I have been living in Los Angeles now for about six months. I arrived and before you could say jimminy cricket I blissfully fit in. Upon realizing that everyone speaks about everything with everybody, I quickly adapted to the sociable lifestyle. I started riding my rusty old bike cruiser along the Venice boardwalk, I went to painfully trudge up and down the Santa Monica stairs, I lay out in the sand when the sun was warm and the wind was quiet, I watched dolphins jump playfully in the sea as I sat reading in my cosy bed, I even started to take yoga classes...... and yes, I meditated.
I must admit that several of these activities are very new and continuously exciting to me. When I see dolphins I don't look up from my book and gesture regally "aha, the dolphins...how quaint". I do, however, dash towards the window and squash my face against the windowpane panting with pure joy at the sight before me. Equally when I proceeded to plonk my fairly stable bottom upon the bicycle seat of my green (with rust) beach cruiser- instead of speeding off into the sunset, I catapulted violently to the ground. I had forgotten to peddle.
Walking up and down steps had always been something I had equated with those who cannot afford a "proper" gym. My older brothers used to scoff at my love of the stair master. "Why don't you just walk up and down the stairs?" I would roll my eyes at "the brothers" (as I call them) and despair in their lack of understanding. "Stairs, ha!" I would retort, "you guys don't get anything do you..."How they would squeal with joy at the sight of me, walking up, walking down, walking all around the blasted Santa Monica Stairs. It is, I admit an excellent exercise routine; albeit dreadfully boring. The thrilling part is eves dropping on other people's conversations. Once I heard a rather heavy man become pals with a rotund lady. It was a perfect match, not because of their similar physique but because both were the most hysterically funny, wonderful people. I grew to adore them quickly. He had a large round face, a mid-riff shaped like a pear, plump legs and his balding head was covered delicately with the hair that continued to grow out of his right side. It was gently folded over to the left. She was a wonderfully loud "mama" who had a bottom the side of three of my heads. I was admittedly tempted to touch. It looked firm and big. She had the most beautiful smile that glistened with her dark exotic eyes. She must have been from Jamaica as her broad accent sent chills of joy down my spine. "ey man - if we talk you goona see how fasta this is gonna go..." And they did. They talked about life, their wife and husband, their children, politics, told jokes and laughed. Soon I found myself not only eves dropping but following them. They seemed to pick up on this as they repeatedly looked back at me as if to include me in their conversation. I feigned ignorant to their actions. When I giggled along with them I had to cover my chortles in a cough, other times I would just nod along in agreement. Sometimes fiercely especially when they touched upon politics as we just so happened to agree.
The moral support found at these stairs is very endearing. Everyone sort of cheers their fellow "steppers" on. "It's worth it... You can do it!.... Keep going man! .... Girl, you got it!" - are but a few of the merry catch phrases that emanate from people's lips as their sweaty bodies barely pass one another along the famous, narrow, steep Santa Monica stairs.
It was one day that my friend Gaby and I were panting up and down the stairs that she asked me to come to yoga with her. "Jenny, come... neh?" she luringly purred in her soft Brazilian accent. "I don't know...Gaby. I don't think I'm ready"I hesitantly replied. To this she gave me the look. The look of 1) Jenny I have invited you twenty times, when will you be "ready?!" 2) Shut up and just accompany me you will love it, and 3) Jennnnyyy.... come to yoga....
