A Beautiful Start to Our First Official Day

This morning at 7:00, before breakfast and before we take off for the airport to meet our 18 travelers, Karyn offered her first early morning yoga class to me and Brenda and any of the Sach’a Munay staff who wanted to attend. I don’t usually go to yoga class, Karyn’s or anyone else’s, but I wanted to support her, and I knew yoga would feel good and that it would help me get grounded for the long day ahead.

I headed over to the malloka at five minutes to seven, wearing my black Goddesswear pants, a turquoise smart wool shirt and my light grey sweater. When I walked into the studio, Karyn had already set up half a dozen mats, with bolsters, belts and blocks.

Within a few minutes her first yoga students in Peru arrived—Gonzalo and Isidora and Sadith and three other female staff members—and Brenda and me. More than half the class spoke no English, so Gonzalo translated Karyn’s instructions for the Spanish speakers, his voice a smooth baritone river flowing over lancient stones.

For most of the staff members, this was their first yoga class ever and there was a lot of giggling and smiling and good cheer as many of the instructions went over their heads. Karyn, who taught at Watsonville High School for many years, where 99% of her students spoke Spanish, peppered a few Spanish words into her instructions, which led to more delighted giggling: “Otre foot,” she said. “Mas wide” when she wanted someone to widen her stance. “Bueno,” when the same woman got the pose right. “Take the otre belt,” when she wanted us to pick up the white belt instead of the purple belt. “Bend this leg poquito,” she’d say. “Just a little.”

I loved Karyn for reaching out to her newest students in this way, and I could tell they appreciated her for making the effort as well.

As class went on, spontaneous joy rose throughout the room. It was palpable. As she modeled the poses, she gave instructions in English and Gonzalo’s Spanish rolled right under it in perfect harmony. We all felt it. Karyn’s class was a special gift for these people who had worked so hard to make thing beautiful for our group’s arrival.

As I struggled to straighten my leg in suptapadangustasana—supine leg to big toe pose—a crazy powerful upwelling of love filled my chest. Tears came to my eyes. Was it the power of the crystal in the mollaka? The sacred geometry on the walls? The apu—the spirits of the mountains—blessing our retreat? Or was it just awe for my wife?

I never go to Karyn’s yoga classes and she never comes to my writing classes. Our teaching worlds are separate except for occasional retreats like this one. In the past, when we’ve co-led these trips, I don’t go to her morning yoga class—it’s one of the only free hours I have all day. During that precious free hour, I’m I usually planning my next class or composing my next blog post.

But now I was in her class, surrounded by these good, generous people taking their first yoga class, a bilingual one at that, and I was filled with pride and pleasure and love.

Just last night our daughter, Eliza, sent us a What’s App voice memo from Boston reminding us it was our anniversary—asking us how we had celebrated. And we’d forgotten all about it. We were on vacation in Peru—who could keep track of the days? But now, sitting in her class, I felt the deep joy of our 28 years together. All that we’ve lived through—births, deaths, raising children, grandchildren, a fire, my cancer—and here we were in Peru creating this retreat together.

I savored the deep satisfaction and joy of the moment—and then it was time for savasana.

After savasana—corpse pose—Karyn had us sit up tall as she spoke the closing words of class: “Honoring the light within all beings. Honoring the light within you. Namaste.” Gonzales’ deep baritone floated just underneath, repeating the sacred words.

Then class was over, and the students spontaneously clapped. And they all promised they’d come back to yoga tomorrow.

It was time to roll up the mats, put the bolsters away. Time for breakfast and our drive to the airport. Time for the retreat to begin.

(Remember to read the captions under the pictures!)

What a place to teach!

All ready for class.

Yoga belts.

The view from savasana.

For those of you who read my post last night about the kids’ kickboxing class, here’s the evidence.

Breakfast porridge.

Fresh pineapple.

Fresh papaya.

Locally cured olives.

Eggs from chickens on the property.

My favorite—spicy asparagus for breakfast. There was also the best granola I’ve ever eaten but it was all gone by the time I came back with my camera.

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