This past weekend I attended a three-day yoga workshop with Sianna Sherman, a teacher I follow on Yogaglo and one who has taught many of my teachers in Portland. When I walked into the studio on Friday afternoon, I was immediately overwhelmed and intimidated. It was me - and about 60 very flexible, very energetic Indonesian women and a few equally strong and flexible Indonesian men. I felt very out of my element, and when asked to partner up for the first three hours to help each other with poses, I also felt very much out of my comfort zone. Despite knowing that my practice - without fail - improves when working in pairs, I always get a pit in my stomach when asked to partner up in a yoga room full of strangers. Its especially anxiety-producing when my partner doesn't speak English :) I spent much of the first day's two practices feeling the "otherness" of myself as everyone around me joked and chatted in Bahasa. Not to mention being completely in awe of most of the participants' ability to easily get into poses I struggle with regularly.
But after that first day and moving into the second, I started to notice a shift in my thinking. Rather than have my guard up and feeling overwhelmed - and maybe even a little sorry for myself that I didn't have a friend there - I gave myself permission to just observe what was happening around me. I saw an incredible energy and joy throughout the room. I saw a willingness to take risks and support each other. I witnessed a side of Indonesian culture that I don't often have in my little expat bubble. Rather than feel confused or frustrated by the constant talking and laughing in the studio, I appreciated that it represented a culture of love and socializing. I felt really honored to be a part of this "other" world. When I walked back into the studio after lunch or on the third morning, many of the women remembered my name and went out of their way to talk to me. I found myself in some great conversations, and laughing with and supporting the other women. By the third day, I was thoroughly enjoying partnering with a number of the women and learning from them. Instead of being jealous or in awe of their abilities, I was humbled by their skill and their art. Instead of keeping my guard up, I released it and observed the beauty of their closeness, laughter and friendships.
I went into this workshop thinking that it would be "just" yoga, but in reality what I got out of it was a really amazing cultural experience. The yoga was the conduit and of course I learned a lot and was very inspired, but the end result was more openness to the world around me in Jakarta. I felt like I was just getting warmed up when the workshop ended. I especially appreciated this unexpected gift of cultural awareness since I'll be leaving Jakarta in just a few months.