Right Under My Nose

I’ve often shared on my blog that I love to practice kundalini yoga and also think it’s totally weird. You can read all about it here and here and here and, really, you should just read my yoga/meditation archive because the posts are a combination of hilarity and chill.

When we moved from Austin, Texas to White River Junction, Vermont in 2014, I had to say goodbye to my favorite kundalini teachers, and that move left a giant, gong-shaped hole in my life. I eventually found a wonderful yoga home at Upper Valley Yoga and enjoyed many transformative and super-fun yoga classes, thanks to the supportive instructors there. (Hi, Cathy and Leslie and Sharon and Sue and Mariah!) For the last six months that we lived in Vermont, I practiced yoga almost every day.

As much as I grew to love the hatha, vinyasa, and gentle yoga classes, I still really missed the kookiness of kundalini—the chanting, the breath of fire, the vibrating air around the gong, the meditations with my arms in the air that made me fear my arms would eventually fall off and I’d look like the Venus de Milo.

Then we moved to Prague, and the city worked her magic.

This is our bedroom. The window circled in orange on the left that’s visible through our window is important. That’s Druna, a space dedicated to movement and dance—and the home of totally awesome Kundalini Gong Yoga on Wednesdays at noon.

A thing you need to know about Prague is that there are all kinds of almost-hidden passageways and twisty little alleys that open into courtyards and gardens all over the city. The best way to explore is to give in to curiosity and wander places you’ve never been—and try to open doors that you assume are locked. It’s a bit like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland sometimes: spaces unfold before your eyes in unexpected ways.

The apartment buildings on our block are fairly typical for this part of the city: They’re four to seven stories tall, in shades of pale yellow, pink, or white, with slanted orange tile roofs and fancy window frames. They line the four corners of our block like soldiers standing at attention, forming a giant square of buildings.

But if you’re a bird—or a human with an apartment above the ground floor—you can look down into the open space inside the square formed by the buildings. And inside, it’s a courtyard filled with secrets. (OK. I only wrote “secrets” to make it seem more dramatic. In reality, our courtyard includes Druna, a nightclub, a few gardens, and a grassy yard that belongs to the building across the way. But it is still pretty enchanting.)

One night in May, when the weather warmed up and we’d opened the windows, Dave called me into the bedroom. “I can see people dancing!” he said. I imagined well-put-together people doing the tango or foxtrot. But by the time I reached the window, I saw nothing but the backs of the buildings and small patches of greenery. The next night, it was my turn! I saw the dancing in the window across the way. But it was not tango! It was more… experimental?

Now we had two mysteries: What was this place with the groovy dancing, and how did those people get in there? The building looks like a free-standing structure in the middle of the courtyard. Was it a secret society? Did we need to learn the password from a mystical crow or talking red squirrel?  The answers to these questions revealed themselves (sort of) at one of our first Czech classes. In an odd coincidence (which I’m beginning to think is typical of Prague), my internet friend Bethany ended up buying an apartment on the block where we rented our apartment. These events were completely unrelated and unknown to all of us until we met for tea one afternoon and discovered we were neighbors. And then it was revealed that our Czech instructor also lives on our block. When we were done gasping over the serendipity of it all, she partially solved the mystery of the mysterious dance class: “It’s Druna.”

“What’s a druna?” I thought.

Turns out, Druna is “a space in the center of Prague that is intended for the development of movement, voice and other artistic skills associated with the body. It is the space for those who want to discover and develop their talents, to transform themselves and their perception… You awaken your imagination, a mind that can turn the ordinary things into magnificent and impressive ones. The art enters your life anytime you allow it and turn it into a vertigo and poetry.”

Um, OK.

The people I could see from my window, the ones I thought might be doing some kind of interpretive dance? That’s exactly what they were doing. And right about the time I was ready to declare that Druna was a place I would never go—because I will do many things but improvisational dance is really not my jam—I saw these magic words:

12:00 – 13:30 Kundalini Gong Yoga (Irena Šorfová)

And so on Wednesday I accepted that I was wrong about thinking Druna was not for me, and I practiced kundalini yoga in this space…

… with our instructor Irena…

… and ten other class members. It included all of my favorite weirdo things! We chanted, we breathed the breath of fire, we did all manner of kriyas that moved energy up and down our spines, and when it was almost over, Irena played the gong. And not one of those little travel gongs, either! It was the real deal: 4 1/2 feet in diameter and not messing around. Then, just when I thought I was safe, we did a long, slow breathing meditation with our arms in the arm.

Ah, it’s good to be back at it. And for now, my arms are still attached to my body.

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  • Bethany says:

    Hi Mel! I am really enjoying reading about your adventures in Prague. I lived in Germany for 2 years when I was in my 20s, and it was so wonderful. I just wanted to say thank you for your blog and recipes, and Well Fed Weeknights has been a revelation to me! I’ve loved everything I’ve made out of it, and so has my hubby and 8-year-old son. Keep up the GREAT work!! Okay, I’m done fan-girling 🙂