Originally published in the Winter + Spring 2019 issue.
I was sitting in the Muddy Buck Café in the heart of Evergreen, Colorado, with my vision board when a man in Carhartt overalls and heavy looking work boots leaned in, looking at all the pictures I had mapped together on the corkboard, and said, “this is nice, you did a good job.” I shrink into my seat wondering, but at the same time not really caring, about what he thinks of the corner of my board which is all about feminism.
Shortly after my latte gets delivered, my goal coach arrives. Jacki Carr, goal coach extraordinaire, sits down and marvels over my board, and then asks me, “Karstee, do you want to make space in your life for a relationship?” I hate this question, because admitting I do feels like betraying all the leaps and bounds I’ve made to be happy without one. But I do, I really do want to make space for someone, so I say, “yes.”
Instantly, Jacki gets to assigning homework, “It’s time for you to heal your sacral chakra then.”
Just a few months before towards the end of my Yoga Teacher Training, my yoga teacher Raj Seymour had led us through a class that explored the chakras. As we started to explore the sacral chakra he had us doing cat/cow type of moves, but even more restricted to the pelvic region of our bodies. As we did this gyrating motion repeatedly he asked us a series of questions: “When was the last time you loved someone romantically? When was the last time someone loved you? How did it end?”
I found myself becoming painfully aware of just how long it had been since someone had loved me like that, how long it had been since I had moved my hips like that. Ten years exactly. Not since I was married. I felt so self-conscious and so uncomfortable and suddenly something just burst open and I wept onto my mat — things that had been pent up in my bones just flowed out.
Ten years ago, I was married to a man and living abroad and trying to start a family, and in a matter of a few months all of that had changed. I went home to Colorado, while he went to Afghanistan. I found out I had Endometriosis, a painful disease which can make reproducing difficult. Shortly after sharing that information with him, he filed for divorce. From halfway around the world, over the phone and emails, my marriage ended and I never saw him again.
For years, I confused my sadness as a symptom of the loss of my marriage, of the betrayal I felt from my husband. But over the course of my years as a yoga student and many hours of therapy I have learned that the sorrow I felt was more from how betrayed I felt by my own body. Both things just happened simultaneously and so it was easy to pin the pain to one thing rather than to have to explore what it really meant to be reproductively challenged.
And rather than do the work, I left my body. I stopped communicating with it. I numbed it. Everything became cerebral, nothing was physical. Until yoga. But even then, that was more of a mental practice for me. I delved more into my thought patterns then I ever did my hips.
As fate would have it, one morning post goal coaching session, I lay in bed with my assignment to heal my sacral chakra. Raj had said that there are three things to help heal a sacral chakra deficiency: healthy sex (which is not going to happen anytime soon — the catch 22 is I probably need to heal my sacral chakra before I can find myself having healthy sex), water (but I seriously drink more La Croix than anyone I know) and dance. Rather than looking up local dance classes, I lay there watching Instagram stories. It was then that it happened: a story came onto my screen with a woman dancing so joyfully, so freely, happiness and confidence were oozing out of all of her pores. And I thought, “I want that, I want to feel that way.”
And I thought, “I want that, I want to feel that way.”
I used to love dancing. But, in the past 10 years I could count the number of times that I’d really let go and danced my ass off, and every single one of those times had included alcohol.
What would it be like to intentionally go to a dance class? Sober? As luck would have it that beauty that was dancing on my screen was Jill Emich, a local lady of Boulder with many talents, one of which she shares every Thursday morning at The Alchemy of Movement in Boulder in a class called Soul Sweat.
I’d found my dance teacher. My first class with her was a free community offering that she led at the Hanuman Festival. I repeated mantras over and over to myself, “No one is looking at you. Be here, be in your body. Who cares what you look like? Dancing is fun. You used to love it. You are someone with a beautiful heart who deserves love too. Dance. Shine. It’s ok.”
I made it through the first class and I felt so good. When I said bye to the girls I had danced by and told them it had been fun to dance with them, I was welcomed with mutual love and kindness and greetings of “you too mama, you rocked it.” Even though I knew it had felt silly and wasn’t graceful, I had done it.
The next day I was so sore. I had moved parts of my body that I don’t move every day. I wanted more, so I bought a 30 dollars for 30 days pass to the studio and arranged with my boss to take a month’s worth of Thursday mornings off from work so I could make it to Jill’s class.
Every week I was the first student there; the studio felt familiar, like a yoga studio — bare feet and hardwood floors, floor to ceiling mirrors. There was an older gentleman who would arrive and warm up doing moves from an era long gone, which made me smile. There was a little pistol of a woman who shocked me with her accuracy and buoyancy; she is an inspiration for sure, a vision for someday. There was a mother with a wild head of Jennifer Lopez type curls, and her daughter. Often times as a song and dance came to a close they ended hugging each other or laughing. The class overflowed with young women that would embrace each other at the beginning and end of class, women whose eyes could meet themselves in the mirrors, women who swiveled their hips and might let out a holler. I was completely out of my element, but I wanted to be there.
Every week I was the first student there.
Every week I was sore, but every week I kept showing up. That last week of my pass, I’d finally found my groove as Beyonce’s “Formation” blasted from the speakers. Finally, a song I knew well. For a moment I felt like that girl I used to be, the one who would dance in front of the mirror in my wedge heels, the performer, the girl who replicated moves she’d seen on MTV. The woman who when I was a young wife would dance bare foot on the stone tiles of my kitchen in England.
My pass is over now, and Thursday mornings are back to being relegated to just an ordinary work day. But a miraculous thing happened: the other night as I stood in my tiny kitchen chopping veggies from my CSA and listening to a podcast, I noticed myself swaying my hips to a salsa-sounding song playing in the background of the podcast. I turned the podcast off and turned on a real playlist and danced in my kitchen just like I used to.
Photos by Andrea Terrones.