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October 24, 2015

Why New York City is the World’s Largest Yoga Mat.

Flickr/www.GlynLowe.com

**Warning: a few F-bombs ahead!

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Recently, I visited New York City—for the first time. It was not nearly as scary as I thought it would be.

I did still feel like a bumpkin from Kentucky—and while no one tried to eat my face, the immortal words of Dr. Hannibal Lecter rang in my ear:

You know what you look like to me, with your good bag and your cheap shoes? You look like a rube. A well-scrubbed, hustling rube with a little taste. Good nutrition has given you some length of bone, but you’re not more than one generation from poor white trash, are you?”

Gulp.

Just like Dr. Lecter sizing up Clarice Starling in Silence of the Lambs—I felt that all of New York City could see into my soul.

They probably can—they just don’t care.

Okay, that’s not true. Yes, there were not as many salutations on the street from strangers as I am used to, but I finally gave up seeking approbation. The few folks that I asked for directions were more than happy to assist an out-of-towner, and no one directed me to the bottom of East River.

As a yoga instructor, you would think I’d like to move. I don’t.

New York is a place where one does a lot of walking. I’m a slug—unable to move, as if you poured salt around me. But it’s a joy to move in yoga—or rather, it becomes a joy to move, once I get on the mat.

The fear, the self-doubt and the insecurities melt away, and I become—a New Yorker.

Confident, fearless and moving forward.

New Yorkers are natural yogis, every day—even the ones who don’t have pricey, stretchy outfits that go from “day to night” with the addition of a jaunty scarf.

The busy day—traversing the not-as-mean-as-I-thought streets—that’s the asana. The busy day is the bustle, the movement and the physical part of the practice.

The home, apartment, condo  or the park—that’s savasana. It’s the final resting pose, where we can let it all go.

You could say this about any big city…

But not really.

Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Miami—while gorgeous and exciting—are not New York. This city really is just a big yoga mat like no other.

Having spent the first 27 years of my life in Kentucky, and the last 23 years in Southern California, I thought that New Yorkers would see through my thin veneer—that I wouldn’t fit in. I thought wrong.

It is ironic to me that most of the people I have met, since moving to California, have assumed I was from New York. Maybe it’s because I say “fuck” a lot. For those who have actually posed the rhetorical question, “You’re from NY, aren’t you?” (and some of these are New Yorkers) the response is always shocked incredulity when I say, “I’ve never been there.”

New York is a city of few words, and most of those are comprised of only three or four letters.

It’s said that 90% of communication is non-verbal. That is staggering to a “Chatty Cathy” like me. When guiding a yoga practice, I feel an introduction is important—making sure that the type of practice is explained and understood to all in attendance. A few well-placed questions, asking if anyone has an injury or if anyone is new to this style of yoga or to the particular studio makes everyone feel a bit more at ease.

When yogis make sure to tell me after a practice how amazing it was and thank me, I am smart enough to know that they are the amazing ones. I tell them to thank themselves for their practice. The magic is in them.

I am also aware enough to know that the most important part of my job, beyond the actual physical poses of the practice, is to create a space that makes every yogi feel safe. They can take a break from protecting themselves, because they are protected in their practice. We as yoga guides are standing guard over their practice, protecting them, sometimes from themselves.

I know there are many styles of yoga where yogi’s want/need/expect their yoga guides to push them further than they think they could go on their own. I’ve found that most yogis (i.e. humans) push themselves quite far without any help. I am always pleasantly surprised when accomplished yogis come to my class to get permission to slow down, to be easy with themselves and to heal.

I expected New York to push me—to be pushy, to be high pressured—and I hoped I could keep up, like in a challenging yoga practice. What I found was a city of much more quiet-than-I-thought-they-would-be yogis, who supported me at every corner.

When I was weary, their energy kept me moving. I could stop and spend some time in child’s pose if I wanted, or I could speed up in a vinyasa flow when there was a destination I wanted to get to quicker.

Even though not everyone was dressed in over-priced yoga pants, I felt supported every step of the way. That’s what yoga and New York City is truly about.

Namaste, motherfuckers. Namaste.

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Relephant:

Yes, It’s True: Even A**holes Practice Yoga.

A New York Yoga Dork Minute with YogaCrone.

 

Author: Melissa Morgan

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

Photo: Flickr/Yann GarFlickr/GlynLowe Photography

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