I have an intense aversion to doing partner exercises during workshops. Whether it's a writing workshop, a meditation workshop, a yoga workshop, or what have you, I generally attend these things because I want to look deeper inside... not because I want to make more friends or, God forbid, spend any more time talking to people than I already have to. Partner exercise is on my List of Things That Give Me Panic Attacks, somewhere between violent airplane turbulence and potential food poisoning symptoms.
When the teacher says, "Everyone, please grab a partner," that's usually a cue for me to grab my things and silently flee the room, generally running straight to my car. In the dharma course I've been taking at Spirit Rock, we chose "dharma partners" early on. This has worked out really well for me, since my dharma partner rarely actually goes to class. When we have to do partner exercises, I pretend my dharma partner is just in the bathroom for a sec.
Having spent years of my life taking and teaching transformational yoga retreats all over the place, I feel as if I've paid my dues in the partner exercise department. I have, on many occasions, had to:
- Bare my soul to a complete stranger who I have then run into, awkwardly, at dinner a half hour later
- Stare into some random person's eyes until I either fell in love with them (which is what is supposed to happen) or my eyeballs sizzled and fell out (worst case scenario)
- Take part in all sorts of yoga partner moves where my nose was uncomfortably close to someone's crotch or their toes practically in my mouth
But by far the most degrading partner exercise experience I ever had was at a Solstice Celebration Yoga Workshop I took right here in Mill Valley a few years ago. I won't name names, but Certain Teacher pulled the most sinister partner exercise coup ever. She had us team up with random strangers, stand facing them, look them right in the eye, and then ACT OUT IN MODERN DANCE PANTOMIME WHAT THEIR EYES WERE SAYING.
I swear, I could not make this up. I would have gladly died in that moment. Unfortunately, I lived to tell about it. I love her yoga classes, but will never take a workshop with her again. Because she can't be trusted.
I think we can all agree that at this point, I have earned my right to voluntarily sit out partner exercises. In fact, avoiding partner exercises—both in workshops and in life—is my M.O. right now.