By the time we reach the hotel, we’ve planned our itinerary with Wayan for later that week and our taxi services are reserved. Andrew and I kick back by the pool and enjoy the view of beautiful Mount Agung. We skim through Yoga Barn’s class offerings for the next day. In exchange for full participation, I have given Captain Andrew first dibs in choosing our first “Retreat Experience”.
“Tai Chi.” He says.
I scrunch up my nose and envision myself on the lawn next to 80 year old Chinese Man swimming in slow-motion through the invisible yolk of the Universe. I would be happy doing literally any of the other class offerings…
The next morning, I pull on my yoga tights and Captain Andrew ducks his head beneath his wrinkle-free-pirate-approved-polo-shirt. We enjoy a full, free breakfast upstairs by the pool, then embark on our first pilgrimage path.
We step through the gates at the Yoga Barn and enter…Santa Cruz, California. Stretch yoga pants, dreadlocks, and macrame ponchos bounce a rhythm along the walkways, their owners auras floating through the ethos one layer above the smell of their pachouli oil. I peruse the incense sticks, energy oils, and yoga books to the right of the counter while I wait in line to purchase our week-pass-to the-Universe-Portal.
“That will be $70US for a ten pass card.” The lady behind the counter whispers to me.
“Okay, do we need two, or can I buy classes for him with this card?” I whisper back.
She launches into an explanation about how the card owner must attend, but can bring guests so long as the owner is attending the same class. I lean in to hear her properly.
“Okaaaaaay,” I whisper back. “Thank you.”
With souls soothed by our low-decibel commercial transition, we look at the Barn map to figure out what room our Tai-Chi is located. This gives us our first tour of the Barn Compound: smiling buddhas decorated with marigolds; Shiva, Vishnu, and various other Hindu Gods swing their arms skyward; large open yoga rooms with hardwood floors, natural lighting spilling through floor to ceiling windows. A cafe that smells familiar and healthy - like vegan chocolate brownies in the bakery aisle at Whole Foods.
We are a bit early for our first class, so we enjoy a “Pre-Yoga Tea” at the cafe made of a spicy mix of ginger root, lemongrass, and pandas grass. My belly is warmed, my chi loosened from the side of my ribs, I’m sure.
Soon, our class gathers outside the door, we are scanned through with our card and we find space on the floor. A beginner’s class, no one seems to know any more than we do so we all sit and wait for the instructor.
We learn Tai Chi has two components. It is a martial art in which the practitioners use energy movement to add strength to their fighting, it can also be used as a low impact health and fitness workout. The objective is to relax and release any tension in the body, such that you can allow Chi energy to flow through you - circulating used energy out and bringing fresh energy in.
The teacher instructs us to sit on the floor, cross legged, with our hands resting on our legs, palms skyward. “Focus your mind on your left hand. Pay attention to your left hand. What does it feel like? Maybe warmth, tingling, pulsing? Now, move your mind’s attention to your right hand. What does your right hand feel like? Can you feel the creases in your palms? Your skin, your muscles?”
As we go through this exercise, my mind follows his commands testing the feeling in my hands as requested. I do feel funny sensations in one hand, then as my mind switches the funny sensation moves to the other. “This is to be expected,” Overthinker a.k.a. “The Inner Skeptic” explains; she is unimpressed. I open one eye and take a peek at Captain Andrew. What’s he doing? His eyes are closed, his Chi tingling in the palm of his hands, too.
“Where the mind gives attention, energy follows.” Our instructor explains.
“Everyone knows that,” Overthinker grumbles. I ignore her. Secretly, I am amazed at the idea that if I draw my attention to one hand, it feels different than the other hand.
It isn’t long before I am swinging my “orb of light” skyward, and in circles, sucking Chi up from the Earth, and rotating it through pathways in my body. As instructed, I hold my hands together as though I am holding an invisible football. “Feel the heat in the palm of your hands? The energy has arrived!"
The workout is surprisingly intense, but at the end of the class we feel relaxed and energized. Very nice. I sketch stick figures in my notebook in the hopes of remembering what we just did and incorporating it into my weekly routine - if for nothing else than the leg strength and balance work that would be nice on the boat.
We take seat at the cafe and order quinoa and wild greens salad with pureed avocado and lemongrass dressing. We don’t want to adulterate all that fresh new Chi with pizza just, yet.
“So, what did you think,” Andrew asks me.
“I liked it. I didn’t think I would like it, but I did.”
“Me, too,” Andrew says. I envision two Oddgodfreys and an 80 year old Chinese Man on the lawn.