One writer took her practice to a new (dark) level
Confession: I've had this thing for blindfolds lately. Don't ask me why—maybe it's simply the allure of eliminating one of my senses in my overloaded day-to-day life or, good grief, the constant commercials about the new Fifty Shades of Grey movie that are influencing me. If there's an event that requires me to be blindfolded or my eyes to be covered in any way (a masquerade ball, an immersive theater experience, even a massage), then I'm all about it. So when Woom Center, a new yoga and meditation studio in New York City, invited me to check out their Woom Yoga Experience class—described as a "signature Vinyasa yoga practice [that]...includes blindfolded segments, aromatherapy, and a complimentary fresh elixir shot"—I was intrigued. So, I signed up. (If you think this sounds strange, take a look at this silent yoga trend that will have you wearing headphones during class.)
The quaint studio felt nice and cozy when I arrived, and the staff was insanely welcoming. I was quickly armed with everything I would need: yoga mat, two blocks, a bolster and, most importantly, that blindfold. And this wasn't some flimsy little piece of fabric that I could kind of see through if I tried. The blindfold had thick pads that contoured right to my eyes, and it had a little "look inside" message sewn on that served as a reminder of my intentions.
Right away, our teacher had us sitting on blocks to help release our hips and loosen up. I put on the blindfold as she read to the class an inspirational quote to place everyone in the right frame of mind. (Discover more mantras for mindfulness and meditation.) Normally I zone out halfway through an exercise like this, but with the blindfold on, my sense of sight was completely eliminated, so I wasn't as easily distracted. I couldn't look around the room, which is a distraction in and of itself, and I didn't want to fidget with the stuff on my mat. So I simply sat there, focused on my breathing, and actually listened. And what I heard inspired me.
"You're not living someone else's dream any longer, that's for sure. You're not standing in line at Starbucks in your yoga pants, reading someone else's poetry on your smartphone. You're not reading anything anymore, for that matter. You're writing, moving, doing. You can't blend in. That's been taken. You're outed, honey, as a heathen and a maniac, and that's okay. Today. Speak it, own it, work it. Stop making yourself more palatable. You're not palatable. You're an artist. So enough with the camouflaging. Let yourself be seen. Do it already."
Hearing that while blindfolded really helped prepare me for a practice that was focused on nothing but me. While in the daily grind, it's far too easy to give, give, give without asking for anything in return, but if meditation teaches you anything, it's that taking time for yourself—and being comfortable simply being who you are—is crucial not just for your sanity but for overall health, too. (Check out these 17 powerful benefits of meditation.)
So I did my best to keep that quote in mind as I slipped off the blindfold and went through the yoga flow in a dark room. The practice itself wasn't anything out of the ordinary—I moved through strong poses like warrior II and III, and pushed myself to make progress in transitioning between balance poses like half-moon to standing split to dancer's pose. (P.S. This barre workout is also great if you want to improve your balance.) Whenever I felt like I was pulling out of the moment or losing track of my breath, I thought about that note on the blindfold: Look inside. And sure enough, those two words helped me shut out the deadlines and other tasks on my to-do list, and simply focus on being present.
After a strong sequence of poses that helped release tight muscles that needed some extra lovin', the class finally moved into Shavasana or corpse pose. Which, of course, is always the best pose of any yoga class. But rather than simply lying on ours backs and closing our eyes, the teachers had us put our blindfolds back on. As simple as it is, slipping a piece of fabric over my eyes worked wonders. Sure, the spritz of lavender essential oils that floated over my face helped too, as did the relaxing wind-chime instruments that the instructor played. But that little blindfold helped keep me focused, centered, and tuned in to how my body was feeling. Eliminating one of my senses allowed me the opportunity to let go of daily stressors, more so than I usually do.
The effects of the blindfold made me wonder: What would it be like to experience an entire yoga class while blindfolded? While there are of course safety concerns to consider—I can only imagine how easily I'd knock over the girl next to me if I fell out of tree pose—there's a lot of opportunity for deep meditation and bodily connection there. So while I wait for someone to figure out the logistics of an entirely blindfolded yoga class, I'll take this small trick into my regular practice. Even if I'm stretching at home, it's clear that putting on a blindfold can only make my practice—and my ability to let go of who everyone else wants me to be, even if only for an hour—that much better. (Consider that my self-care resolution for 2017.)