First there was the heat, but luckily I was there for the night class so there was a slight breeze and minimal sun. Unlike last year when I felt like I was in an oasis on the main triangle with the teacher on stage in front of us, this year I was ground level a block away with the stage behind us. I was also the mat directly next to the barricades separating us from the street traffic.
People were constantly stopping to take pictures and ogle at us while I fought the urge to glare at them and in some cases, simply stare back. The tourist girl practicing next to me had no idea what she was doing but told her friend to snap pictures of her every move, thus commemorating her outing as a “yogini in the big city.”
I had to keep reminding myself that I, too, like to photograph myself when I’m a tourist, that I too, have taken pictures doing asanas at events like this. I had to keep reminding myself that I, too, stop and stare at people when they’re doing an event in the city, and that just like Dana Flynn, I am not perfect because when she forgot to do Hasta Padangusthasana on one side, the Diva Perfectionist Yoga Snob in me came out and said to her assistant, “she forgot the other side!” and proceeded to do it on my own before continuing (I know— get a grip, BJoy!).
So many things came up: the usual ego stuff (“look at my precise alignment,” “look how in touch with my body I am,” etc…), not to mention the anger (the urge to punch the tourist next to me and glare at strangers with their zoom lens as they zeroed in on our asses in down dog). “Perverts!” I felt like screaming at the top of my lungs. My precious yoga practice will not be made a spectacle of!
I also remembered why I only took a free yoga class in Bryant Park twice: strangers— mostly men— stopping to ogle and whistle at flexible girls has the tendency to turn my stomach. And yet if I was truly at peace with myself would I worry about the people around me or would that be dissociating? Shouldn’t I care about certain creepy dudes with cameras trying to objectify me or is objectification in the eye of the beholder?
My greatest challenge was not the noise, the crowds, the intense energy, the lights, or the heat, but the sense of being watched and worse: being judged. When we chanted for the freedom and happiness of everyone, I had such a strong sense of irritation that the spectators and newbies thought it was silly or didn’t understand and wouldn’t appreciate it anyway. I wanted to pray for humanity without anyone watching (ironic, huh?), without anyone judging me.
More than anything, I felt protective that such a beloved practice could be construed as something wholly not what it is, but just a bit of what it was being made out to be with its complicated asana practice and Athleta fashion show.
Then there was the coming face to face with the possibility that I don’t know what others are thinking or how they’re interpreting anything, that the spectators could be motivated and not oglers, that the newbies could be inspired and not confused, that my thoughts are truly enslaving others and most of all myself.
Lastly there was the remembering “I’m human,” that with all these thoughts I’m just like the thousands of humans around me: hot, angry, happy, joyful, terrified, grateful, irritated, etc.
Not despite all these issues but because of them, Mind Over Madness gave me the opportunity to look at my mind. By bumping into my beliefs about others and the world, into all the shit and shadows, I came out with an enlightening experience. Now that is some practice.
What about you? Did you go? What was your experience?