I’ll always have Tulum.
It’s the one. You know, when they tell you to envision a happy place. A piece of paradise to be teleported to when your present is chaos. Which happens. To some more than others, granted, but inevitably to all.
I wrote about my yoga retreat to Tulum in the Whistler Pique here. It’s the vacay that keeps on giving, since I return to it in my head over and over.
Sometimes an hour of yoga just won’t cut it.
There is a class where cycling and souls collide. Since I mentioned class, I can hardly believe it; classes, especially of the fitness variety, not being my thing. But this was a class unlike any other. It inspired a wardrobe – I’ll get to that.
Close your eyes and imagine a hip hop concert, a yoga class, and a bicycle ride all mixed together in a sweaty stew. The bubbly mixture is simmering on the best burner on your stove, a pinch of salt away from Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica. If you smash your plate after you lick it clean, shards will hit the Pacific Ocean.
Like everything else in LA, this stew is gluten-free, and it fortifies your resolve while you sweat out negativity. Natch.
One-two-one-two-unh, says David, the leader of this SoulCycle class and guru. He has four candles burning around the pedestal that holds his bike. He is part dancer part drummer part cyclist on his chariot. His feet spin so fast he looks like the Roadrunner.
I didn’t know spinning required coordination. With David’s class, it does. One-two-one-two-unh.
David asks us to turn our knobs to the right, but he doesn’t like to call this turning up the resistance. He prefers turning up the courage. David challenges us to go deeper. I’m hyperventilating, but I’m under his spell. If this is a religion, sign me up. I’m a disciple of David. Oh, hang on…
No seriously, my arms are buckling under my one pound weights (don’t laugh), but I will. Not. Stop. Because David is two feet in front of me, off his bike and watching his perfect self in the mirror.
The playlist meanders from smooth hip hop remakes to Billy Jean and baby, we are sweating in the dark, the wine I drank the night before is seeping from my pores in pool of regret underneath my bike. Unbelievably, an acoustic version of Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams is followed by Philadelphia, and David tells us that when he heard this song this morning, as he held his baby, he burst into tears, because so many people don’t see the beauty in this world that is right in front of them.
Under normal circumstances, you might think, like I might, flakey. But in the mecca of SoulCycle it was touching.
And so I was moved to buy a t-shirt on the way out. Like when you’re leaving a concert, and you feel the need to commemorate the moment. Bottle the vibes and keep them for future whiffs.
Yeah, I got soul, and the t-shirt to prove it.
I’ve been a devotee of yoga for seven years now. It’s a required pastime for West Coasters, a stamp you need on your passport should you decide to live here. You need to know the difference between Ashtanga and Hatha, know whether you like Bikram’s or not, and have a favorite studio, as baseline requirements.
But there are drawbacks. It can be expensive – $2o a class equals my entire coffee budget for the week; time consuming – getting to my favorite studio is a 30 minute journey, making an hour long class takes a minimum of two hours, and I worry about the strain on the environment since I need to drive there.
Once there, it is a crap shoot whether I have a plum spot by a window, or am wedged into a corner next to smelly guy who clearly does not believe in deodorant, or bathing, making the entire experience unpleasant no matter how fantastic the instructor.
Yet the benefits are huge – unless I happened to be wedged in the corner next to smelly guy, I inevitably float out of class, my whole being feeling relaxed yet stronger then when I entered the room, my mind quieted (I don’t reach a meditative state necessarily, but as close as I can come, definitely a stiller state). My posture has improved immeasurably, now when I am mad or stressed I feel my shoulders creep up next to my ears, so I breathe and bring them down – tiny yoga postures used in everyday life. Opening my hips has drastically reduced my running injuries. Even the mantras take their toll eventually, although that took a long time for me: take the best pose you can for this day, recognizing that each day is different.
Hands down, I would prefer to do a yoga class than receive a massage, so that’s saying something.
But pressed for time and money, as we all are, it’s hard to justify doing as much yoga as I would like. So I’ve taken to unfurling my mat at home and doing free yoga podcasts on iTunes. I get the benefits of a fantastic class in a fraction of the time and at a greatly reduced cost (free is the right price for me).
I’ve found an instructor I love – Elsie Escobar – she is quirky yet incredibly knowledgeable. I tend to gravitate towards people who don’t take themselves too seriously, and Elsie is exactly that. She often has a great life message in the beginning, but if I’m really in a hurry I fast forward to the beginning of the practice. And (sorry Yogi’s, you may not want to read my next sentence) if in a really big rush, I don’t do savasana. There is nothing worse than lying in savasana and making lists of all the things you could be doing if you could just get off this mat.
There are hundreds of podcasts listed, so you can easily do a different one each time, although I certainly have my favorites that I return to on a regular basis.
And best of all: no smelly guy to worry about. Long live yoga podcasts.