26 May, 2013

Extreme clarity in a bottle

Today was Gentle Hatha with Nicole Becker at Ojas Yoga in El Cerrito.

I visited this studio around the start of the year, when I last visited friends here. I liked it, so I was excited to go back again. Because of it being Memorial Day weekend, there was only one class offered, and it was a gentle Hatha class, taught by the owner, Nicole, with whom I had the fortune of taking class last time as well. She comes from a family of yogis, she said. Her mom owns and operates a retreat center near Lake Sonoma. She grew up with meditation and yoga in her household. All this, I heard in the lobby after class, as Nicole answered questions that someone else had about her origins.

When I arrived to sign in, Nicole informed me that I still had one pass left from my previous visit and that, although it had technically “expired,” she would be happy to honor that pass. This was a complete surprise to me, but I graciously accepted it, feeling only a little guilty that a small business bends their policies to better serve an out-of-towner. I suppose that’s what karma is all about.

Class was full, for this small studio, which amounted to around 25 people in the class. It was an older crowd. I may have been the 2nd or 3rd youngest person in the room. And she served up a very gentle sequence, focused on stretching above all else. There were no Chaturangas. There were no Warrior I or Warrior II poses (though, we saw that can go in either direction, as in the case of Edna’s class last week). We did a couple of Chair poses. We did some Low Lunges. The “peak intensity” of the class, just before going down toward the floor, was a Triangle that we were told we would hold for 2-3 full minutes on each side, and that we should adjust our intensity accordingly to achieve that hold, perhaps by not extending the top arm the entire time. I did break a sweat, even in the cool room, during that hold. There were a couple of excellent stretches that Nicole offered, which I don’t often see in classes. One was called “Deer Pose,” which was a kind of seated twist where the leg position resulted in feeling a really amazing stretch along some lower abdominal and side muscles that don’t often get stretched very well. We also did one for the side of the neck where you bind your hands behind you and then pull the grip around one hip, and then let the head fall toward that side. Good for all parts of the neck and trapezius muscles.

Nicole has a very airy, playful feel to her teaching, which I like. And a gentle class was exactly what I needed today. We did some meditative things near the beginning and the end of class. And she spritzed some aromatherapy business as we lay in Savasana.

After class, in the lobby, I heard Nicole talking about essential oils with a woman. Apparently, part of her business is that she prepares and mixes various essential oils (she also does massage, and probably other things in the realm of “All Things Eastern”). The woman was telling Nicole that, by the end of each day, she feels incredibly wound up, almost angry, and really needs something to calm her down. Nicole offered a particular calming blend, and suggested she could put a couple of drops on her skin, or on her forehead, or in a bath, or rub in her hands, or the soles of her feet, or just to breathe in the scent, and this would quickly permeate her olfactory system into her brain, or pass through her skin into the bloodstream. You know, coming from my Western background of engineering and neuroscience, I am not really sure if I believe that the application of particular essential oils will result in particular psychological outcomes. But I am also not really sure why I wouldn’t believe it either. Plus, I have always loved the scents and always had an unexplored fascination with aromatherapy. So, as I listened, I decided that after Nicole was done with this woman, I would ask her about a blend that might work for my needs, although I wasn’t entirely sure how to describe what those needs were.

When Nicole finished and sent the woman home with her recipe for deep calm, I asked her if maybe she could help me out. She asked what I was looking for. I told her “Well, something to help me with ‘letting go’” Nicole seemed as if she thought this was interesting, and it was obviously not one that she’s accustomed to hearing. She asked me what I meant… “Do you mean letting go of grief? Letting go of pain? What are you trying to let go of?” So I told her about the quote from Elizabeth’s class a few weeks ago – the part about “gracefully letting go of that which is not meant for me...” And Nicole smiled, and said “Hm…” She decided to start by letting me smell a few fragrances to see if anything would “speak” to me. So that’s what we did, and I sorted them into groups of “yes” and “maybe” and “no.” Bergamot was a yes, as it has always been. Basil was a no. Lemongrass was a yes. Myrtle was a maybe. She continued asking me a few questions, which I don’t really recall, but eventually she said something that included the word “Clarity” and I jumped. “Yes! Clarity! That is what I am looking for!” And she laughed. I told her my joke about being so unclear that I am not even clear about whether I am actually lacking clarity. We laughed. She suggested a blend of Lavender, Rosemary and Mint that she often uses for clarity (or perhaps she said this because she wanted to make me feel like there was a blend to accommodate my cuckoo needs). I said that would work, but perhaps light on the Lavender, because I am more of a fan of the Mint and Rosemary. And she said she could do that.

So, she started to prepare the mix, and then realized that her Lavender stock is apparently messed up, because it wouldn’t go into solution – kept separating – the conclusion was that her assistant must have accidentally dissolved it in a water-based solvent (hydrosol) instead of oil. I don’t understand this business. But the main point here was that we’d need to come up with an alternative to Lavender, since it was not gonna happen. Of course, one could also interpret this as a signal from the gods that clarity is not in the cards for me at this time, but I won’t be that cynical. She thought about it a bit, and we settled on Myrtle as being a viable substitute. So she did some mixing, and smelling, and mixing, and then she proclaimed “Wow! I like this. I think this is gonna be good!” So I told her that she should brand it as “Extreme Clarity” and she thought that was a great idea.

It was only $12, but it made me feel a little better about the free class. More importantly, I was thankful for the opportunity to have that little extra connection with someone who seems to have lived a very special life.

So now I’ve got this little bottle which will potentially bring illumination to all of the shadowy and elusive truths lurking in my consciousness.

Perhaps it’s a good time to start believing in this stuff?

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