We were in the asana room at Reflections Yoga studio, but we weren’t doing poses or chanting. We were there to date—several people—in 5-minute intervals.
Four men and nine women sat in a circle, our names, professions and passions written on a tag affixed to our shirts. We were there to network, to make new friends—or ideally, to make a romantic connection, through “Red Hot Speed Dating with SOUL,” to be precise.
“Take a chance and dare to reveal yourself,” challenges the Reflections After Darkwebsite. And they don’t mean through Naked Yoga, but through a method that exposes the true self on an even deeper level. But we would not be leaning on alcohol or prepared lines to get us through these several first dates. In fact, Christina Berkley, leader of the RAD program, would be prompting us as to what to talk about, through a series of intimate questions.
“I got involved with Reflections Yoga four years ago when I started renting space there to hold my evening workshops,” says Christina. “Paula Tursi (the owner of Reflections) saw the work that I was doing and felt that it was a particularly good fit for the studio. We started the Reflections After Dark program as a way to highlight evening events that bring the awareness and mindfulness of yoga to the fun, hip, sexy, savvy after-dark culture of New York.”
We started out with a group exercise—Christina gave us a series of sentences to finish, vocalizing what immediately came to mind, with each person taking their turn:
“I came here tonight for…”
“Fun.” “Curiosity.” “To Meet New People.” “Connection.” (That last one was me.)
“My ideal partner in crime is…”
“Someone who gets me.” “Someone with passion, energy and love.” “Someone who is loving, spiritual, great fun and loves to laugh.” “Someone who wants me exactly as I am, that I don’t have to change for.” (Me again.)
“Maybe you’ll meet the next great love of your life, or your next best friend!” said Christina. “And in 20 years you’ll be saying, ‘Remember when we met at that Speed Dating event? So ask yourself, how much are you willing to show up tonight?”
Encouraged to reveal ourselves fully we began our dates, allowed to discuss only the two topics that Christina gave us. These ranged from things like “What was your most embarrassing moment?” to “What’s the most spiritual experience that you’ve had?” to “What taboo thing would you like to try sexually?” None of the boring “What do you do and where do you live” stuff was allowed. We were going to REALLY get to know each other—albeit quickly—on a deep and intimate level.
We each had a piece of paper and a pen. At the end of the date we were to write down one thing: either our own name, or our date’s name, indicating we would like to hear from them again. If two people wrote each other’s names down, Christina would send our emails out so we could reconnect.
To my surprise I found myself being very honest and uninhibited in my answers, with zero hesitation. It was somehow easier opening up to people I had just met, people who had no preconceived notions about who I was. Plus, the atmosphere that Christina created was especially conducive to true freedom of self-expression.
I told my first date about the one and only time I experienced love at first sight.
The next one shared a spiritual experience, where she sensed her deceased relatives around her as she got married. I told her how I had experienced my grandfather’s spirit coming to say goodbye to me just before he passed. Another date told me of an amazing romantic encounter she had planned for the next day in Prospect Park: She was to meet a blind date for a kiss!
As we went on the topics got more and intimate and explicit: There was talk of repressed urges to dominate and to roleplay; I in turn expressed a desire to be completely submissive, but then admitted that perhaps I’m, in fact, just lazy…
At the end of the workshop we all thanked each other for sharing so openly, and each of us got to express gratitude for a date who particularly moved us with their story. I told my Prospect Park friend good luck, and that at the first opportunity I was going to steal her idea!
Though most of the participants had little experience with yoga at this particular event, Christina notes that there is definitely a yogic intent to the series.
“The events don't have yoga in mind as much as the experience of mindfulness and consciousness, which is also part of the yoga experience,” says Christina. “Reflections is not just a yoga studio, but a center for conscious living. RAD events give people an opportunity to explore and experience the spark of connection that is one step past comfortable.”
Although I had a great time talking with everyone, I only wrote down two names, and sadly didn’t hear back from either. But the most important thing to me is that I got to share some things that night that I hadn’t been able to admit before, even to myself. Plus, I left the workshop with a better idea of who I was and what I was looking for.