I was nervous the second I kissed my girlfriend goodbye. Hugging her felt like having a safety blanket close to my body and that IS what she is…the tiny threads of her tapestry keep me safe and warm & have that resounding and tangible feeling that everything’s going to be okay. It may seem like I need a motherfucking privilege check as I regale you with the worldly woes of my worries surrounding going on a goddamn yoga retreat. However pretentious it may come off, this is my experience and my story and I happened to be terrified. I agreed to go only after a few things seemed to align in a way it seemed inevitable, even cosmically aligned.
The thought of going to another country I’d never been to, not knowing anyone scared the shit out of me. While I was friends with the instructors leading the trip, the absolute last thing I wanted to do was make them feel responsible for me in any capacity. They had 46 other humans to consider and I wanted to be a participant as much as anyone else. When I found my departure gate I did a quick peripheral scan to try and pick out any yogis – I looked for Lululemon pants, people cradling herbal tea in eco-friendly mugs, infinity scarfs, Mala Beads, and any and all auras that weren’t shit colored. I immediately noticed a woman I recognized from my Yoga studio, Amy, that I’d met whilst picking up a check one day. When I saw her I had two thoughts:
- It would be cool if we sat next to one another on the plane but what are the odds? Planes have a lot of seats. I’d remind her about the time we met, and from there we’d have conversation and I’d have some kind of connection going into this thing, and at a minimum – a kindred spirit to go through customs with. Call it coincidence or me manifesting some serious shit, but we not only sat together on our way into Sayulita – but on our way back too. The trip home was a true journey, and consisted of me panhandling barf bags from everyone around us because Amy literally used up 97% of the aircraft’s supply. Bless her heart and despite going home with a small spray of vomit of my sleeve that didn’t belong to me, I wouldn’t change my seat if you gave me the option.
- My second thought was geared more towards my newfound crippling social anxiety, a sweet surprise brought to me by my mid-30’s. I saw Amy from afar chatting easily, which led me to believe a lot of people already knew each other. I spotted a bar within viewing distance of my boarding area and settled in. I considered if 10:17AM was too early for a beer for the first time in my life. It didn’t seem like something someone going on a yoga retreat would do. I should be shooting wheat grass, not whiskey! I succumbed to quietly sipping on an ale anyways, mostly spurred by my work only making it two hours before calling me on my first day off with an inane question they probably could have answered themselves.
On the flight Amy made me feel at ease. She was the best kind of person to have next to you – the kind who you can engage in pleasant conversation with but also isn’t going to be offended when you put your headphones on. By the time we’d gone through customs I’d met another girl Celeste, a schoolteacher from Salt Lake. I knew that we were going to get along when we walked by a tray of mini-margaritas and we were the only two from our group to physically beeline that direction as though we had magnets in our bodies attracted to them. I learned she had two dogs, one of which was a Pug named Biggie Smalls, and was meeting her friend from Vermont in Mexico.
I arrived late to dinner thanks to the OCD I have to get unpacked ASAP on a trip, and my worst nightmare ensued. Almost all the tables with anyone remotely recognizable to me were full. Of course, I could have sat anywhere but in my mind I’m playing out a scene from some meditative version of ‘Mean Girls’ where they were going to tell me I couldn’t chatarunga with them. I sat with Amy and her two friends – Alex & Chris from California. We bonded over our mutual disdain for Power Yoga and Chris eventually realized: “Oh my god, you’re the one who wrote that blog Katie posted!” (You know, the one where I said that Power Yoga takes my yoga boner and sends it inside of me like an alligator penis) “I WANT TO MAKE THE BLOG,” she asserted, “I’M GOING TO MAKE THE BLOG.”
She would say this several times over the course of the trip, once twirling around a pole and dancing while she’d definitely already made it, but it was cute to let her keep going. Post dinner I was invited on a Churro excursion that made me aware for the first time that getting a bunch of yogis to go anywhere was like herding cats. The group that invited me, I swear to Gaia, kept vanishing and re-materializing from different vantage points, all over the hotel. The floor plan was very open and you could kind of see all three levels and I made a joke to someone about how it was taking forever to gather and I couldn’t understand how every time I blinked they were plus or minus a member hanging off a different balcony. “Well we’re all just flowing in this life,” he sighed heavily and paused, “We’re going with the breeze is all.”
“Oh God,” I thought. “Am I about to go on an excursion with a bunch of wooks?” Needless to say, that wasn’t the case and although our original mission was thwarted as the stand was closed, we wandered the streets of Sayuilta at night and I started getting to know the cast of characters that would grow more important as the days went on. I took an immediate liking to Ashley, who told me after working at Hot Dog On A Stick for 10 years she had gotten her LCSW and also was trained in Yoga Nidra. I admired her career path. There was effervescent Andrea, who laughed when I told a dick joke and Wendy who I had seen in the airport and speculated whether or not she was also gay based on the jeans she was wearing (she was).
In my journal that night (which was essentially just a bunch of scribbles and notes to help remind me of my day-to-day) I wrote this: “Got some gelato & Xanax, made some dick jokes and realized I’ll always be me.”
I went into this trip thinking “Tanya…don’t be you. I mean be YOU but maybe just a slightly toned down version?” I’m a lot, and I’ve come to terms with the fact that it’s totally okay not to be everyone’s cup of tea, because everyone is certainly not mine. I was scared if I was my sarcastic, unapologetic, and sometimes too quick-witted for my own good self – that I would turn people off. That they would question my practice, my commitment to my spirituality, or think I was unappreciative.
It was only Day One when I realized it: I am not an act, and I am not an apparition. I always deserve to be my authentic self, and guess what? My authentic self is really, really weird and I like that. And if you present yourself just as you are – idiosyncrasies and all, it will attract the people you’re meant to be around. My illicit intention to not “be me” lasted a staggering hour and for that I am grateful. On Day One I tried to be normal, but then it got boring, and I went back to being me. Whether you’re an asshole in Ashtanga or compassionate with all your chakras aligned in perfect order – the best version of yourself you can be is simply whoever you are.
I don’t want to give too many spoiler alerts but I decided there was either some crazy kismet reason I was meant to be there but if not – fuck, I’d still be hanging on a beach in Sayulita. I’ll leave it to you to decide how things unfolded.