There was a storm the other night. One of those big summer storms that usually happens in August after a week of increasingly humid and desperate weather. The air itself will form droplets and adhere to hair, making it curl, skin, making it slick, and clothing, removing its freshness. People think I’m crazy because I have yet to put in my air conditioner but I develop a stoic determination around this time of year to leave it as long as possible living with fans only. It’s cheaper. I feel like I’m more present in the summer weather. And in reality, there really are only a few of the utterly unbearable days best spent lying under a tree in Central Park with a surreptitious bottle of rose, water and cold, clean strawberries.
This storm happened in early July even though it belonged in August. The rain started as I made my way to the yoga studio the other evening, swollen droplets of rain slamming into the dry ground, the unsuspecting leaves still trying to make sense of the sudden gusts of wind. The sky was layered with cloud and all sorts of interesting shapes and shades of grey begged for an Instagram photograph, even though such moments are best captured and experienced in the mind and the heart only.
The studio was cool, thanks to air conditioning, fans and plenty of relaxed vibes swilling about the space. I didn’t care either way; I had to practice in order to feel human and whole again. There’s something about running that satisfies a major portion of my brain, but yoga realigns the physical and sometimes the spiritual. I use spiritual loosely though. I consider it to be a way to remember to be in the present and reground in the self, rather than anything religious or to act as a rulebook for life. In fact, I stopped going to a particular teacher because her spirituality was being enforced on her unsuspecting class, who patiently attempted Half Moon pose, listening to lectures about veganism and animal rights.
The class’ soundtrack was, fortunately, Sigur Ros and Radiohead, relaxing and heartaching at the same time. Both bands conjured up more than a memory, but nothing painful enough to induce an emotional outpouring; save crying on the subway, walking down Broadway and sitting in Union Square park, I am still not good at showing emotion in front of people.
However, rather than my emotions letting loose during the class, the sky decided that this class was the perfect time to purge whatever had been bothering it. This was not August, there was no heavy humid buildup. Rather, the weather could not have been better for early July in New York City – breezy, hot in the sun, cooler at night and a few days of glorious dry air to complement it all. So as we turned our insides upside down in a shoulder stand pose, the lightning snapped, the thunder slammed and tried to shake the windows with its sonic booms. The rain clearly caught communters unawares and sans umbrella at they shrieked and sprinted down the flooding streets.
The practice was punctuated by bursts of the storm, naturally someone commented on the nature’s fury and the significance of it happening during an intense practice. This made me pause. I agree that all life is connected in one way or another – electrical energy, hello? atoms and molecules and science and carbon and all that stuff – , but I have not quite hit the zen point where I feel a strong unity to weather and such things with my yoga practice. Suddenly, yoga couldn’t be practiced for the sake of practice – that it had to mean more and the class had to become something huge and powerful and connected to nature. In a sense, the broader understanding of yoga, energy and the universe was being put on the table, and I reeled.
Coming out of the shoulder stand prematurely, I thought more about the comment, taken out of my moment. For me, yoga has been a deeply personal healing tool where I have learned more about my emotions and situation than I could have imagined. I don’t feel that it connects in any way, shape or form to religion, the universe a god or anything else. We all approach each class a little differently, do poses a little differently. We think about the practice in our separate ways. I don’t see yoga as an identity or way or life, rather, something that has enabled me to live more fully. And I think that this isn’t something I’d want to share in a class or derive meaning from, or try and link to whatever else is happening inside, outside or in between the movements and the breath.
Because at the end of it all, sometimes there is absolutely no meaning to anything, no massive reason or connection. Things simply happen. What is truly important is to remember to live each moment as it happens. This is hard. But it is what yoga has taught me.
“I didn’t need these things. I didn’t need them.”