appeared in Entropy, Australian Poetry Journal, LA Yoga and Writer’s Digest. In 2018 she won the Bruce Dawe National Poetry Prize (Australia).