Friday, December 3, 2010

Bring It: Finding religion on the mat and on the dancefloor

I’m not a religious person, but with seasonal change and holiday rituals, I can’t help but reflect on where and how I find religion in this crazy life.

For me, the circle of life goes from reckless release under the discoball to reprieve and reflection on the yoga mat. When there’s balance between both, bliss is mine. When one or the other is neglected, even glitter can’t make me right.

On the dancefloor, divinity comes from the DJ. On the mat at Gold’s Gym Castro, it comes in the form of a goddess named Maria Stanford. Every Sunday morning she preaches to our gayborhood “church,” encouraging us to set an intention about whatever it is that we hold sacred.

I’m a true believer in what Maria describes as “prana,” or “life force.” It’s exactly what I’m seeking, whether I’m moving my body to the beat or getting grounded in downward dog.

Breathing hard, sweating hard, and manclimbing hard (like I do on the dancefloor) are what remind me that I’m alive and that life is damn good when you live over the rainbow in Oz. The music that moves my spirit is what some would call church music - anthems with a classic gay sound, upbeat and soulful, rooted in disco with vocals almost certainly derived from gospel choirs. My spiritual songs have themes about redemption and salvation.

In yoga, we learn about “energy work,” and everyone in the room can feel the vibe as we soak up the sense of communal connection that Maria inspires. On the dancefloor we refer to a tribal sensibility, with the beat moving us collectively as one, and lately it’s our local DJs – Craig Gaibler and Russ Rich, to be specific – that leave me feeling blessed by their beats.

When the connection is there - when the prana is flowing - it’s magical. A simple smile from the shirtless man on the yoga mat next to yours, or from the shirtless boy at the club who accidentally bumps butts with you, can turn what might otherwise be a mindless workout into a mystical revelation.

I live for these moments, for what DJs call “the nod.” A mutual recognition of the life force we share is the best kind of high, and I’m lucky enough to experience it regularly, with friends and San Framily that inspire me to keep bringing it as hard as I can.

Can I get an amen?

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