Though jet lag quickly receded under my accelerated schedule like rain drops on a car window, I never got used to the intense schedule of the Zuna training. Every morning, as my alarms went off at five-minute intervals, shock always set in to my body, starting just under my rib-cage, working itself up to a pounding mind. With glassy eyes watching the lights above and the sound of Lucy in the shower, I would lay in bed, hoping, dreaming that I could simply roll over and fade back into the deep, dark currents of sleep.
Alas, I somehow forced my eyes to stay open despite the buttery, golden pull of exhaustion dragging down my conscious efforts. The eruption of my suitcase simply grew more profuse each day. Every morning, after pushing myself out of bed, I would do my best to sort through the yoga clothes strewn across the cold floor. I never had time for a shower.
Creeping through the dark night, I was always one of the first students at the open lounge. Sometimes a breeze trickled through, rustling the wooden wind chimes, moon still overhead. Curled up in the darkness, I draped myself on a chair, facing the sunrise. As I fought off sleep for the second time each morning, I would watch the slow pink blossom of the sun over the jungle. Stars still scattered themselves across the sky, trading in their light for the rising color in the sky. Sometimes, through the foreign twists and turns of my sleep-depraved mind, I wondered if that was the meaning of love.
My body would finally still from the shock of waking when the Tibetan singing bell rang, somewhere down the winding white steps. With a collective breath, all of us would stand, silently, and make our way down to the yoga shala. After the first few days, I had given up my sandals, preferring to feel the dew with the soles of my feet. Quiet as a cat, I quickly slipped down to the shala, pausing only one morning to look at a giant spotted bullfrog lurking in the shadows with amber eyes.
As we rolled our mats onto the wooden floor, the doors of the prop cabinet creaking, an ominous, thundering chant slowly radiated from nearby temples. Guttural, monotonous, and almost alien, it rippled across trees and rice paddies like an invisible dragon. Sitting with eyes closed on my meditation seat, it washed over me, strange but comforting. It was good to hear another human’s voice after a long night of silence, especially this one in all it’s primordial glory.
The first week Anna normally taught. Her voice clipped through the silence, setting us all astir. The stillness of meditation was like the last friendly grasp I had, my final refuge, before tumbling into another difficult session of yoga. My voice always broke in the first chant of OM as we stepped into the gateway of class.
There are many styles of yoga. In India, I practiced an incredibly meditative, gentle style. I have experienced the beauty of the boisterous, transformative Ashtanga practice. Yet I hadn’t practiced Hatha (or “power yoga”) since my anorexic days.
Inhale. I lifted my arms. Exhale. I fell back to plank. Inhale. Chest forward, arms pushing down, upwards-facing dog. Exhale. Downward-facing dog. The classes progressed. Inhale. Shoulder stand, the one yoga pose that, to this day, terrifies me. Exhale. Relax. Inhale. Lengthen. Exhale. Fold.
And so, like this, we made our way through, class by class. As we came into savasana, I always lay there quietly, trembling on the inside with relief. In these insecure days, each and every of those beginning classes felt like I was jumping out of an airplane, never sure if my parachute was there until I pulled the tab and made my shaky descent.
Meditation came after the quiet plunge into savasana, or corpse pose. We sat tall on the meditation pillows, eyes closed, departing from the sounds of the jungle, the wailing chant of the temples, the sounds of each other breathing. My breath gradually began to move in intervals, rising like a plume of fire, dissipating into the air beyond my nose.
After forty-five minutes or so, meditation ended. Standing, legs numb from time to time, we unfolded off our mats, disjointed from time. At the beginning of practice, the sun was just a hint across the sky; at the end, the outside world was immersed in blinding light, dripping with humidity.
“Enjoy your breakfast,” Anna would say, as we climbed the white stairs in silence. Fruit and sautéed greens, purple smoothie and a cup of sweltering green tea laid before me, I always felt like my day was finally allowed to begin.