Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Om Shanti NYC

The summer solstice is the day of the year that has the most sunlight.  It is also the day when the Times Square Alliance hosts Yoga Mind Over Madness in the middle of Times Square NYC.  I signed up not only to take a class this year, but also to spot a class, putting my yoga certification to good use and gaining a free outfit from Athleta which is one of the best stores for yoga and workout gear which means I don't shop there because a top costs the same amount as my groceries for the week and I'd rather eat than have a fancy top.  But a fancy top for free?  Gimme.  Pants, too?  Gimme, too.

Since the "gates" opened at 2:30 for the 3:30 class, I figured I'd get there at that time, which is what I did last year.  That plan didn't work.  The line was around the block already.  Yikes.  Also, it was over 95 degrees out.  Yes, it was already the hottest day of the year and there I was, striding through the city in my brand new expensive yoga pants.  That's right.  Pants. 

At home, I'd ooeh and ahed over the pants.  They were the best pants ever.  They were the most comfortable pants I'd ever worn.  They were the cutest pants.  I wanted to wear them every day. 

Then I got off the train and started walking down 7th Ave and I hated the pants.  I wanted to tear off the pants.  I did not want to wear pants.

This was nothing against the pants, really.  It was against the weather.  I do not like to wear long pants, even long pants that don't go down to my ankles, on very hot days.  I would have rather worn shorts.  Or nothing.  For the record, I've never worn nothing out on the streets of NYC, not even when the temperature spiked to near 100, which was what happened on this day.  Though sometimes, I'd like to try.

So I waited on the line for a semi-long time and finally got corraled into a yoga pen that was not the main stage where the main instructor was, but was the only pen that had us facing North instead of South for some unknown reason. This area was not crowded, which was a plus.  The minuses: it was in direct sunlight and the barrier between me and the cars was a potted plant and a small metal gate. 
Not dangerous at all!
Douglass Stewart was the instructor.  I want Douglass Stewart to be my friend.  I want Douglass Stewart to come to my house every day, do yoga with me for hours, and then talk to me for a while about whatever he desires.  He has a way about him that makes everything okay.

I needed that in an instructor because everything else about yoga at 3:30 in the middle of the city on asphalt in 95+ temperatures was not okay.  I was slipping and sliding all over.  The wind came in sometimes, which was a blessing.  However, at one point, I was face down on my mat, unsure of what the hell I was doing because instead of listening to the instructor and following the girl who was modeling the poses, I was figuring out how to stop myself from sliding on my mat.  That was the point when one of the spotters came over next to me, most likely thinking, This girl needs a lot of help and has no idea what she's doing.  Seriously, I wasn't exactly in a yoga pose. I was in more of a what am I doing stance.  So to end the debacle, I opted to scoot up on my knees and drink some water and then towel off with the small towel I'd brought.  The spotter walked away and I went back to doing yoga.

The class was over before I knew it.  We hadn't done a whole lot of standing or strenuous postures.  That's probably because he didn't want anyone to die.  There were quite a lot of people who opted to sit on their mats and do nothing during class, so I can only imagine how many more would have been sitting out had it been more demanding.

After class, I headed to the yoga village where I found lots of free stuff.  I had brought snacks with me along with a large water bottle but found I needed none of that.  First off, we got free mats and a gift bag; inside the gift bag was a bottle of SmartWater, a mini Luna bar, and a SoyJoy bar that was banana flavored and I was in heaven.  When I got to the village, I loaded up on lentil chips with hummus and honey yogurt with some Vitamin Water to wash it all down.  This was the most I'd eaten since noon and it was now almost 5 so it was a delicious linner.  Plus, in that heat, I wasn't very hungry. I grabbed another bag of lentil chips and some pretzel chips and I was on my way to the Times Square Visitor's Center where I was to wait for my assignment to spot.

We were all told to wear our Athleta clothes because there was no place to change.  Um, the visitor center has a bathroom.  Could have changed there.  I changed my top--I'd done yoga in an extra shirt because of the sweat factor.  Could have changed my whole outfit.  I was better off not having too much more anyway.  What with the free gift bag that also held magazines and some other trinkets and my own bag plus my own yoga mat and the extra mat, I was weighed down as it was.  We were told that we could stash our bags under the stage at the area where we were spotting.  Okay then, it was a plan.

