A Yoga Workshop with Candace

It was a warm autumn morning, the city was quickly waking up as shops and restaurants opened their doors to wandering tourists. I made my way down Michigan Ave, catching glimpses of the rising sun enveloping the skyscrapers in light. I came to my destination, the Fine Arts Building, an old structure that left eyes wondering from its curves to the stone stairs.  I entered old elevator that moaned as it went up, an old man operated inside. I didn’t even have to tell him which floor I needed, he assumed, collecting an idea from the blue yoga mat that I held onto. I found my way to the studio, the room nestled in the back corner of the hallway.

I stepped inside the space to find it filled, yoga mats pressing together. Fairy lights were draped across the edges of the room, a soft glow that reminded me of starlight. The women made room for me, shuffling there mats across the wooden floor. I secured a spot next to a middle aged women and a college aged girl. As I began to unload my yoga towel, lavender oil, and put on my workout gloves, the young girl turned to me saying, “I just want you to know, I won’t be doing handstands and stuff like that, I can only do them once in a while.” I smiled at her and said, “No judgment here. I haven’t done a handstand before, I may try today…I’ll have to see though.” We both laughed and I continued to prep myself for the class.

The room was filled with such exhilarating energy that I was drunk off it. Any time I’m in a room full of women I become overjoyed, like an empowering energy that makes me my strongest self. The women ranged from middle age down to college freshman. The collection of our mats looked like paint spatters across the floor.

Soon after I got myself ready, Candace came in. A part of me was nervous and the other part of me was in shock to meet her in person. After she settled in and started the yogic music, we began a small meditation. Her voice soft, we sat in lotus pose with our spines grounded and our minds at ease. It allowed us as a class to hone in on our personal strength and tap into the feminine energy of the space.

Candace had us picture the negativity in our life as a ball of black and gray energy, she had to hold in our minds as we put in a box and sealed it away. She wanted us to focus on how we felt when we locked the box, how we felt lighter. It was a wonderful way to leave anything we were holding on to behind us and to start with a fresh preserve on our mat.

Once the mediation was over we started the flow. From holding downward dog and planks to resting in child and sphinx pose. Candace focused the workshop on her new book, Namaslay. This idea to embrace being uncomfortable, that in the moment of discomfort we find our truest selves. We transitioned from the flow into arm balances, this was the moment I was most nervous for.

Candace felt everyone’s hesitation and she said, “I don’t give a shit if you do a beautiful handstand or barely get your feet off the ground. All I care about it that you showed up and tried. Embrace that discomfort and grow from it.” With her encouragement we got into partners, I paired with the middle aged woman, and we began to practice. I ended up doing a handstand with the support of my partner spotting me. I was so proud of myself, when I came down from it I took a moment to just relish in that accomplishment. We continued to practice arm balances and it was very difficult, I wasn’t able to balance in crow pose but I kept trying.

Once our arms were shaking, our wrists worn out, and the sweat began to bead down our forehead, Candace started the abs portion. We steadied ourselves in boat pose, did some rocking, and pulled ourselves up into a deep crunch. I was so grateful when Candace announced the cool down.

The fairy lights dimmed as we stretched out, laying in corpse pose with one hand to our heart and the other to our belly, and we breathed in unison. Candace started the deep mediation, her voice lulled us into the deeper parts of our brain, the nooks that we leave untouched. The mediation eased our muscles and allowed us to absorb all the hard work we did in the class. The workshop was over as the rooms silence was being broken apart by whispers and the shuffling of mats.

I rolled up my mat and packed my stuff away, I got out my Namaslay book and got in line. I got my picture taken with Candace and my book signed by her, a personalized note to me. I gave her a hug and the next girl in line took my place. I returned to my bag and tucked my book inside. I left the class and I headed down the quiet hallway.

I descended down the flights of stairs with my thoughts clouded with gratitude and pride. When I got outside my boyfriend surprised me with a vegan matcha smoothie from the Protein Bar. He gave me a hug and a kiss on the forehead and we began out walk along Michigan Ave, the street busy with unfamiliar faces and the sun high above the skyline.

Yoga By Candace

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