BROOKLYN TO THE BURGH
by Janna Leyde
Last week I toted my mat around Manhattan and Brooklyn to teachers and classes I’d never taken before. I was like a yoga kid all over again, a brand spanking new student, where class is overwhelming and the teacher digs up your vulnerabilities. Three out of last week’s six classes made me cry. No, not sobbing. Just a tear or two, easily camouflaged by sweat. It was all part of my game plan—to wean myself off of Mala.
I have to. I’m headed to Pittsburgh in just under two months. New life. New people. New yoga. A whole lotta new, so I thought I’d practice what it feels like to not know my teachers.
Class number one: an hour of power, which encouraged four different arm balances in a blasting 90 degree studio. No tears, just sore deltoids.
Class number two: some hot, hot Bikram with a friend in Williamsburg, because every month or two I’m up for the crazy cleanse. There were tears, but I think my eyes were just watering from not enough sleep and a bit too much of last night’s wine.
Class number three: a very quiet Dharma class where the energetic shifts were so subtle and so potent that I was overwhelmed with how much I love the practice of yoga. How much I needed a quiet class in a sunlit studio. No talking. No words. One tear.
Class number four: A Prana Flow class at my old teacher training studio. Zero tears, just happy and familiar.
Class number five: I was back to the power studio for a teacher that came recommended. Pittsburgh is going to be a lot of power, so I’m practicing some power.
I arrived early. I left my cell phone at home, which left me sitting silently on a couch waiting for that moment where people start coming in and rolling out their mats. Without a friend or an iPhone, I must have looked lost. The teacher said something to me about “needing some yoga.” I nodded. I smiled.
When it was time, I stripped down to booty shorts and a tank and walked into the studio with my mat. The air inside felt like hot, hot sunshine and stunk like other people’s bodies. Hot, hot studios can’t help it. I no longer fault them. We started with sun salutes and familiar asanas. I got assists and smiles from a teacher who said things like: “I really, really enjoy proving other people wrong. In fact, it’s my favorite thing to do.” She made me think things like: I am really, really going to miss Mala. What the hell am I gonna do?
And then came the kicker. We were asked to open up into side plank—fine. Drop our lower knee to the mat—this feels weird. Keep our toes tucked and bend our top leg—I’m losing balance here. Now grab for our top ankle—thud. I tried and tried, but I could not do that pose, balance on a knee and a hand, whatever that pose was. I could feel my ego suffocating the practice. I was angry, feeling stupid. I was ready to quit, and then the teacher came over and held me into that pose—all wobbling, sweating, fuming side plank of me—no f*#king way. I do not like this.
“I’ve got you,” said the teacher who proves people wrong. “It’s okay. I think yoga is good for you.” I wanted to say, “no shit,” but instead I blinked away sweaty frustration tears, smiled, and tried to breathe.
Finally, Savasana, with a towel on my face and the air still sizzling, brought on more tears. Sad tears. Can-I-do-this tears. I’m leaving tears. I’m leaving my yoga, my studio and my teachers who know me and really, really know how to align me—on and off the mat. I’m leaving, and I’m walking right into a sea of teachers and studios who don’t know me at all.
Class number six: I was early and eager for Steph’s Friday evening class. I soaked up her cues and her hilarious and exquisitely accurate usage of words. And in headstand, with my teacher’s thumb and index finger gently dragging the energy up through my heels I found myself crying again. Laughing and crying. Sad and happy. Upside down and right side up.
I have to believe there will be more Mala-like yogis out there, in The ‘Burgh, more students I can take care of, more teachers who can take care of me. More people I can get to know. More yoga.
And always more reasons to visit this crazy, beautiful city I’ve called home for almost a decade.
Janna Leyde is a yogi and writer living in Brooklyn and the author of He Never Liked Cake, a coming of age memoir that tells the story of growing up with her father’s traumatic brain injury. Oscillations: A Yogic Exploration of the Brain offers her perspective on the practice through the lens of the complex human brain. When she’s not on her mat or at the front of the room teaching, she is working on her second book about yoga for brain injury. You can buy her first novel, He Never Liked Cake, here.