Breathing through the “crazy New York life”
New York City - if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere, right? Those of us who dare to venture into the big city come willing to do whatever it takes. We work 7 jobs, with 40-hour days, neurotically attached to our iPhone/Blackberry/e-mail/etc for any “opportunity” to bend over backwards for someone else.
Over time, in theory we “succeed.” Our reward? More emails, more meetings, more responsibilities pulling us in 45 different directions. Thus we must work faster, try harder, budget better. But damn it, we’re “making it” in New York! Hooray!
This crazy New York lifestyle is all too familiar - its the security blanket we love to hate. Many of us have no idea how to exist without the constant flow of adrenaline pushing us to keep our head juuuuust above water. Lets be honest, theres always something new and shiny I’m sure I can fit into my to-do list…
A former gym-junkie, with an extreme type-A personality, I’m the first to admit that I hated yoga the first 5 times I tried it. I mean, seriously people, working out involves running, jumping, lifting, spinning, and every other action I can perform to exert every last ounce of energy I have left in my body. Sitting still is not only uncomfortable, it wastes time I could be doing something productive. I was all to happy to leave that “yoga-shit” to the hippies in California.
Given the prevalence of yoga mats being toted around the city though, it was only a matter of time before I gave it another shot. Through one of those cheap online deals, I fell into a studio that actually made sweat (and no, not because it was hot yoga). Ok, I’ll come back…but only because you promised me a yoga butt.
While I was lured into yoga with the promise of a perfect body and flat abs, my practice soon became an addiction that delivered on a much deeper level. A level that essentially saved my life.
Yoga is first and foremost a spiritual practice, based in meditation and self-exploration of your mind and body. While the asanas (physical postures), especially in western culture, do invigorate the physical body, the sequence is designed to invigorate the mind (whether or not the student is aware).
The more I practiced yoga, the better I felt. And not just in the physical “look how healthy/skinny/strong/revived” I am. I suddenly found that I was less likely to bitch out the cab that tried to run me over in the street and more willing to say yes to that potentially annoying favor. In fact, my even boss yelled at me for being “too calm”…wtf!?
Over 2000 years ago, Patanjali compiled the Yoga Sutras, a collection of “truths” that are essentially the core of the yoga ideology. Yoga Sutra 2.46 talks about how your seat (or whatever pose/asana/position you’re in) should be steady, stable, and filled with comfort/ease.
Now, if you’ve taken a yoga class, you know this sounds mildly absurd. Comfort in Utthita Hasta Padagustasana (Extended Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose), balancing precariously on my left foot with my right foot being pulled out to the side? Ease in Utkatasana, (Chair Pose), where I’m fairly certain one more second here will rip my quadricep in half?! Absurd.
Yet the core of the yoga practice lies in the breath. Vinyasa is the pair of the movement with the breath (and the intention, but I won’t get into that right now). The beauty of yoga is that you breathe through everything you’re feeling - physically, mentally, and emotionally. The more I practiced, the more I could breathe through an uncomfortable pose and remain steady, even calm.
Plus, as opposed to everything else in my life, in yoga you want to try less. Yep, less. Tensing up and exerting more effort gets you no where - releasing and letting the tension go allows you to relax into a pose naturally and (more) easily.
Guess what? The same idea applies to life. The stronger my practice got, the more equipped I was to breathe through an uncomfortable situation OFF the mat. Annoying project? Inhale. Rude subway rider? Exhale. Overwhelming to-do list? Inhale. Coffee down my shirt? Exhale.
Now lets not get carried away: I am ridiculously far from perfect. Life is messy, people let you down, shit happens…every fucking day. But practicing yoga, I practice that pause - that extra breath that acts as a filter between me and my next panic attack.
In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali defines “yoga” as the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind. So when you’re practicing, you’re working on calming all that mind-shit (chitta-vritti) that clutters up your focus all day.
There is no such thing as “yoga perfect,” but my daily “yoga practice” has enabled me to be more steady, stable, calm, at ease, focused, etc., despite the level of chaos my life reaches on a daily basis.
People ask me all the time why I’m such a yoga dork, specifically why I went through extensive lengths to get certified to teach. I tell them, honestly, yoga saved my type-A New Yorker ass and all I want to do is share what I’ve learned.
Bonus: now I have a killer yoga butt.