So I did. I had been putting it off for weeks and finally decided I would try this "yoga" business everyone found so bloody enjoyable. The room smelt of sweat as we walked in barefoot (we had to leave our shoes in the entrance... I was told this as I clumsily marched on into the room, uggs and all..) But it wasn't a bad smell. It was sort of warm, human, and comforting in an odd way. I sat down on my borrowed mat which the lovely girl Nicole at the front desk had smilingly handed over. She had winked at me and muttered "This mat is one of the best...enjoy". I am a sucker for such VIP treatment so I was sold quite easily from the onset. "How lovely!" I thought. People started pouring into the class, each one of them wearing white. All white. I would dare to assume that even their undies were white. As more people entered a soft merry murmur filled the room. People hugged, kissed, waved, laughed, and then lay their fit, streamlined yoga bodies down on their comfy colourful mats. I followed suit having gawped at everyone coming in, I felt as if I too had participated in the welcoming ceremony that had just taken place. As I lay down my head all I could think of was "what shall I do if it goes all quiet and these crazy movements I am about to attempt, make me ... break wind". This seemed like something I could possibly do. I had been told that this is a regular occurrence and is not frowned upon, per se. Unless the smell is unbearable. Then what? Is one sent out? Oh my God the panic...Just then the class fell silent.
A human form floated by me, her toes gently kissing the wooden floor. I opened my eyes and sat up. There was Kia. Ah Kia. The beautiful magical wondrous Kia. She wore all white. But she didn't look like any of the other people in the room. They did not emanate the same positive something that she did. I suppose I should say she emanated a positive energy...she really did. She made me smile and all my previous thoughts, all my worries of creating disastrously awful stenches, ceased. "How is everyone feeling today?" Kia asked in her warm gently voice. I was kind of tired. Having gone up and down the stairs ten times I was feeling mildly shaky. Everyone in the class, however, was tired. "Alright" Kia said mischievously, "lets get the energy up...ready" Then she made us stand up, and dance, on the spot, for ten minutes. At first I thought, "Oh help". Moments later I still thought, "this is ridiculous", and then something happened. I let go. I looked around at everyone smiling and giggling around me, and I too started to giggle and dance enthusiastically waving my arms in the air. Oh, I failed to mention we had to keep our arms in the air for those ten minutes. "Whatever you do, keep those arms up!" Kia exclaimed happily as she bounced from foot to foot and circled around her mat gleefully. We all copied. "Okay, now deep breath. Hold it in. Reach up...and let it out". We then sat down, cross legged, and the class began. We chanted, we did downward facing dog and flowed from one position to the next. At first I could barely touch my toes, and then my body gave in. My fingers conquered by toes clasping them firmly as my head swung back and forth upsidedown. Never before have I saught my "third eye". A mystical place in between your eye brows. But as I stared, and engaged in a florid conversation with myself, I started to see a bright circle, there, in the middle of darkness. "Is that it?" The more we breathed, moved, and meditated the quicker I could reach this mysterious circle. Soon my mind shut up (well almost). When I finally stopped thinking for 2 seconds I felt as though I was floating. As we lay in shirvasana at the end of the class, a time to feel gratitude for practising, and all life hands you, and a time to tune into one self even more, I felt as though I was spinning round and round. The way I had previously done from inebriation when I had gotten into bed and had to place one foot on the floor for stability and as a vomit prevention method. Yet whilst I lay there spinning I felt a tremendous sense of security. All was well. Then I felt as though I was flying. I was light. My body no longer rested on a mat, on a wooden floor, in Santa Monica. No, my body was flying, over trees over mountains. I felt my arms moving steadily up and down beside me. I was flying - like a bird! No other word can summarize the feeling other than it was truly - awesome - in every way. I then, unfortunately, started thinking - about how I wasn't thinking and therefore was able to reach this flying state. "Bam!" End scene. I was back on a mat, in Santa Monica.
When the class ended and we all namas deyed our way out of the room I felt like a different person. Something had shifted. I know, yes these are all eye rolling worthy statements, yet, believe me I felt different. How? Suffice to say that I felt happy. I felt this was good, and I have felt continuously better the more I do yoga. I now could basically call myself a yogi. I practice yoga. I am not used to saying this yet, probably because sitting crossed legged seems to not be in my genetic make-up; I just can't, however, I practice on a regular basis, and feel pretty freakin' good about it. This is taking me somewhere good. Maybe to a place where I will be able to sit cross legged without looking like a squatting chip-munk - who knows.