Steph wrote two blog posts about her experience teaching in Central Park. The first one she wrote on the train on Saturday morning on her way to the event. The second one she wrote after the reckoning.
The alternate title for this post? How I Got Schooled by the Public About What Yoga Really Means.
That ginormous yoga class in Times Square that happened last week? I thought yesterday in Central Park might be a bit like that. However, a critical piece of data was missing from my logic model: the yogis in Times Square wanted to be there. Yesterday, in Central Park, very few people wanted to do yoga. They may have ended up doing yoga, but the intention to go to Central Park, to participate in a yoga class, wasn’t on their to-do list that morning. At one point, I wondered if it was a bright idea to have yoga as part of a festival fueled by adrenaline and free stuff, as most decidedly, there were more people who did not do yoga.
Before getting into a teaching groove, I was talking to lots and lots of people about yoga. Very quickly, I went from talking to listening and questioning. Why don’t you do yoga? Have you tried yoga? Why don’t you like yoga? Why don’t you think you can DO yoga? I heard at least a thousand excuses, most of them were a variety of the theme “I can’t do that” – the ‘that’ in question happened to be the cover of Yoga Journal, stacks of which were on the table in front of me. This particular cover features the stunning and lithe supermodel Christy Turlington, along with other stunning and lithe women, all of whom are in elegant and complicated poses. I can’t do yoga because I’m not flexible. I don’t want it to interfere with my god. I don’t have time. It’s not enough of a workout. I eat meat.
At the essence of all of these excuses was: it’s really hard to be a beginner as an adult. (I’m beginning to sound like a freakin’ broken record.) So many of us just want to be good at things right away, we forget to just try. Or even show up.
So, while the stories to tell about the naysayers and non-takers are interesting and informative and maybe more fun to tell, it was the people who stepped on the mat who are the real story. They get major props, because doing yoga isn’t easy, but doing it in the middle of Central Park, for all to see? Seriously. Props and bows and high-fives to the people who decided, in that moment, to yoga in their dresses, skirts, jeans, shoes, and running wear in front of the masses that walked by and took photos. For many folks, this was their first class. People hopped into the tent, onto a mat, did a few poses and left. Some people just looked around and laughed. But so many more stayed. Kids dragged their parents over. Lots of a-ha moments started to happen. Ah, those are my feet. Oh, that’s my spine. Right, I am getting a workout. That’s what it means to ground your hands in down dog. I can do this every morning, that’s all it takes?
In the last class, we reached our hands up to grab beyond the metal poles holding up the white tent, reaching our fingers to the bright blue sky, in tree pose. The second time we did tree, we did so in partners. To my amazement, I asked a group of absolute strangers in Central Park, to press their sweaty hand into a stranger’s sweaty hand – and they said yes.
Really. I got totally misty.
And we laughed as that group of yogis collectively nodded. Yes, thanks to our partners, we felt the stability of our feet and the lift of our heart eyes and just how strong our spines can be. Among the absolute insanity of rock climbing, tree climbing, a rock concert, the bio bus tour, rock jumping, and the gym tent that surrounded us, we had a moment.
As I high-fived Aida from the Bronx and shook the hands of 10 year-old Madison’s mom, I profusely thanked them. Because, on the train ride up there, I thought I was going to teach them about yoga. In reality, I was the one who got schooled – in what it means to be fearless, in what it means to really try, in how far and wide yoga’s really reaching in the corners of our city and our world. Because, really, would you hop into a tent in Central Park and do something that you’d never done before? (Answer honestly.)
I saw what happens when you go from saying no to saying yes in just one moment. And I bow 108 times over to Elizabeth and Blakeney, to Amy, Jane, and Sara, who reminded me what it really means to show up when you’re part of a community. As I wandered out of Central Park, sucking on a Sees’ lollipop, covered in dust, makeup melted off, and laden down with new mats, I remembered to count my blessings.