The Yogi Next to You


The Yogi Next to You - Amy CookWhat’s your yoga story? How did you find Mala?

I lived on Court Street for 14 years. Ten years ago I tried a ‘yoga’ class at the gym and loathed it. I didn’t have a lot of body awareness back then, and yet still sensed that something was not right about it. It is also likely that I just wasn’t ready for yoga then – my belief is that people instinctively seek out pastimes that they need for a particular purpose in their lives. People who don’t stick with yoga perhaps weren’t in the right frame of mind for it at the time.

For two and a half years after Mala opened, I walked by almost every day and said to myself, “That would probably be good for me.”  My tango instructors were all telling me to “get my shoulders out of my ears.” Even when not stressed it is a natural state for my shoulders to be hunched up.

One Sunday morning I bought a mat and decided to start that day. It clicked. After kicking myself a bit for waiting so long to try it out,  I went to four more classes that week and signed up for the Costa Rica retreat after only six months of practice. Consistency in any habit has never been a strength, but even when life gets in the way of yoga for a week or so I make it back. It seemed like real progress when my body started ‘expecting’ to go to class and rebelled at truancy. A few months ago I moved to Park Slope, but won’t even consider practicing anywhere but Mala.

Yoga balances out the rest of my waking hours spent in front of a computer or on the dance floor. Unlike the tango world in which followers are driven to improve in order to get the most enjoyable leaders to ask them, satisfaction in yoga is not dependent on anyone else, the speed of improvement or what I’m wearing. Nailing a pose for the first time is immensely gratifying because there were no shortcuts to putting in the practice time. Red lipstick, eyeliner, and good hair may contribute to a great night of fabulous dance partners, but they won’t get me into a handstand.

What pose do you want to do all day? What pose could you never do again?

Not that doing them for more than a minute or so is an option, but I do like pigeon, tree, and plank. Thanks to a long torso, anything twisty is attainable. Child’s pose makes me blissfully happy.

What could I skip? Triangle/extended side angle in any format. I can only assume that eventually with practice they will make more sense. Wheel is the only pose that I flat out won’t do for now (see ‘obstacles’ below).

What are your biggest yoga obstacles and how do you overcome them?

The whole upside-down thing is mysterious and discombobulating. I’ve never done a cartwheel in my whole life. When I’m leaning over the “shake your head yes/no” instruction is a challenge because I can’t figure out which is which. I got help once getting into wheel and had a moment of sheer panic – the combination of upside-down and extreme openness was way too much to process.  Handstands and headstands are fine, however, as long as someone hauls me up. Technique and core strength are more the (hopefully short term) issue there.

Tango stiletto heels aren’t doing my hamstrings or feet any favors. Good thing the shoes are so pretty. I try not to make tortured expressions during the exquisitely ‘sensational’ broken toe pose.

What was the last Dharma talk that resonated with you?

Honestly not sure what a Dharma talk is (but figuring it out in context). I like the instruction about allowing yourself to be a beginner and focusing on your own mat. We’re all here for different reasons. Some classmates who started at the same time have made infinite more progress because they’ve put more into it. Our bodies are different too.

Sometimes when Steph says not to worry about your shopping list, however, I’d actually been perfectly present, until she made me realize that I might be out of something.

Where is your favorite place to get coffee, or a drink post yoga?

Coffee past noon keeps me awake most of the night (as do inversions). For wine I like anywhere with good company that isn’t too loud.

If you could practice yoga anywhere in the world, where would it be?

I want to practice every morning right in my kitchen/entryway, which ideally would be spotless and clutter-free. I theoretically could, but just not fully automated into the routine yet.

For travel yoga I’d pick anywhere scenic that lacks phone and internet service.

How has practicing shifted other aspects of your life?

My focus is getting better. At our last dinner, Stephanie and Angela said something nice and spot on about everyone at the Guatemala retreat. When they commented that I really listened with interest to what everyone had to say, I was blown away and encouraged: interrupting people less and listening more was my sorely needed 2011 New Year’s resolution. Yoga has ironically helped me to realize that is okay not to be one of those serene yogis who ooze calm and peace.  It is more in the cards for me to be energetic and settle for having grace under pressure. I can strive to talk a little less while at the same time be realistic about staying true to myself.

Recently a friend who is an Alexander Technique practitioner danced with me for the first time in ages. Raving about my posture and balance, he asked what I’d been doing differently over the last year. When I said only yoga, he replied, “Not just any yoga. I can tell that you have great teachers.”

We’re thrilled to bring you the stories of Mala yogis in their own words.  Maybe you know them, maybe you’ve never seen them before, maybe they look familiar, maybe you once knew their name, but forgot.  Whatever the case may be, here is the chance to learn a little more about the person practicing on the mat next to you.  Click here to read about other yogis.


About The Mala Yoga Blog

We are a Brooklyn-based studio that focuses on alignment, balance and community. Have a read, try one of our Practice Podcasts, or come in and say "hi" in person!
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