I have a mild obsession with the 1960s. The fashion, music, architecture and the transformative time in society are all fascinating to me. In today’s time we can still enjoy many things from the 60s. We can still listen to The Beatles and buy bell bottom jeans, but something I didn’t think was still possible was to take those not-quite-fitness, not-quite-therapy, group classes that retreats in California used to teach. The word retreat maybe brings to mind a luxury cabin in the woods, and a weekend filled with hiking or fancy wines with dinner, but in the 1960s retreats were used to connect you to your mind, your spirit, and to the others around you. I was delighted to find, was exactly what I always envisioned those retreat classes to be like.
InterPlay is described as an, “active, creative way to unlock the wisdom of the body,” according to its The InterPlay class I attended was taught by Lee Edwards at New Moon Yoga in Traverse City. A Traverse City resident, Lee initially started teaching interplay in Ann Arbor before she moved up here and still makes trips down to Ann Arbor to teach classes.
Going to any kind of group class for the first time can be intimidating, especially with something you haven’t done before, but Lee was so warm and welcoming from the beginning that I didn’t feel like an outsider for a moment. The class runs every third Saturday of the month. The studio was large and there ended up being eight of us, all ladies, although men are welcome and have attended before.
“I believe we’ve had four men come to classes in Traverse City,” Lee said.
The class begins with a warm-up that consists of letting your limbs hang limp and shaking everything out while releasing audible breaths, and we sound like a group of exotic birds. After we are warmed up, we partner up with another class attendee and find a space in the room where we sit and face each other.
“Decide who will be rock and who will be stone,” Lee said.
My partner decided to be rock. Lee reads from a sheet of prompts and says that the person who chose to be rock will talk to their partner for 45 seconds about how their day has been so far. The person who is stone is not to interrupt, just to listen from a place of affirmation. My partner makes direct eye contact with me as she tells me about her morning. She slept in because she had the house to herself and she was exhausted from entertaining family over the weekend.
When the question shifts over to me, I found it hard to maintain direct eye contact and talk to a stranger about my day. There’s something very open and raw about sitting so close to someone and having them listen to you so intently.
We switch partners a few times and the prompts gradually require answers that make us dig deeper and deeper into ourselves and our thoughts. I began to grow more comfortable talking and connecting to the women in the class as we talked more. One particular partner I had, said she came to this class to meet people. She is typically a person who likes to be on her own, but she’s trying to connect with people and make friends. If ever there were a place to do it, InterPlay is it.
After our session telling each other about ourselves through questions, we find a spot alone on the floor to lay down and stretch out. Lee tells us to think about something that brings us light. Maybe it’s a gift we have that we offer the world, maybe it’s a person or place that makes us feel good, whatever it is we were instructed to think about it while we moved our hands to music.
Another notable experience was an exercise where we all stood in a circle and made shapes with our bodies. Lee encouraged us to go into the middle of the circle to make a shape and hold it. I am not a person who typically likes a lot of attention, but at this point in the class I felt entranced. I walked to the middle and formed a circle above my head with my arms. Another woman in the class joined me and formed her arms in a circle with mine. The rest of the class linked around us and we started saying aloud words that captured the poses and the moment; “connection” “community” “love.”
The class drew up a lot of emotion. An exercise where we were told to hug ourselves surprised me when I felt a welling of tears pricking the back of my eyes. I also felt a rush of emotion when we were asked to draw a ‘three mark masterpiece.’ Lee told us to draw three things from the top of our head, and then to describe the three things using movement and words. Afterwards, we talked about what our masterpieces meant. A woman from Gaylord held up her masterpiece and there was a checkmark on it.
“When you see a checkmark it means you’re OK, or you’re doing something right or you’re approved. I know that there are good things coming to me and they’re going to be approved.”
The woman had been trying to make it to an InterPlay class for some time now and this session was her first time attending. I felt the heat of tears forming again because it can be so easy to not feel deserving of good things, or to feel despair towards the future and I appreciated the woman’s candid and exposed hope. I needed to hear it as much as she needed to say it. Many of the women talked about being in a transition in life, whether that means moving, retiring or just trying to re-discover oneself. All of us were going through a turning point in our lives and there was this divine connection through that.
As a 27-year-old woman I have had my share of making friends with strangers, usually in bathroom bars with nice drunk girls. I can say with certainty that nothing has ever made me feel closer to a group of strangers than InterPlay. I left the class thinking about the next time I’ll go, and also thinking about the wonderful women I had the joy of meeting. I also left feeling mentally relaxed, and comforted in knowing that despite all of the chaos and division in the world, we all really do have a common human thread that connects us.