By Michael Shapiro. Photo by Ali Kaukas
I don’t envy the newlyweds who picked this week for their Hawai‘i honeymoon.
The Turtle Bay Resort is a swarm with the lithe, and all their painted-on Lululemons and Lycra pants aren’t helping things. Tatted and pierced and dreadlocked, they radiate vitality as they fairly prance between classes, their bodies toned by thousands of vinyasas and their smiles sculpted by preternatural optimism. And little wonder: Four days of yoga, meditation, ocean sports, rainforest hikes, healthy food and live music would boost anyone’s luminosity a few candelas. But with hundreds of vibrant people powering up together on one of O‘ahu’s most spectacular coastlines, it’s all positively blinding. Distraction enough for the newly-minted marriage, but heaven help the couples here to celebrate a fortieth anniversary.
Two things you learn right away at a yoga festival: Everyone is intensely blissful, and there are no decent yoga clothes for men. My 50-year-old dad-bod is long past Lycra friendly, so I wear the most form-obscuring clothes I have—my pajamas—and search for a class befitting my lack of fitness. “Aging Gracefully” seems promising until I read the description and discover that the acquisition of grace requires ninety minutes of “intense and sweaty” yoga. “You Are a Spiritual Warrior” hardly calls to my innate passivity(in yoga they call it, charitably, “yin”). “The Core of You” will “challenge me to dig deep within” myself, which I’m reluctant to do because of the challenge part. Then I find it: “Deep Snooze with AIReal Yoga,” which consists of lying suspended in a silk hammock for half an hour, a “guilt-free napping experience” and a “floating savasana.” Ah, savasana—the pose where you lie on your back and let it all go. Usually it follows an hour or more of intense movement, but this—it’s like bypassing the entrée and going straight for the crème brulée. Maybe I’ll dig deep tomorrow; after all, I’ve got four days to find the core of me, which I’m pretty sure will be dozing in a silk hammock, wondering why I’m bothering it.
Still, with all these yogis and yoginis opening themselves physically, intellectually and spiritually—with meditation classes, “culture walks” sharing the ancient mo‘olelo (stories) of this stretch of the North Shore, surfing lessons, poi-pounding workshops and talks on self-realization (my favorite: “Make Your Life Feel Like an Orgasm,” which, while enlightening, turned out to be blatantly false advertising)—I feel lame for being lame. So I decide to push myself by stretching as far outside my comfort zone as I can—by signing up for the “HoopDance Fundamentals Playshop.”
I know I’m in the right place when I see the stack of hula hoops and note that I’m the only male within a hundred yards. I’m also prepared to fail embarrassingly: The instructors demonstrate what we’ll learn with such sinuous grace that even the women seem intimidated—and their hips are made to do that, while mine have all the mobility of a cinder block. Stationed at the back of the group, I fail as anticipated, evoking that solicitous expression reserved for the kid who gets an award for participation. But watching the women sustain the hoop’s rotation with the slightest rocking of their hips—they barely move—I realize I’m going about it all wrong. Instead of hacking my hips in choppy circles, I close my eyes and feel the hoop, connecting to its rotation from within, a flow found not by pushing the hoop but by following it. Turns out my yin isn’t so passive after all. Once I tune in, it becomes easy, and I feel like a child at play, unaware. that what he’s doing is difficult. Because, for the moment, it isn’t. When I stop, the instructor, who’s been playing at this for years, gives me a look that says, “See? You found it.” HH