Thursday, September 23, 2010

Go Through the Tourists

Although I consider myself to be a very nice person, I'm easily annoyed by tourists. I try to avoid them at all costs. I've perfected the art of weaving through them on city sidewalks, the way one would pass cars on the Autobahn. I don't go near Times Square or Herald Square (really anything with the word "square" in it). I'm not sure why they bother me so much...they're probably very sweet people, but the truth is they slow me down. I can't get to where I'm going as fast as I could if they (for example) just stood on the right side of the escalators and let me pass them on the left. Being angry at tourists used to take up a good chunk of my energy, but then I figured out all the shortcuts that allowed me to simply avoid them completely.

Despite my attempts to stay away from their typical hangouts, tourists (like any hearty obstacle) seem to find me wherever I go. When I shop for lipstick at Bloomingdales, there they are. When I try to swipe my Metrocard, there they are in front me trying to figure out which way to swipe theirs. When I come out of the subway, there they are, congregated at the exit looking at their maps. It seems as though they're following me around the city.

I assumed this blood-boiling reaction was related specifically to my interactions with foreign visitors, until I started to recognize the same flashes of annoyance–those same instincts to flee–on my yoga mat. Thighs quivering, I would come out of Virabhadrasana 2 and find any means necessary to distract myself from witnessing the intensity (looking down, fidgeting, letting out dramatic exhales so that the teacher would know just how much I had suffered). Kicking up into handstand with my "special occasion" leg was high on my list of things to avoid, and so I'd just kick up with my favorite leg and hope the teacher wouldn't notice. I know I'm not alone. I once offered a block to a woman in my class who told me she was allergic to props (the foam bricks, the nylon belts, the wool blankets...I don't know how this woman got through life with so many allergies). Like an ostrich who buries its head in the sand when hunted by a predator, pretending it's not there seems to be a popular way to deal with the enemy.

Then the inevitable happened; I found myself trapped in a corner, unable to find a way around what I had so desperately tried to avoid. Called out by a teacher (or maybe I was just fed up with myself) I was forced to stare down my obstacles and find a way through them. When faced with a hurdle you've been trying to dodge, something very interesting're forced to work it out. You may not be able to get to where you're going at warp speed, but you begin to realize that all the detours you've been taking are just that: detours. Moving through the restriction allows you to find the most direct route to your destination. Using a strap around your arms in Urdhva Dhanurasana, for example, may prevent you from lifting as high as you would sans strap, but it moves you through the tightness in your shoulders and ultimately allows you to do the pose strap-free. Moving through an obstacle is the only way to see why it was a problem in the first place. The effort to look may even give you the chance to surmount the mountain in your way.

Life is full of obstacles. It's our attitude towards those obstacles that ultimately defines our life. Perhaps challenges are actually opportunities for us to really see ourselves. Our lives are like prisms...each experience, each restriction, each character merely reflects our own image back to ourselves. When I think of it in this way, I'm tempted to walk through Herald Square and be amongst the tourists (actually, that may be a little advanced for me right now). I'm intrigued at the prospect of standing behind them on the escalator rather than plowing them over. I might need to use some of the techniques I've learned on my yoga mat. I may even need to breathe, but I'll certainly begin to see space in my experience. Now I walk down Broadway twice a week the way I'd pop into a yoga class. I want to find a way to be with the intensity. This is my practice, so if you see me walking through Soho very slowly with a smile on my face, you'll know what I'm up to.


  1. Beautiful insights, thanks for sharing Chrissy :)

  2. Always enjoy reading your posts, and especially appreciate this reminder about using the supports (strap in Urdhva) to help us as we strengthen our body-mind and gain insights into our practice. Thank you Chrissy!