May 16, 2013

Brooklyn to the ‘Burgh. ~ Janna Leyde

Last week, 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.

I toted my mat around Manhattan and Brooklyn to teachers and classes I’d never been to before. 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 my home studio here in Brooklyn.­­

I have to do it. I’m headed to Pittsburgh in just under two months. New life. New people. New yoga. It’s 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.

This class encouraged four different arm balances in a blasting 90 degree studio. No tears, just sore deltoids. Good stuff.

Class number two: some hot Bikram-like vinyasa.

This one was taken with a friend in Williamsburg, because every month or two, I’m up for the crazy hot cleanse. There were tears, but I think it was just my eyes watering from not enough sleep and a bit too much of the previous night’s Malbec.

Class number three: a very quiet dharma class.

The energetic shifts were so subtle and so potent that I was overwhelmed with how much I love the practice of yoga. How I needed a quiet class in a sunlit studio. No talking. No words. One tear.

Class number four: a prana flow class.

This took place at my old teacher training studio in Midtown. Zero tears. It was just happy and familiar.

Class number five: I was back to the power studio for a teacher that came recommended.

Pittsburgh is going to involve a lot of power, so I’m practicing putting some power into my vinyasa practice, which has been largely focused on alignment the past few years.

I arrived early to class number five. Having left my phone at home, I was 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 and smiled. I did.

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 sunshine and stunk like other people’s bodies. Hot yoga studios can’t help it. I no longer fault them. We started with sun salutes and familiar asanas.

I received assists and smiles from a teacher who said things like:

“I really enjoy proving other people wrong. In fact, it’s my favorite thing to do.”

She made me think:

“I am really going to miss my studio. 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 knees to the mat—this feels weird. Keep our toes tucked and bend our top legs—I’m losing balance here. Now grab for our top ankles­—thud.

I tried and tried, but I could not do whatever that pose “balance on a knee and a hand” was. I could feel my ego suffocating the practice. I was angry and feeling stupid. When I was ready to quit, the teacher came and held me in the 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 frustrated 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. Tears that said “Can I do this?” and “I’m leaving. I’m leaving my yoga, my studio and my teachers who know me and 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 from Adam’s cat.

Class number six: I was early and eager for my Friday evening class at Mala Yoga (my home studio).

I soaked up my teacher’s 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 and more studios to call home in the ‘Burgh. There will be more students I can take care of and more teachers who can take care of me. More people I can get to know. More yoga.

And always there will be more reasons to visit this crazy, beautiful city I’ve called home for almost a decade.


Janna Leyde. I’m a vinyasa yoga teacher in Brooklyn. Outside of regular classes, I’m working on creating a place where yoga and brain injury meet professionally.  I am certain that a yoga practice will not only help survivors of traumatic brain injury, but also their families. As I practice with my father (a brain injury survivor), my family and I are learning that yoga not only helps his mobility, but also his mind. Oh, and I wrote a book He Never Liked Cake, which I believe is worth a read—or at least a high-five.


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Assistant ed: Catherine Monkman

Ed: Kate Bartolotta

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