Darting around my student cooperative, Davis House, I rattled off my mental checklist of what I would need for yoga: a mat, water, a sweat towel for the waterworks show that is my sweat glands. As I hustled and bustled around the house, I was careful not to get scooped into its vibrant activities. If I am not careful, the steady fuel of eager, conversation-starting co-op residents can lure me into talking about anything from politics to potatoes, subsequently causing me to completely lose track of time.
Heading out to yoga this time was even harder, since I was trying to wrangle two of my friends to come with me to class. My plan was to leave extra early, take our conversations on the road and enjoy a slow stroll through campus to Yoga to the People — the land of collective breathing and butts in the air.
Waiting at the bottom of the stairs for my friends to come down, I nervously watched the clock tick. As the time for yoga slowly approached, I was all but ready to ditch my friends and revert to my typical solo walking style — head down, headphones in, stopping for no one. But, since it had been two weeks since my last yoga class, I needed my friends to motivate me to go as much as they needed me to hustle them out the door.
For most of my senior year, I had been consistently going to yoga. I craved the physical and emotional relief that it brought me, but with the stress of school gone and my summer travel plans ramping up, I had fallen off my yogi path. Suddenly, going to yoga became a less of a relief and more of a burdensome hobby that I once had. With my major stressors removed, I put yoga on the back burner and forgot how much my practice meant to me.
But thankfully, the sweet serenity of yoga and my plans with friends drew me back to the studio. As we were heading down to yoga, we made our way past throngs of people, honking cars, swerving cyclists and blaring fire engines. And somehow, to my relief, we arrived at the studio on time. Entering, I instantly felt the live energy in the room, as some people chatted with their friends, some rested facedown in Child’s Pose, and some were inverted in headstand positions — casually defying the laws of gravity.
Usually, when I get to yoga, I am one of the first people there. I walk in and greet the teacher, leisurely unpack my things and choose from a wide array of open cubbies in which to store my old tennis shoes and keys. Slowly, I hover through the empty room, scanning to pick the perfect place to lay my mat. Typically, I settle on a little spot in the nook of the room — my safe place.
But today, there were so many people in the room that I did not have a choice of spot, meaning that we would have to split up for the class. As I lay on my mat in a corner far away from my friends, waiting for class to start, I tried to quiet my mind, but my thoughts were racing around as fast as the cars passing by on Shattuck Avenue — neither the four walls of the studio nor the soothing reggae music could quiet the ever-present noises that persisted in my head and on the streets. My mind was busy with thoughts about what poses the teacher would lead us through, my plans for the rest of the day and, ironically, whether I would ever be able to slow my thoughts.
After what felt like an eternity, the teacher began to instruct the class. With every inhale, I moved, and with every exhale, I moved again. For an hour, I followed this pattern. As my living breath flowed through my body, it did not matter that my Warrior Pose was not the deepest it had ever been; it was OK that I needed to rest in Child’s Pose during the third round of Chair Pose. Moving through class, I was not at my best physically, but mentally, I felt connected. My breath and the soothing reggae music became loudest, the chaos of the outside world faded away, and I found myself in another time warp — this time with nowhere to go.
After an hour, it was time to come into the final resting pose of class, Shavasana. Lying on my mat, hands resting on my belly, I felt at peace. Although I no longer had school stress nor travels to do, I lay there, still on that mat, feeling relief simply from the immense overstimulation that circulates around us daily. An overstimulation that had run through my mind unnoticed, until then. As the teacher rang the Tibetan singing bowl, signaling the end of class, my attention was purely in the room, in my body and in my mind — free.
Jessica Redden writes the Monday column on finding freedom from overconsumption.