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Ubud, Bali April 5-April 10, 2022

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Embracing the Role of the Student – Les Leventhal’s Detox Flow

When it comes to yoga classes, I generally play one of three roles: student, teacher, or assistant. During BaliSpirit Festival, I have worn a new hat: Blogger. I am a blogger by profession, to the extent blogging is considered a profession, and I take my role pretty seriously.

As a result, the classes that I have participated in during BaliSpirit Fest have been focused on the story. I am taking notes on what the teacher says, my thoughts and impressions of the class, the energy of the class, the reaction of the students. What I am not doing is fully practicing. Instead, I have ran the spectrum of flowing for about 80% of the class, while blogging for about 20%. Or, even worse, I have blogged for about 80%, and have practiced yoga for a measly 20%. And, can that even be considered practicing yoga? It is more like moving through some poses, more like aerobics than anything else.

By Saturday morning I needed to wear a different hat. I did not want to blog, and I did not want to assist, I wanted to move. I needed to move. I needed to be present in a class, moving my body with my breath. Just taking it all in.

I arrived at the festival early, and was happy to throw down my mat at the Grove Pavilion, leaving my notebook and pen in my bag. I had nothing but a sweat towel and my determination to flow, to move.

At 8 am, Les Leventhal started his Detox Flow. Les challenged my fellow yogis to define the term “detox.” He accepted any answer, including getting rid of toxins, getting rid of bad thoughts, and more. He did not accept the answer getting rid of “stuff.” He was going to be offering a lot to the class, and he expected more than just “stuff” in return.

Les gave it his all this morning, with a rousing playlist, that may have even annoyed festival goers in surrounding areas, particularly when he started with Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody a little after 8 am. He focused on twists and hip openers, encouraging the body to let go of something, to detox. As we started to move through the asana practice, with a fantastic and perfectly timed mix of current pop hits and 70s, 80s, and 90s classics (think Rihanna, Mamma Mia, Journey, Whitney, Gaga, and Tracy Chapman), I was in the zone, en fuego, on fire.

I had not moved this well for several days. It was not my ego that drove me. I had no desire to be better than the folks around me. I just wanted to move, to challenge myself. As my legs started to feel weak in vertical splits, I held on and tried not to bail. As my calves ached in pyramid pose, I held on and tried not to bail. My muscles quivered. My breath was challenged.

During Les’ Detox Flow, I must have been exorcising some serious demons, or exorcising some “stuff.” I managed to get into poses that I have been working on for awhile but could not get into (bound half moon). I managed to get into poses that I was afraid to even try before (side angle with Gomukasana arms, with the bottom elbow inside the front thigh – go ahead and try it at home). I even started working towards, although not fully into, something called Road Kill. 

It was the first time I felt something close to the spirit of BaliSpirit Fest, that I finally understood what it meant to move like that in a place like that.

By the time we reached the penultimate posture, a hip opening Frog Pose, Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You Blared from the speakers and escaped the lips of several students. Tears started to well just a bit. It could have been my hips screaming at me. It could have been my brain screaming at Les that I wanted to rest on my belly, not on my forearms. More people joined the Whitney sing along “I will always love you…” At that one moment, I certainly did not love Les. My hips ached, I tried not to bail. I didn’t want to bail.

I bailed. I came back in after a few breaths, and held the posture through the end of the song. I started to love Les once again.

With today’s class, Les hoped that students would start to pay attention to the pattern of relationships in their lives. In particular, forgiveness doesn’t always have to start with an announcement of the forgiveness, but in the act of forgiveness itself, to live in a more loving way, in a more forgiving way.

In that moment, as Les announced the final two breaths of the pose, Whitney’s wailing slowed, and the song ended, I was thankful to collapse out of frog. Something came up for me in this one pose, and in this one class. I am not entirely sure what it was, but in that moment I was at least willing to forgive Les for placing us in frog pose for over 4 minutes and 33 seconds. I was instead thankful, for an amazing practice, for the opportunity to move my body with breath, and for the first time in days, wearing only the hat of a yoga student.

Written by : Amber Hoffman

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