(or What I Did on My Summer Vacation)
Why is there a bottle of whiskey lying in the street?
Every day I drive in and out of my suburban neighborhood, the clean sweep of the curbs guiding me to and from home, errands, teaching yoga, delivering my children to their activities. Rather than slowing down to a lazy summer, the pace accelerates, as those children now need to be driven to camp and play dates and the library. The flexible time I enjoy when they’re in school, picked up and dropped off by accommodating yellow buses, narrows to a few hours or not at all, depending upon the schedule.
I escaped for four days last week to New York. I went for a book-launch party, to support and celebrate my friend Jean Summit-Riker whose memoir, Forever Is Still a Long, Long Time, spent time in my editorial clutches over the last few years. The party was extraordinarily beautiful, as befitted Jean and her accomplishment, and it launched me into a kind of Wonderland visit where one activity, one moment of fun, flowed right into the next.
Because I was curious and because some of my students have expressed an interest, one stop was anti-gravity yoga at OM Factory on West 37th. The studio is on the seventeenth floor, but after passing the doorman and the taking the elevator up, I was pleased to find a welcoming, easy yoga space with gleaming wood floors and a helpful receptionist. The studio where we would practice had interior windows, so I could see the orange fabric slings hanging from the ceiling where we would soon practice this acrobatic yoga fusion.
Class started with an assurance that the sling was tested to 2000 pounds. Individually adjusted to hip height, the fabric hung in a neat loop from a series of carabineer clips and webbed mesh. We started out by gathering the fabric behind us, coming up on tiptoes and sitting into the sling just like sitting into a high hammock. Gaining my seat, I felt the sling gently swing and I was enchanted. Our first pose required straddling the fabric, catching it with the heels and extending it toward its full width of nine feet. Bringing the souls of the feet together, we assumed what the teacher called “womb pose;” it was an enveloping place to rest and invited calm. Too often in a yoga class, I can’t shake yoga teacher brain to simply enjoy the practice. Swaddled, I leaned ever so slightly and caught a glimpse of sixteen orange-clad yogis, each cocoon swaying slightly. Sitting back, I forgot teacher brain, released into the embrace of my sling and felt my breath release.
The next ninety minutes were not all so calm. We used the slings in every pose, from a deep pigeon hip-opener with one ankle caught behind us in the fabric and one knee on the floor, to floating abdominal crunches, to the best middle-of-the room handstand I can imagine, to floating over the floor, stomach down, with the fabric supporting shoulders and knees. The instructor and her assistant watched or demonstrated, checking our positioning and keeping everyone safe. It was sometimes hard, sometimes remarkably easy; I left class wearing a sheen of sweat, enormous bruises, and a tickled grin. The second class two days later was every bit as fun.
Each class I took required preregistration, and well over half of the participants were first-timers to the practice of anti-gravity yoga. Like my friend and fellow yoga teacher Bhavi, who went with me to a class, I choose to sidestep the argument about whether it’s real yoga, believing instead that the dimensions of yoga are vast and its various interpretations give more people access to the ancient practice.
I was surprised, actually, that there was room in each of the classes I wanted to take. From my laptop in Iowa, I was able to go to the studio’s website, book the class, pay for it and show up a week later to begin. It’s not unlike making a reservation for a plane ticket, a hotel room, or passage on a train. And I marveled, as I often do, at both the freedom with which any of us can move around this country and the fact that where I go, there’s room, an accommodating space for me to be in there just as there is here.
From riding with Harry Wayne Casey and his Sunshine Band on the flight to Chicago to finding the perfect white Pashmina for summer at a street market to stepping on a train just minutes before it left, my entire trip was charmed. Over four days, every flight, ride, encounter, and meal felt easy, just right, delightful, a perfect fit. Like it was all there waiting for me and I just had to step into the moment. And step I did—until my feet were covered with blisters and my heart was full. More than once, on the streets of the city that never sleeps, wandering through Central Park, shopping boutiques open late on Sunday evening, walking in to find lunch in full swing at two, I noted how wide open the spaces felt to me. I could do just what I wanted to, free to participate in the vibrant city life going on around me.
I felt more than a little like Cinderella on the flight home, squeezed into a seat next to a young mother and her two tiny overtired children. Tuesday morning the day started early and it was yoga-a-go-go all week long, as I taught nine classes and two private sessions, drove the peeps, shopped, the usual. I was fully in mommy brain and teacher brain, places I enjoy, but if I held still and took a breath, I could connect to sitting in the window 34 stories high in the Sky Room lounge and looking at the city lights, toasting with my high school friend Gretchen or floating in fabric above the yoga studio floor. The trick, then, is how to bring that fairy-princess feeling back home.
And then a funny thing happened—following those smooth curbs out of my suburban neighborhood Thursday morning, I swerved to avoid a bottle full of amber liquid. Setting the parking brake I hopped out of my car and discovered a full bottle of whiskey, lying on its side, a slight graze in the glass but otherwise unharmed. I brought the bottle home and it’s sitting now on the kitchen counter, a totem, a bottle of possibilities, a kind of karmic MacGuffin, a reminder that there is another world out there that drops into the available spaces in this one, so long as I take a breath and remember to look.
It’s a new month, a new moon, and Independence Day weekend.
Happy all of the above to you & thanks for reading, Rxo