Ever looked a stranger straight in the eyes for minutes in a row without escaping?
My wonderful yoga teacher, Laura, suggested to do a free class in open air followed by a picnic on the beach. She invited all her students to come and also friends were welcome. In my enthusiasm I said yes to this marvellous idea. When I arrived at the destination, a coastal cave, we were only with a small, but nice group, some faces I had seen before. “We’re going to do yoga in couples,” Laura said.
Immediately resistance arose. I don’t like practicing yoga and sit or stand in uncomfortable positions together with someone else. I looked forward to doing yoga like we always do, especially after a long bike ride in the warm evening. Sun salutations and stuff. Okay, you’re here now, I said to myself and I sat down on my mat. We started with some meditation, sitting across each other, eyes closed. I placed my right hand on my heart and my left palm I placed on her hand which she held on her heart. I peeked with one eye just to see if I did touch her hand at the right spot. We breathed.
Then Laura said to open our eyes and to look at the person in front of us and to gaze into that person’s eyes. See the colours of the eyes, look well and see what lives in and beyond those eyes. I started to smile at her, an Argentinian young woman, who was a stranger to me. She smiled back to me, her blue eyes were beautiful. So far I felt okay, but a little while later while we kept looking into each other’s eyes, I began to feel shy and uncomfortable. I looked away for a second, my mouth felt nervous. Still I thought her sparkling eyes were friendly and beautiful. Quickly I watched the other couples. They looked utterly focused, but one couple was also a couple in life. To look your partner in the eyes shouldn’t make uncomfortable or shy, should it, but a complete stranger? So, for them it’s easy, I judged. I stared back into her eyes and she looked into mine. Minutes seemed to take longer than ever. Sometimes I closed my eyes just for a few seconds as it felt quite intense for me. I tried to relax and hoped my eyes weren’t too restless to look into. When Laura said we could leave our positions to embrace each other I finally could escape and I felt released.
This was difficult. I felt so incredibly shy and vulnerable during this intimate eye gazing. We gave each other a hug and finally my resistance for doing yoga together vanished. This ancient tantra practice is meant to open your heart and to be more present. During class we touched each other’s hands, legs, arms, backs in several yoga positions. After the eye gazing, I was fine with that. There was surrender instead of resistance. I thanked her; her name was Lucia.
After an hour or so, we did a breathing exercise all together, we sat in a circle, closed our eyes and placed our right hand on the back of the person next to us. When the class came to an end we did a fat group hug, which is always nice. I love group hugs 🙂 The cave started to get darker and I wanted to get on my bike to cycle home, which isn’t close anymore. But I stayed, had a glass of gazpacho that Laura’s husband had made and I realised it was a perfect occasion to practice some Spanish as well. After 5 years on Ibiza I still feel insecure when speaking Spanish in a group. That’s because it doesn’t happen often when I’m in a Spanish speaking company where no English is spoken. It’s the second time that evening I found myself out of my comfort zone. But it’s true what “they” say: that’s the place where things happen.