by Lisa Stowe
For the last two years, I’ve been a regular on the karma circuit at Mala. Every Tuesday, I signed in the 7pm class and cleaned the studio afterwards. My “Cinderella” duties included cleaning the bathrooms, straightening up the prop closet, and writing up the board for Wednesdays. I was the one who took all the blankets out of the closet in order to re-fold a stray at the bottom of the pile, the one who deliberately swept and vacuumed the bamboo floors, and the one whose bubbly handwriting proclaimed the schedule to Court Street the next day.
I relished my Tuesdays, and not only because I was able to build up class credits and indulge my inner neat freak. It was through these Tuesday nights that I really got to know Angela, as we talked about everything from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to deep layers of muscle tissue after class. It was my time, every week without fail, to get absorbed in the meditative, rhythmic patterns of pushing the vacuum back and forth on the studio floors. And it was my way to give back to the community.
As I’ve completed teacher training and moved into the ranks of Mala teachers, I’ve relinquished my karma cleaning shift. It has been a surprisingly emotional process. It feels strange to just leave after class, when there are blankets askew in the prop closet and full trash cans in the bathrooms. It somehow seems irresponsible to leave the board at the foot of the stairs, proclaiming not Wednesday’s, but Tuesday’s class schedule. But most importantly, I miss the concrete sense of contributing to the running of the space that, behind family, home, and work, has become one of the pillars of my life in Brooklyn.
It is a testament to the community ethos at Mala that something as simple as giving up cleaning duties can evoke so much emotion. A big part of what makes Mala so special is the shared sense of pitching in, the sense that we are all a part of what makes Mala what it is. We put our props away mindfully, generously donate to community and other charity based classes, and support one another both on and off the mat. My karma may no longer involve a vacuum cleaner, but it will definitely not disappear.
When I broke the news about my karma retirement to my amazing friends (and Tuesday night helpers), the first reaction was “whoa”. One friend suggested that perhaps she can take the cleaning shift so we can continue to hang out in the studio after class. “Are you at least still signing in class?” remarked another. “Yep” I replied. “Only so much change at once.”
Lisa Stowe is a yogi, economist and mom who is as graceful with her arm balances as she is analyzing financial markets and juggling two young children. THE BALANCE SHEET will offer her perspective on integrating and benefiting from a consistent yoga practice amidst the hectic reality of family, work, and home.