Week 24: Yoga in the Mountains of Colorado [Score +24]
Steamboat Springs, Colorado has become a beloved second home over the last four years after it became the actual home of my younger brother, Chase.
In many ways, Chase and I are yin and yang, total opposites of each other. He’s very social and is always on the go, while I can be perfectly content with a book, dog, and quiet evening at home. He’s flexible, adaptable, and doesn’t like to make plans, while I do very little without a plan, and “disciplined” routinely pops up in my personality profiles.
We’ve remarked on our different interests and styles, but as we both grow older and spend more time together as adults, I recognize more and more fundamental values and characteristics that we share that help us to not just get along but to truly enjoy spending time together.
I treasure my visits with him in Steamboat Springs, and not just because it’s a gorgeous, fun place to be.
I just got home from my latest trip—a 12-day adventure starting August 10—and have lots of photos and stories to share over the next few posts. Starting with Day 1, I checked two items off my want-to-do list: a yoga festival and an AcroYoga class.
Steamboat Movement Fest
My mental image of a yoga festival looks like what I’ve seen depicted or caricatured on TV or Instagram: calm, blissed-out people in flowy, colorful clothing meditating and chanting or doing contortionist pretzel postures in exotic locations. There is likely gauzy fabric draped in open windows that gently flutters in the breeze, and perhaps they’re sipping coconut water after practice or sitting cross-legged on the floor with cups of tea.
Sounds awesome. Can you blame me for wanting to go and see it for myself?
As I was researching new things to do in Steamboat on this year’s summer trip, I found the Steamboat Movement Fest: a four-day yoga festival taking place on the first weekend of my stay. It couldn’t have been any more convenient.
Chase’s job requires him to be on the road a lot as he covers most of his western-Colorado territory. My first Friday in Steamboat, after breakfast at our favorite restaurant, he dropped me off at the Movement Fest on his way out of town for the day. Yoga mat and water in hand (wearing workout gear, not flowy organic clothing), I joined a community class at the base of the ski slopes at the Steamboat Resort. I saluted the sun with a couple hundred other people under a clear, azure sky and was glad I’d remembered to lather on my sunblock as I soaked up the intense high-altitude rays during savasana.
At this first class and location, I didn’t see any gauzy drapes, but there was plenty of mood music and actual free-form interpretive dancing after the class was over. I was more interested in satisfying my growling stomach by this point, so I hopped on the bus back into downtown Steamboat, made a stop at the grocery store for a sandwich to go, and made my way to the opposite end of town for my next class: AcroYoga.
I learned from a podcast interview with one of the founders, Jason Nemer, that AcroYoga combines three practices: solar acrobatics, lunar therapeutics, and yoga. The acrobatic part is what catches your eye first as an observer: people standing on top of each other, balancing in gravity-defying ways, creating beautiful lines and shapes. The acrobatic element is also what I found the most intimidating.
As the class started, I realized that a core challenge of this class for me (that I hadn’t really considered) would be a necessary one if I wanted to do this: it required partnering with a stranger.
Not just partnering with a stranger, but being in physical contact with that person in places that are well outside the usual friendly-with-strangers ways.
My partner was a 56-year-old woman about five inches shorter and 30 pounds less than I who was immediately concerned with telling me how athletic she still is as a former competitive triathlete. I got the impression that she’s not comfortable with how aging is requiring her to reassess her capabilities, but it wasn’t important for the next 75 minutes.
After our first few introductory exercises to learn the basic principles of AcroYoga, we took on a third partner so that we would rotate through one person being the base (the person supporting most of the weight), one the flyer (the person being lifted), and one the spotter (the person charged with making sure the flyer doesn’t get dropped on their head). Our third partner was a young woman from the Steamboat area who had tried one AcroYoga class in the past and still seemed quite nervous about this second experience.
Over the course of our 75-minute class, we did Plank on Plank, Front Plank to Front Bird, Chair Pose on Shins, and High-Flying Whale. (Yeah, those names didn’t mean a single thing to me before the class, either, so here are some photos from YogaJournal.)
The Festival organizers captured a few moments from our work on Front Bird, and you can see me in the back corner of one of the photos.
If you want to see what this looks like in action, this 12-minute intro video is very similar to the beginning of my 75-minute class to give you a good idea:
My partners and I found that of the three of us, I made the best base. For one, my legs are strong enough (thanks to my personal trainer!) to press up and hold the weight of another person. I was also most comfortable in that role because I didn’t fully trust my other two partners to stably hold me as the flyer. I didn’t want to be dropped on my head or rear end if I could help it, so I happily volunteered to be the base first.
It was a fun departure from my usual routine, and a challenge both physically and mentally since I had to pop the personal-space bubble I usually walk around in. I would definitely take another class.
Worn Out But Energized
By the time Chase got back into town from his day on the road, I’d completed a third, general-flow class with some women’s spirituality and empowerment woven in. I loved the teacher, a woman from Boulder, CO named Shannon Paige. To finish the class, she again pushed our personal-space boundaries: she asked all of us to come in the center of the space and sit cross-legged as close together on the grass as possible.
Closer. Closer still.
Close enough that we could sit and touch at least five other women at a time.
Doing exactly that, arms intertwined and feeling the pleasant warmth of multiple hands resting on us, we closed our eyes, and she gave us a prayer to an unnamed G/god for strength, empathy, and kindness for ourselves.
It was precisely what I would expect in my experience at a yoga festival in the mountains of Colorado. I loved it.
Three and a half hours of yoga had left my muscles quivering with fatigue, but my mind was energized and happy.
- Did something outside my routine: +1
- Left the house: +1
- Ventured >50 miles from home: +10
- Did something entirely new: +1
- Activity benefits my health/wellbeing: +1
- Burned real calories (so I got some exercise): +1
- Signed up for an activity without knowing anyone else involved: +2
- Had a conversation with a stranger of at least 30 seconds: +2
- Had a conversation with a stranger beyond basics (i.e., work, hometown, what’s your dog’s name): +2
- Learned someone’s name: +3