|Kitty and Ro, Kissy-Kissy during a smoothie break|
The reason I am here is because I am on a Qoya Retreat. Qoya is.....well, I always struggle to complete this sentence. One thing I can say is that Qoya was founded by one of the most dreamy, enchanting, genius women I know, Rochelle Schieck.
Qoya is a movement class. It is a spiritual temple. It is a shamanic journey. It is the dance party you have always dreamed of. It is communing with the very throb and heartbeat of a garnet sunset, a baby's giggle, the wag of a dogs tail, a rainstorm in the jungle. Qoya is a form of exercise, but at it's essence, Qoya is a way of remembering that we are all inherently wise, wild and free.
When I was growing up, my least favorite time of the week was gym class (except for the one week/year where we learned square dancing). From Kindergarten all the way through 12th grade I was literally always picked last for team games. I still feel my throat close up a little when I recall seeing a red kickball sailing it's way through the air, straight at me standing there on the gymnasium floor. I knew in that moment, this was it. If I caught it we'd win. If I dropped it, well, we were fucked. I also remember the sickening groan from my entire 4th grade class as I felt the red ball slip through my open arms, and the hot tears that slid down my cheeks after class was over.
My whole life I tried to exercise like a good girl. I did aerobics, took runs in the park, yoga, torturous mornings at the gym where I would run full-pelt towards myself in a mirrored wall in front of the treadmill, when all I really wanted to do was run as far away from myself as I possibly could.
My course of action was to do exactly that. For years I would vacillate between exercise binges and exercise fasts. I'd keep my charts and count my reps for a week or two, and then get so angry at myself for having to miss a day when my knees hurt that I'd give the whole thing up and shun exercise for the next few months. Exercise, to me, was little more than atonement. A way of trying to right the wrongs of this feminine body that was always too fat, too pale, had boobs that weren't perky enough, toes that weren't slender enough, etc. Almost all these things I so desperately wished to change were these things that exercise alone would obviously never be able to change. But to me, it always seemed like the perfection and escape that I so longed for lay just beyond the next hill, or in this case, the next set of Pilates tapes I could order off of a TV infomercial.
After dancing Qoya with Rochelle for a few years, I am happy and proud to say that my relationship to exercise today is quite the fine romance. In Qoya, we draw from the wisdom of yoga, the sweet, wild abandon of dance, and the freedom of sensual movement. Class always begins with a slow, delicious warm up. The message "if it feels good you are doing it right" is repeated over and over. There is no competition. No way of doing this wrong. The class then transitions into a sensual, hypnotic way of doing yoga that feels like a moving prayer. This is followed by dancing, both choreographed and free dance. But this is not just any dancing. When you dance Qoya you dance your whole life. You dance your deepest truth. It is impossible to explain in words. It is like trying to explain swimming in the ocean. Something you can't really understand until you experience it yourself.
All of this is done to a soundtrack that takes you from India to the Lower East Side, up to the heights of Heaven and back down to the dance floor of Soul Train. The music is a collection of everything, because Qoya is a collection of everything. It is an hour where there is no such thing as the right way, except the way of your own body and soul.
So, why am I sitting here in front of a computer, hair still wet from the ocean, soft reggae lulling me in the background while I drink a green juice, writing to you? Because there is something big happening. It is happening right now. And I would like to invite you to be a part of it.
At the retreat there is a team of three Norwegian grad students who have made it their mission to bring Qoya to children with Qoya Kids. But they can only do it if they raise the $8000 they need through their kickstarter campaign. They are over halfway there, but there are only four days left in the campaign. I have donated a few hundred in honor of my 9 year old self. For me it is a way of getting her out of that old polyester gym uniform and slipping her into a hot pink tu-tu, cranking up Cyndi Lauper and telling her to just go crazy for 20 minutes in the middle of her school day.
Imagine if kids could have an education in what is right about their bodies, how to listen to them, how to follow them. Imagine if you were never told to sit still in Church. Imagine if the act of not sitting still actually was your Church. If everything you had ever tried to find in a temple you suddenly discovered inside yourself, at the age of 5. Imagine if your parents, your friends, and your whole community all knew and practiced the exact same thing.
Don't just imagine it. Join me in supporting this passionate, wonderful, extraordinary project. Let's change our future, by making the present so much better for our kids.
PS - another reason I am here is because I becoming trained as a Qoya teacher! This Summer I will be teaching practice classes for a very small donation, so if you would like to be added to that list please email me at email@example.com. I would love to dance with you!