Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Why New Yorkers begin to practice yoga long before they hit the mat

There’s such a wide variety of yoga studios in NYC, you could probably take a month’s worth of classes and never visit the same place twice. You’ll never be bored and you’re bound to find the studio that exactly suits you, which is a wonderful benefit of living in the big city.

Actually getting to class, however, is not always easy, and requires a certain amount of patience and adaptability -- also a trademark of living in the big city. So if you’re not operating in the right mindset, by the time you reach your destination you might be so frazzled that it will take half the practice to de-stress from the trip, and the other half to prepare for the return.

Before I go any further I’d better explain that I live in Queens. For those of you who are not familiar with the metro area, Queens is one of five boroughs that comprise New York City. And although Manhattan-ites don’t believe it, we are a viable part of the city, proven by the fact that we pay city taxes, enjoy alternate side parking, and have relatively easy subway access. But I digress. [I’ll address that situation in a different blog.]

So let’s say you live in Queens and want to take a 10AM class in the Union Square area. First, plan on leaving your house by 8:15AM at the very latest [by the way that’s rush hour so don’t bet on getting a subway seat]. Depending on house location it may be necessary to drive to the subway. If it’s a Tuesday or Wednesday, count on looking for a parking spot for about 10 – 20 minutes because alternate side parking is in affect. [You might want to consider an early afternoon class on those days so that you can get a great spot precisely at 11AM when you can legally park on the alternate side.]* On Monday, Thursday and Friday it will take a little less time to find a spot but since everyone else knows this too, there’s usually more cars so it still takes a fair amount of hunting time.

Once you park [don’t forget the steering wheel lock – car thieves know you won’t be back for a while], get ready to enjoy a half-mile walk to the subway. Hopefully it’s not freezing cold, raining, snowing or unbearably hot. Once you get to the station, make sure that the subway lines are all running correctly. It’s not unusual for the express F train to go local without explanation, or to sometimes be re-routed on the E line which will end up taking you too far west. Most of the time, the local R train which stops directly in Union Square, will get stuck in between stations or be held up in a particular station for an undisclosed amount of time. At this point it’s a crapshoot so the best advice is to follow your intuition or take whatever comes first. [FYI: There is no train schedule. You simply stand in the station and wait.] My advice to hop onto an express F and walk the extra blocks to Union Square – the R is just too unreliable.

You might be wondering why, since you have a car, you wouldn’t simply drive to your destination. But traffic aside, the parking rules are even more complicated in Manhattan, which would mean you’d need to park in a lot. That’s usually pretty expensive unless you find something all the way cross-town. In that case you‘ll need to get your yoga booty back over to the east side which could take a while so allow for walking time--unless you take a cab. If you decide to taxi, add an additional ten dollars onto a $20 -$30 parking fee.

All of this travel negotiation is very good practice for non-attachment and letting go, and is one of the reasons why we’re great at going with the flow. It also serves as a reminder of the great dedication to practice we New Yorkers have necessarily cultivated.

If you’ve timed everything correctly and the Universe has been on your side, once you reach your destination you just might have enough time to roll out your mat and enjoy a few minutes to chill before class begins. Gratitude fills your being as you connect with the energy of the space and the other yogis, along with an unspoken camaraderie of the journeys that brought you all together.

Once the asana practice begins your body and mind are eager to leave behind the streets, and even though you can still hear the muffled sounds of traffic and distant sirens, yoga enables you to find the solace of your own inner tranquility. It may have been a circuitous path to class, but there is peace on the mat. At last.

Travel safely,

*(Note: If you take a later class make sure class is over by 4PM so you can leave in time to avoid rush hour and possibly even get a seat. Or you can make plans with friends and leave after 7PM.)