back on the mat: a woman triumphantly returns to yoga

Let’s go out. Let’s get wrecked. Let’s have one, and then another. Toss one back and close your eyes. Get sloppy, get wet, get sloshed. Wear galoshes next time. Stay, just for a little while. Stay for this one drink and watch the maths. Record the multiplication and then the inevitable subtraction. We’ve provided calculators and a compass for these sorts of evenings. We prefer our vodka straight, our gin neat, our wine vintage. Under a sky painted black, we slip into our sloe-gin buzz and wait for our anesthesia to take effect. We wait for the numbing, the voices that pale down to a murmur and then a sustained, slightly irritating, beep. After a while, we wonder: how did one glass turn into ten? Where had we been this whole time?

There was a time when there was too much noise. So much so that it threatened to smother. I can’t remember how or when it was, but I found myself taking a yoga class at Sal Anthony’s Movement Salon in Flatiron, and I finally fell into quiet. In the space of an hour, the world had been reduced to my body and breath on a mat, and it was the only hour where I didn’t find myself hawking clocks. If you could believe I always heard a tick, always feared that my velocity was too fast for me to catch up, that I was hurtling toward a fall that was entirely bottomless. The ground would open up and swallow me whole. Know that I walked around fearing cracks on the pavement, potential fissures and pothole catastrophes. There was a time when nowhere was safe until I found yoga. Until I felt a ground that was finally sturdy, that would buoy me up and allow me to stand still. Propel me to inevitable flight.

I practiced yoga for seven years. Five days a week I spent an hour and a half on a mat trying to get closer to myself. I witnessed my body move in ways I’d never imagined, and I found myself calmer, more soft-spoken, more receptive. When I was young I was struck by a car and left with a shattered collarbone that never healed just right. And as the years passed, I realized that one arm was distinctly longer than the other. One side of my body markedly stronger than the other, and it was when I found yoga that I became more mindful of balance.

Over the course of this time, I patroned one studio {and style of yoga} almost exclusively — anusara yoga — and felt everything else to be inferior. The alignment-based practice founded by John Friend, was much like Iyengar with flow. One didn’t just rush through a series of poses in an effort to break a sweat, rather one meticulously transitioned between poses and felt the burn from going deeper, from settling in. From trusting that the ground, and our bodies, would hold us up.

Then something odd happened. Yoga studios began hocking t-shirts and expensive retreats. Lithe girls and celebrities glided into class with their Marc Jacobs mat bags and Stella McCartney t-shirts, while I read books before class and wore Old Navy. Slowly, the kula turned into a caste system where the prettiest and most affluent were selected to demonstrate {“demo”} poses, were whisked away to retreats in Tulum and upstate, and fawned over like borrowed finery.

Coming from someone who always skirted the fringes, was ceremoniously tortured in high school, this did not sit well with me. And in 2009, I abandoned yoga {with a fair amount of drama} and signed up for membership at a gym.

Enter 2013 — the year of great uncertainty and noise. I’d been obsessed with spinning, and after a series of medical issues with my cat, spinning suddenly felt violent. There’s no other word I can use to describe how I regarded a workout I once adored. The music, the velocity, the ferocity of the workout made me recoil, and in listening to my body I realized that all I wanted was yoga.

As a member of Equinox, I started taking classes pretty regularly (in addition to sampling some studios in Manhattan), and found the mixture of philosophies and styles to be refreshing. From the precision of Led Ashtanga to the rigorous flow of vinyasa from the focused meditation of kundalini, my practice feels like an expansive kaleidoscope of magic rather than a dogmatic tightrope act.

Lately, I’ve been playing around with varying studios and styles, and I’m discovering a newfound strength in my body. Traditionally a back-bender with open hips, I’m now discovering the art of forward-bending and meditation in seated poses. I’ve discovered the quiet in not doing very much but doing very much at the same time (if that makes sense). And as I sort out my life and the ubiquitous question of what’s next, and sift through the noise and barnacles and attachments, yoga will be my constant. It’s my refuge, a time when the world stands wonderfully still.

Recommended Yoga Studios in New York*
1. Virayoga
2. Yoga Vida
3. Yoga Works
4. Shala Yoga
5. Yoga Union
6. Om Yoga
7. Equinox

Recommended Online Classes + Reading
1. Elena Brower‘s + Erica Jago’s The Art of Attention
2. YogaGlo: Online classes that are terrific and super-easy to follow (all levels)

*I’ve paid for all of my classes, and practiced at each of these studios, and I feel confident in recommending them to you.


5 thoughts on “back on the mat: a woman triumphantly returns to yoga

  1. I love this post. I loved yoga for many, many years and had the same feeling about it that you so beautifully articulate here. And then it seemed to become as frenzied as the world outside. And the bodies were motivated by becoming “yoga bodies”, not by becoming content or mindful or grounded. Then I started to dread class until I stopped going. But I still miss my own relationship with yoga, the way it moved inside me. You’ve inspired me to try to seek that out again.


    1. Jane,

      Thank you! If there’s anything I can offer, it’s this. Yoga allows you to have a personal relationship with YOURSELF. I now tune out the noise and only think about my breath (and surviving through tough poses!). I also think a studio’s energy has a HUGE impact on one’s practice, even with what I’ve noted above. I often try out studios (many of which offer nice introductory rates for newbies) to feel out the space. Some studios in New York make me recoil, while others are more inviting, more open to varying philosophies.

      Also, I used to abhor “gym yoga,” but I’ve started to see a lot of studio teachers at gyms because the $$ is pretty solid.

      One of my friends returned to yoga through her home practice. Now, she’s an ashtanga teacher!

      🙂 Warmly, f.

      On Fri, Jul 5, 2013 at 10:20 AM,


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s