We all met by 5:30 for the 7:30 class. Lots of people were talking about where they teach and what kind of yoga.  I was interjecting my thoughts here and there, but I was also tired and sweaty--and I'm pretty sure I smelled a bit--so I kept my conversation to a minimum and relaxed.  A lot of talking went on.  A lot of sitting.  At 6:15 ish, we got instructions that we were supposed to look out for heat exhaustion, people pushing themselves too hard, and people about to hurt themselves or others.  Then we were told to go to the main stage where Dana would give us explicit instructions.

Dana never gave us instructions.  We never met Dana. The staff from Laughing Lotus was there and they were going to spot the class.   They were told to do gentle adjustments.  So that was a bit different from watching out for poeple hurting themselves.  So now were we supposed to adjust or spot?  It's quite different.  The woman giving the staff instructions was named Emily, not Dana, and she didn't know who we were or why we were there.  Ah, communication.  When we finally worked out who everyone was, we namaste-d to each other quite a bit and then no one really knew what to do or where to go because even though we'd been assigned a block to spot in, there were too many spotters.  They expected 5000 people and said that 5000 people simply would not fit but they were fitting as many as possible, but really, still, too many spotters because that many people can't possible do yoga effectively in a small space anyway. 

When we all got settled, I stuck myself on the main block so I could watch the instructor.  I went to the back of the area and found that people had set up their mats across wires and over those ramp things that cover wires.  It was so tight and not conducive to doing yoga, so I decided my job would be to make sure no one got electracuted. 

It was around 6:45 by this time.  Class didn't start until 7:30.  Why were we there that early?  That's when the day started to wear on me since I wasn't doing anything.  I grabbed a Vitamin Water and it was delicious.  I danced by myself along to the music they were playing quite loudly.  I chatted with some of the other spotters, mainly about: hey are we supposed to adjust or just spot?

Finally, the class started and it was interesting.  I helped a few people by telling them they were turned the wrong way.  I demonstrated some of the poses in the back.  I offered some suggestions on getting into postures.  I didn't touch anyone because (A) they were too sweaty and gross and (B) I was sweatier and grosser than they were.  The staff from the studio came around and did adjustments.  They walked through the whole area while I thought spotters were supposed to be in one spot.  I guess I like specific instructions while others are fine with doing whatever they think they can do.  Whatever. 

The class seemed to end very early.  Everyone was sitting and taking in something in their hearts.  And then, the class restarted.  I was like, did she mess up her timing or is that a typical break in the middle of the class?  It was odd.  I liked the class, though, because there was some grooving involved and it was really inspirational. 

Since I was in the back, I had a bunch of onlookers behind me the whole time.  One guy came by and yelled out Excuse me! I think I love you!  I'm pretty sure he was directing that to the tan, blonde, skinny, model-esque girl who was practicing in front of me and not to me, the scraggly-haired ball of sweat.  I'm okay with that.  She was a very pretty girl.

When class ended, I took a last trip through the yoga village, grabbing a final bag of chips.  I was going to grab some yogurt and hummus, but at that point, they were giving away boxes at a time, not wanting to lug the stuff back.  Had I been headed straight home and if home were closer, I'd have taken some.  However, I didn't want to carry around perishable items for longer than 30 minutes.  It was about 9 PM when it was all over and the temperature was still above 90. 

I grabbed my stuff from under the main stage and hauled it to meet up with S on her break.  She saw me and asked if I'd lost 20 pounds by sweating all day and then she asked if I was going to survive.  I could only imagine what I looked like but I refused to find any reflective surface because I knew it could not have been attractive.  It was probably on the verge of scary. 

After meeting up, I pounded the pavement towards Penn.  I was behind every slow-walker in town.  I made it to Penn with one minute left to my train.  I was literally dripping with sweat as I ran down the steps to the platform.  The clock had turned to the departure time, but the train was still there and the doors were still open.  Om Shanti Shanti Om for the little things!  I fell into a seat next to a woman who was probably not happy that I was sitting next to her because I was full on sweating, full on smelling, and I had two bags and a yoga mat cramping her style.  Which means she had to move her shopping bag off the seat and onto her lap.  I barely made it off the train and into Eddie's car. How I made it up the stairs, I don't know.  How I didn't drown in the shower, I'm not sure.  But it was all worth it because it was all FREE!  And so very zen.

Oh, and this guy was there, too.

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