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Yesterday was the first day of Summer, and the hottest day of the year so far. To celebrate, there was a (free!) massive (and massively sponsored) yoga event  in Times Square–what started with 3 people a few years ago grew into 14,000 participants this year. It was a unique yoga experience to be sure.

I took the 3:30pm class, and when I arrived at 42nd street and Broadway (aka Hell on Earth to any New Yorker) the line for registered ticket holders winded around the block while a yoga clothes fashion show took place on the stage and blasted from the dozens of speakers. After a short wait, I was given a free yoga mat (!) and a bag of goodies from the sponsors (hummus, water, magazines, yogurt, etc)  and then ushered by the NYPD to a spot of pavement smack dab in the center of it all (and unfortunately right next to a heat blowing vent for one of those flashy electronic signs).

There were peppered amongst the thousands, some hardcore yogis (there was even a couple showing off some acroyoga when the class ended), but at least around me, it seemed a lot of first timers or at least people who don’t practice regularly. Which is pretty awesome, if I was new to yoga I don’t think I’m choose a 95 degree day in Times Square with thousands  of other people to try it out. And while thousands preregistered, there was also a sizable line of people (some dressed for yoga, some in business or street clothes!) that just walked up and decided to do some yoga in the middle of the hottest and longest day of the year.

The event was called “Mind Over Madness” with the tag line: “ Anyone can find tranquility on top of a mountain.
Can you find it in the middle of Times Square?”  And yes, it was more distracting than a quiet zen studio class, but I’m kind of used to classes with noise coming in from the hallway or weight rooms, or  from the street below, or practicing in the park with lots of noises, or in my living room with the cats going crazy and the birds chirping. And there was nary a moment of silence in the room when I taught a bunch of 5 year olds yoga.  Yoga is a practice of drawing your senses inward and noticing but not attaching to the distractions and thoughts vying for your attention.

More distracting than the noise of Times Square was the spectators–dozens of people lined the barriers and just watched and took pictures and a giant screen projected the class and the instructor. I was towards the center but off to the side, so my mug never made it up on the big screen, but I’m sure I’m sweating  in a lot of strangers’ photos.

It was a unique and fun yoga experience, and even if you’re not into yoga at all it’s kind of a once in a life time experience to lie in the middle of the road in Times Square and stare up at the clouds in the blue sky past the buildings.

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As you may know I got married two weeks ago (more on that here). We took our honeymoon driving up the California coast in a mini cooper convertible from Santa Barbara to Napa with stops in Big Sur, Hearst Castle, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Napa, and Muir Woods. We flew out of San Francisco International Airport, and after a hellish unexpected 4-hour layover in LAX at the start of the trip (note: LAX isn’t a good place to be a vegetarian), SFO was like an airport dream come true.

Aside from the wide selection of food and shopping options that I’d be interested in even if I wasn’t held captive, there’s the famed new yoga room.   Seeing it was like spotting an oasis–I was sad that the trip was ending and that we had a cramped 6-hour flight in front of us (don’t believe what you’ve heard about honeymoon upgrades). The room is small and dimly lit–I would guess less than 5-6 people could comfortably practice in it, and while you can still here the frequent terminal announcements, it still felt like a place of refuge.

I used the room for only about 15 minutes just before boarding my flight and there was only one other person in the room the whole time–a woman who for the first 10 minutes I’m pretty sure was napping. The room is stocked with mats, blocks and bolsters and while I wasn’t wearing yoga clothes, my traveling outfit still afforded enough movement to move though some hip-openers, twists, and a couple sun salutations.  During the time I was in there, the door was opened about 10 times with curious travelers peeking in then leaving, but I imagine as it’s around for longer that will taper off. When I was done I felt soooo much more relaxed and that combined with the presence of my new husband helped me through the next 6 hours with a baby screaming throwing things at us.   Every airport should have a yoga room–it makes the constant degradation of air travel so much more bearable.

I’ve taught my first two kindergarten yoga classes this week and have my first preschool class coming up, I’ve also been volunteering at several different yoga classes, including one for autistic middle school kids. It has certainly given me many different perspectives on yoga. I’m still processing it all, so expect a post on it at some point in the near future.

It so easy as a yoga teacher and as a yoga student to feel like you “get it.” As a student, I’m totally guilty of cherry picking the classes on any given schedule that “sound like me,” beginners class? boring, I know all that stuff. “Boot Camp Yoga?” Sounds punishing. I gravitate towards the same sort of Vinyasa classes no matter what studio or gym I’m going to. And most of the time I enjoy it, and there’s always something to learn, especially from trying new teachers. But when I do branch out and try something totally different, even when I don’t enjoy it, is when I learn the most.

While I process all that I’m learning from all of my new teaching experiences, more opportunities are coming in! Starting next week I’ll be teaching at The Moving Studio in Downtown/Fort Greene Brooklyn every Friday morning from 8:00-9:00am. I’ll also be subbing Monday nights from 8:30-9:30pm on November 21, 28, and December 5th. The price is sooo reasonable ($10/class) and the view from the 30th floor  is amazing.  Between this and my Sunday night classes at the Brooklyn Zen Center, you have many opportunities to take affordable classes are gorgeous locations. More info on everything here.

There’s a lot in my life that I frustratingly feel like I have no control over. So much effort I put out into the world with little or no results. And especially for beginners yoga can feel that way–it takes so much time to gain strength and flexibility, to master difficult asanas (and sometimes no matter what you do or how many years you try, you’ll body will never cooperate).

Which is why having a tangible task that you can see the results of once you’ve completed it can be so deeply satisfying. I’ve found small home improvement are great for this. I live in a small rental apartment in Brooklyn, so I’m a little more limited than home owners in what I can do, but you don’t need a $10,000 kitchen renovation to feel like you’ve accomplished something.

I painted the main wall of my living room yesterday and it looks great and I feel proud and accomplished. It sounds like a small thing but, aside from having a huge impact on the room, the process felt like such a metaphor. I’ve lived in this apartment for six years, I don’t know how long before I moved in that the wall was painted (the building is over 100 years old). But I see it every day, for hours, and for the last couple of years there has been a few spots of chipped paint that irritate me. But doing something about them seemed like too much of a hassle. And besides, I’m not going to live here forever, I don’t own the place…so I lived day after day, with chipping white walls, feeling mildly irritated.

(the wall before with paint samples)

Finally, I decided to do something about it. I went to Home Depot, picked out a color, talked to the “paint expert” and got all the necessary tools. She told me to chip away at the quarter-sized areas of missing paint until the paint wouldn’t chip anymore and then just paint over it. Simple enough. But when I started chipping, the paint just kept going and going until a giant section of the wall was chipped away.

I was worried, this seemed like a much bigger issue. Back at Home Depot I was told I now needed to rent a power sander and sand the entire wall. I was near tears. Then an alternative was offered, sand the edges with sandpaper, use putty and primer then paint. I was nervous, but I did it, painted over it and the results are beautiful.

How does this relate to yoga, and to life?

There’s something small that’s always in the back of your mind bugging you, you try to ignore it and make excuses for not fixing it. Finally you force yourself to make the change and prepare with all the proper tools, but something goes wrong, you face a setback, things are now worse, you want to quit. But, you can’t, you’ve come to far (you can’t live with a giant patch of missing paint). You persevere, you finish–your results may not be perfect, and it may not be as easy as you planned, but you’re better for having tackled the problem.