I unrolled my mat on the not-so-clean carpeted floor of the conference room and immediately noticed the annoying fluorescent light overhead as well as the sounds of people working in the adjacent kitchen. A vacuum vroomed in the distance. It was a little before 7:30am and already the hotel was abuzz.
“Boker tov, shmi Na’ama,” the teacher said. Her smile was warm and inviting, and she looked the same middle age as me. She had a great gig, I thought to myself, teaching yoga at what appeared to be the highest end hotel in the middle of the Israeli desert. Called Bereshit, which are the first few words in the Old Testament and translated as “in the beginning”, the complex sits on the edge of a crater in Mizpe Ramon and blends seamlessly into the stark desert landscape.
A few seconds later, a young woman, a fellow American with basic Hebrew, came in, sat down on a mat and asked the teacher if we could practice outside. Apparently, she had come to class the day before and they had spent half of it on the deck. Na’ama looked at me, and I nodded in agreement.
Class began on our backs, circling our hips and doing simple twists. After warming up, we sat cross-legged and closed our eyes. The noises nearby distracted me, and I regretted rushing out to class. Philippe and I had arrived late the night before and only had two days to spend; there was so much to see and do both in and out of the hotel that I knew time would pass quickly.
We warmed up so slowly that despite being indoors, I kept all my layers on. Then, exactly midway through, Na’ama asked us to pick up our mats and take our personal belongings with us to go outside. Her main concern was that we be warm enough since it was still early and the sun was wintery warm. We set down our mats on the wood deck outside the pool facing Na’ama and the pit of the crater. We stood at the top of our mats in mountain pose and looked out at the mountains beyond.
After a few gentle sun salutations, I finally removed my sweatshirt as heat built in my body.
Another woman joined us as we cycled through triangle, warrior II and half moon pose. I no longer heard the vroom of the vacuum, the clinking of pots in the kitchen or the clutter in my own head. Gazing out into the vastness in front of me, I fully appreciated my surroundings and how I got there.
A year ago, while Benjamin was working at a high-tech company before his army draft date, the company gave each employee a hotel voucher for Hanukkah, good for either two weekend or three weeknights at Bereshit. When he came home disappointed because the year before everyone had received ipads, we told him we could/would easily put it to good use if he regifted it to us. Our almost all American, business-minded son decided to try to sell it instead. Months went by and nothing happened. I even forgot about it. Then, early September, on Benjamin’s 19th birthday and our 22nd-wedding anniversary, I received a gift: the voucher. Inside Benjamin had written: See how generous I am? and Philippe had signed it. I am not sure, nor do I care, what went down between them, but it was for my benefit.
While practicing yoga Friday morning and looking out at what some Israelis call the Grand Canyon of this country, I thought about how lucky we are. Because of our son’s generosity, because our girls were having a wonderful time with new family friends, because the weather was perfect, because we were belatedly celebrating over two decades of marriage, because we were being pampered in one of the most stunning hotels I have ever stayed in and so on.
Throughout our weekend, Philippe and I hiked at En Avdat canyon, mountain biked along a flat path at the top of the crater, watched the Ides of March and part of To Rome with Love in the hotel’s mini movie theater, swam, relaxed, went to the gym, participated in a unique mind-body class called Rio Aberto, took baths, gorged ourselves on a full Israeli-American breakfast, and most importantly, enjoyed each other’s company.
When I glanced at my watch early Saturday morning and saw it was a little after 7am, I rolled over. Despite every intention of practicing with Na’ama again, I couldn’t move my body out of bed. I was sorry to miss repeating those sun salutations with her on the deck overlooking the crater but hope that one day I’ll return to Bereshit. It doesn’t have to be a weekend; even one night there probably has that magical touch and transports you worlds away.