When I decided to become a yoga teacher, I thought I’d finally be disciplined enough to go to the studio every day. I didn’t think I’d be toting my mat everywhere in the hopes that I’d find an empty corner where I could do at least a few Sun Salutations and maybe a Pigeon.
Since becoming certified to teach, I have practiced yoga on a subway, in a park, in an airport (or three), at my office, at home, in the green room of a theatre, on the stage of a theatre, in the backstage area at a fashion show, and, when I’m really lucky, in the yoga studio. Thankfully, I am at a stage in my life where I don’t notice onlookers. Yes, I avoid some of the more “suggestive” poses in public (too much vigorous Cat/Cowing can send the wrong message), and I am mindful not to kick any passersby as I swing through to Warrior I, but for the most part, I am in my own world (something, incidentally, my kindergarten teacher told my parents long ago). I don’t tune the noise out, exactly — indeed, sometimes that is impossible — but I wouldn’t say I listen to it either. In a way, the noise is comforting. It reminds me that there is a world around me, full of people and animals and plants and wind and cars and sirens and stress — you don’t get all that in a yoga studio. Of course, the yoga studio is wonderfully comforting too: a room full of people who value health and want to take care of their bodies; a teacher to guide you through a journey you might not take on your own; music to help your mind stay focused and present. But why do we go to the yoga studio in the first place? Usually because something in our every day lives reminds us that we need some help. So we enter the studio, breathe deeply for 75 minutes, feel amazing, then we get home to find the dishes still in the sink, the fridge still empty, and the stubborn piles of paperwork that made us drop everything and declare, “I’m going to yoga NOW!”
Practicing in public reminds us that there is no escape, only respite. Whether we like it or not, we are a part of this crazy, busy, crowded, noisy, violent, and imperfect world; isn’t that why we search so hard for peace, and become so euphoric when we find it? Perhaps what we should remember is that this peace, this euphoria, isn’t unique to the yoga studio. It doesn’t exist only in small quantities for monks or yogis in ashrams to hoard. It can be found in the middle of chaos, in the middle of war, in the piles of unsorted laundry, in that empty corner between the catering table and the trash can. Whether we have 75 minutes or five, breathing deeply does the body good.