BACKBEND, HEADSTAND, REVELATION
by Sandra Bark
If you are spending the summer in New York City, one of the best places to visit on the weekend is—someplace else. So when a dear friend suggested we spend the weekend at her aunt’s house by the water, we said yes. We said yes, yes please.
Her aunt’s place turned out to be a cozy house tucked in on a little lane, with neighbors who waved as we drove up and a backyard that was basically a small, grassy lawn overlooking the Fisher’s Island Sound. The yard was adorable; the view, magnificent. It was the perfect place to read, nap, dream, think, drink, barbecue, play guitar—and practice yoga.
I woke early the next morning and skipped outside, excited to practice in this most perfect of spaces. But the moment I lay the mat down, it got wet. The moment I got onto the mat, I felt how the earth dipped and bunched. The perfect place turned out to be a perfectly lousy spot for a comfortable downward dog or a steady one-legged pose, let alone a secure inversion. Surrounded by sea and sky, instead of perfection, what I found was that I missed the solidity of the wooden floors of the studio. Grass, ocean: yes. Perfect space: not really.
But I was there, and everybody else was sleeping, and I didn’t feel like practicing in the living room, and I had no place else to go, so I stayed. It was a fine place to do some sitting, so I sat. I looked at the rocks jumbled near the shore like memories of glaciers. I sat. I saw the birds hovering in the air like they were floating. I sat. I heard voices in the house. I sat. Then I began my practice. Even though it was slippery, I set each pose up as if Angela or Steph or Christina were standing over me, reminding me to keep my hips square.
The mat wouldn’t stop wriggling. Balance was proving elusive; frustration was proving accessible. So I shifted my practice to the grass. Even though it was wet. Even though the ground was uneven. I was there, so I stayed there.
Mountain. I watched an egret on a distant rock, and borrowed his stillness.
Tree. My standing leg found the earth. My arms grew towards the sky, grew leaves, flowers, fruit.
Backbend. The ocean became the ceiling. Ripples crossed overhead. I straightened my arms and my chest reached towards the Sound.
Headstand. The grass became the sky. I watched a drop of water cling to a blade of grass while my toes caught the breeze.
Revelation. All of those hours practicing on a steady surface in the studio were preparation for this: so that I could be strong, be focused, able to look for balance on uneven ground.