24 February, 2012

Family yoga ties

Today was off the mat. Traveling in Boston. A funeral. A family gathering.

Back at my house, I got into a conversation with one of my second cousins. I had not seen her for a couple of years. Actually, I had barely known her my whole life, until my mother died four years ago. We talked at my mom's funeral, and then ended up becoming long-distance "friends" after that. I'd vaguely known that she was involved in yoga, but it hadn't really registered on my radar because I was not doing yoga. I suppose that makes me a bit self-absorbed.

Somehow the subject of yoga came up and, of course, as you can imagine, we were having an intense discussion about poses, and studios, and how awesome it was that we are both doing it. There's this new, instant, strong bond from the shared experience.

Suddenly, another of my second cousins overhears our conversation, and I learn that she is also a big-time yoga proponent. Next thing you know, we're all in this animated discussion. One of my cousins is strictly Bikram, and the other is strictly Vinyasa. So it was kind of interesting, me being in the middle. We compared and contrasted the different styles. The stories were educational and entertaining.

I did not know, for instance, that Bikram studios tend to be carpeted. I also did not know that Vinyasa studios tend not to have mirrors in them. This is news to me, because Urban Yoga Spa teaches Hatha (like Bikram) and Vinyasa, but they have mirrors and no carpet. My experience is not necessarily "the norm," I learn. I also learn that Vinyasa tends to be less hot than Bikram/Hatha. There is typically no consistent distinction at my studio.

I'll refer to my cousins as BG (Bikram-Girl) and VG (Vinyasa-Girl) from here onward.

VG relates a story about a bad experience she had the first time she did Bikram, that led her to never want to do it again. The extreme heat, the mirrors, the absence of the flow. Me and BG try to explain to her that she should give it another chance, because it is really worth doing. But VG likes to flow. And carpets in a yoga studio are just plain weird to her. Fair enough.

BG tells me that there is a Bikram studio right there in my own hometown. I find it ironic that Starbucks went out of business in my town, but Bikram yoga thrives. There's an odd demographic that I wouldn't have predicted to exist. The studio sounds great, and I am experiencing deep longing to go check this place out. Partly because I really want to do yoga, but also because I like the idea of exploring and seeing a new studio and expanding my horizons. BG tells me that she'll let them know I'm coming and I will get in for free. Unfortunately, I know that I won't be able to go because of the logistics of this weekend. I want to go. But it is not a priority, vis-a-vis the family visit schedule.

VG, it turns out, works for a non-profit that is a charity driven through yoga events. I haven't got her permission to post the link here yet, but if I do, I will come back and enter it right here. She's going to be involved in planning a huge "Yogathon" in California in June. I should go, she says. Yes, this sounds cool. Despite the darkness underlying our gathering, I feel exhilaration, because there are people in my family who I can identify with. I feel not just a part of it by "blood" but also by shared interests. I feel connection. True, BG and VG are both my second cousins; genetically speaking, we are not that much more closely related than any two people. Nonetheless, they are related to me, and I share memories from my childhood of them. And though we grew up in different lives, and different places, we ultimately all landed on the yoga mat.

I like that.

It turns out, we also all attended the same university, albeit with zero overlap in our tenure, due to the evenly spaced age gaps (BG is 6 years older, and VG is 6 years younger).

The realization of these connections makes me miss home. Again, the volatility of emotions around home. It's been a topic of my other blog as well. I dread visiting, but then I have a hard time leaving. There's something alluring yet difficult about maintaining connection.

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