Yoga to the People
The corpse is the most important, my teachers often say. It converts the body’s noise into stillness. I lay spread out like a starfish, attempting to dial my mental radio all the way down. I am two levels above the street, but the occasional sirens and shouts become distant and turn into a surrounding hum, a blank station, a breath.
I emerge from the subway and begin my Camino to the studio, ten minutes past delis and Asian cuisine, old men in folding- and power-chairs playing cards next to NYCHA complexes, all while the sun lowers in the sky.
I turn the corner onto 103rd, past the City M.D. and pull the heavy door that reveals a steep metal staircase. I hurry to the top, waiting for the doors to open. I’m always early.
For a moment, I smell nothing, but then the studio’s aroma slaps my face like a wave: the scent of sweat and skin on soft rubber. Always a sour, musty smell: like a Ziplock of skunky weed or cheese aged in French caves. While not pleasant, it’s associated with pleasant feelings. Soon, my nose becomes desensitized to the odor and begins to detect slight base notes of essential oils and floor wax, as I unslung my rolled yoga mat from my back.
I stuff my stuff into a cubby, kick off my socks and shoes underneath. I pad across the shiny wood floor, making sticky sounds with the soles of my feet, weaving in between those leaving from the class before, those corpses rising from the dead, reanimating while adjusting their leggings and gathering their gear.
I unfurl my mat before me and sit down with my legs stretched out, gauging where my body holds the most tension, breathing intently. The muscles brace before unclenching, and I send stressed thoughts like desperate prayers upwards and outwards, as I gaze into the high ceilings.
Only when I am done pushing my muscles and ease into corpse pose, the holy Shavasana, do I remember why I make the hour-long pilgrimage here, spending subway fare each way and dodging the class’s suggested donation: because when class winds down, and I am lying with the lights dimmed, they ring the Tibetan singing bowl. While its song is soft, it somehow reverberates and floods my ears and skull like I’ve sunk under water. But I’m not drowning. I’m here.
Originally Featured in The Ampersand in December 2018