It’s 7 a.m. but one look at the sky and you’d think it was high noon. Beads of sweat have already begun to form along my hairline as I trek across the grounds of the Riviera Resort in Palm Springs, California.
There are about 40 women of all shapes and sizes standing out on the Wexler lawn. It’s a perfectly manicured patch of grass that looks slightly out of place in the desert. And it’s much more suited for weddings than a yoga class. But conference space is tight and time outside is limited, so the spot works perfectly.
Brightly colored mats of green and pink lay in crooked rows of six or seven on the dewy morning grass. Yoga music plays in the background as the instructor, dressed in a tight-fitting pastels from head to toe, weaves in and out of the crowd.
I wouldn’t consider myself a yogi. For one, I’m Catholic and the spiritual side of it feels a little sacrilegious. But I do go once a week to a 90-minute hot yoga class to stretch everything out. It’s particularly important with all the weight lifting I’ve done over the past year.
The instructor in Tallahassee is a natural blonde, curly haired woman in her late 30s. She never takes herself too seriously and is quick to joke and quick with an easier yoga move alternative.
Yoga in California though – it’s just a little bit different…
This instructor is probably in her mid 60s. However, California is known for doctors with “magic hands”, she could easily be 40 or 80, depending on the surgeon. Her hair is dry, long, wavy and bleached blonde. She covers the roots with a baby-pink ball cap and her eyes with oversized sunglasses.
Class begins and we all stand on our mats, waiting for instruction, but it doesn’t come instantly. Rather, she begins by asking us to step off the mats and onto the wet grass.
“Feel the dirt beneath our feet and become one, grounded in the earth.”
Her voice is raspy, like a smoker…gruff, but the yogi-vocabulary takes a bite out of the harshness. A phrase my mom always used to say to me as a kid pops into my head for a fleeting second – “it’s not what you say, it’s the way you say it”. Then it’s gone and instead I’m focusing once again on the instructor.
“Take a deep breath in. Don’t forget to breathe. Are you even breathing?” she asks one woman.
A little different than the “go at your own pace, listen to your body” mantra I hear at home.
Next we offer a prayer/meditation/wish to a higher power because the world is crashing and burning primarily due to the President, which is made abundantly clear without his name ever being mentioned.
Then it’s a warrior pose. Our feet dig into the ground, slipping just a little on the wet grass, but not enough to warrant a change in the position.
The instructor weaves in and out of the rows. This time the instruction is to “imagine your face is smooth and your lips are plump.”
“Smile…But don’t overdo it…you don’t have to smile THAT hard.”
With 840 miles from top to bottom, California’s topography ranges from soft sandy beaches to rugged mountain tops, all mixed perfectly into one amazing state. It’s breathtaking and intimidating at the same time. When you look across the varying skylines, you can’t help but wonder, “is this even REAL?”
This feeling transcends into the culture and the people I’ve met while traveling around California. Beautiful. Diverse…intimidating as fuck. They are cooler than you and they know it, but unlike a New Yorker, they won’t come right out and tell you.
So I wear my trendiest sunglasses, my most bohemian top and my acid washed, high waisted shorts…I only wish I could feel as cool as I look when I’m in California.