I learned what a fair weather friend was in the 6th grade. After slipping down the stairs at my house and landing on my ankle with the sound of a loud crack that I still can recall to this day, I found myself sporting a pink cast for the next 8 weeks. Suddenly the girl I was inseparable from for the past 2 years, biking through the neighborhood, meeting at the local park, and having a constant string of sleepovers with every weekend, didn’t want to hang out or come over to my house. It was incomprehensible to me at the time.
There was no disagreement between us, I was just boring to her and therefore she told me we could hang out when the cast came off. But 8 weeks past and I realized that this friendship was over. I also realized that maybe you needed to protect yourself from getting hurt when you get close to other girls. This lesson I learned again and again throughout middle school, high school, college, and life after as I started to pursue music and performance. The girls I became close with were also the girls I was in competition with. No matter how much you said you supported each other, relationships would crumble if you got the solo the other wanted, or were asked to take center stage while the other was put in the back row. Later it was about if you were booked on a show they also were hoping to be a part of, or if your career trajectory looked more promising than theirs. It was all so complicated.
By my late 20s I had become extremely guarded. I had my husband, my sisters, my mom and dad, and a couple of close guy friends…and that was about it. I was the girl that would rather go grab a beer with the guys than hang out with the chicks. It was just easier this way. It wasn’t that I hated women. I’m not saying that at all. In fact I was always envious of other girls that talked about the best friend they had had since childhood, but it just seemed to never work out that way for me.
Around this time is when I started my Bikram Yoga practice. Even at the studio I would come in, take the class, and get out without a word to my fellow practitioners. Until one day, as I was changing into dry clothes after class, this woman started talking to me. “How long had I been practicing? What did I do for a living? How often do I practice?” It was a quick conversation, but one that started to change my life.
As my practice developed I would chat more and more with this woman and the others that hit the hot room everyday at the 8am class. We were all so diverse and yet couldn’t get enough of the yoga. It bonded us in a way I hadn’t experienced before. And then over time our chats would last so long after class that we decided to go out lunch every now and then, giving us more time to gab about yoga and life in general.
Looking back now I realize how yoga has changed my relationship with women. Actually, how that one woman that started that conversation with me way back when changed my relationship with women. Women are no longer the competition, or out to hurt me in the long run. The ladies I have met throughout the past 9 years at the studios I frequent have supported and encouraged me in the most positive and beautiful way, opening me up to share and give more to each relationship.
I will say though, that as I packed for the Bikram Yoga Women’s Retreat last week I was a bit apprehensive. Please let there be no drama was my constant mantra. There were 7 teachers from my studio heading into a weekend packed with 6 classes, posture clinics, lectures, and recertification. Though I knew these women well I had never spent so much time with them and had no idea what to expect. Would everyone get along?
But it was perfect. We shared ideas and got the giggles. We had our fair share of tears as we got deeper and deeper into the postures with each class or were moved by a meditation or activity. We were inspired by Rajashree Choudhury and Emmy Cleaves as they offered their guidance and knowledge throughout the weekend’s activities. We supported each other in the hot room, in thoughts, in each decision.
And I know now my walls are completely broken down. It was a weekend that made me trust in the collaborative power of the female spirit without reservation. That it took me awhile to find the place where women resided who believe in a life of integrity and grace, but I am truly happy I took the journey to find this treasure. Because it’s usually the small , petty stuff that keeps women apart and if we just find that space where we acknowledge that we all feel, dream, and hope for the same things, we could literally love the world back to balance.
Namaste my lovely ladies of the yoga world. Support and encourage each other and united, know that you are the game changers of this small space of time on earth.
(Photo Credit: T-shirt from Bikram Yoga Women’s Retreat)
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