Balance in the Urban Sprawl

When you’re seated cross-legged, nestled in a cave-like room out in Igatpuri, India, it’s easy to maintain a sense of balance.  Without the distractions of daily life, subways, jobs, egos, small talk, ordering, paying bills, synchronizing schedules, and all that jazz, the peace of mind required for an inward journey is so simple.  Just sit, focus, breathe, meditate.

But here in the big bad city . . . (and yes, it’s been a very *naughty* city, the last few weeks.  Don’t get me started on evil landlords, cheeky bike thieves and dental dramas!) . . . balance don’t come so easy.

Asana to the Rescue!

As a counter to the frenetic whirlwind of the city, I serve up a hearty portion of balance postures in yoga classes I’ve been teaching.  Utthita Hasta Padangustasana and all its variations, nataraj, virabhadrasana 3 with variations, eka pada utkatasana, finished off with a big juicy starfish to remind ourselves, this isn’t torture, it’s liberation!

Life on the mat, life off the mat

Sometimes, it’s as though the weight of the world is on your shoulders, and the only thing keeping you from tumbling over is this tiny little surface area you’re given to spread out.  You feel like you’re extending in every direction, bowing in humility, hovering, waiting, until who-knows-when, centering with every breath, sometimes you get enough hutzpah in you to extend – all of this to backdrop of intense solid focus.

Balance techniques are always valuable, but come in especially handy for the city-dweller.  Always the artistic dodger, we have to consciously take time to find stable footing, feeling internal strength in flexibility.  Be the bamboo, baby!

Urban Tightrope

I give New Yorkers a lot of credit.  To traverse these sun-simmered streets, all grey with old gum droppings – so nasty after the rain – designer footwear buzzing on the surface, busy little bees, zig zagging to find the most efficient of routes – all of us on our way somewhere else – you need to be ultra-aware.  Become a dancer on this mad stage.  Fine tune the simplest of movements.  Winding in and out of crowds, heaving in the mockery of wet August heat.

Until the rain comes.  Mmmm, the sweet reprieve of rain.  Yeah, better yet, be like water.  Flow around the hard times, crap dissipating in your wake.

Balance in the Now

Moving to New York after my studies in India was something akin to being woken from savasana to a radio on full blast – speakers thumping with numbing white noise.  White, black, yellow, with spots of attention-seeking neon.

So, urban life.  Nice to meet you again.  Here are a few ways I’ve been reintegrating, finding a balance between practice and living, love and career, friends and responsibilities.   Santosha? Yes.  Balanced?  Precariously ;o)

Hot Hot Heat! … Balanced perfectly by intermittent rain (and a lovely warm order of sake. Mmmmm…)
Concrete jungle …. Balanced by volleyball days at Long Beach. Yeah, TA, rock that serve!
City cynicism? Not when you’re teaching the kiddies yoga. I’ll make a great zookeeper one day …
Underbelly of Brooklyn trying to take advantage of the new yogi on the block … Balanced by a kirtan session at Dharma’s Yoga Center. Nothin’ a little bhakti can’t cure ;o)
Leading the high-paced hiking yoga workouts at Prospect every Saturday morning … Balanced by Kundalini training with some white-clad followers of the great Yogi Bhajan. These are really just two very different but brilliant practices I’m stoked to have in my life.

Yin to the yang, good with the bad, right brain / left brain, and all those other dichotomies we get to have fun with.  Cheers, New York, I hope this proves some semblance of agility when you’re hurling poop at my head.  And yes, my beloved yoga crew, I promise we’ll lay off the arduous standing balance sequences next week!  😉

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4 thoughts on “Balance in the Urban Sprawl”

  1. Really liked this post (tho I always like them!) – all about beautiful ways of keeping balance in your life. Make lemonade when life hands you lemons! And don’t we all get lemons…Inspiring!
    luv Aunty Cin

    1. Here’s to hoping the lemons are seasonal, and not too constant! 🙂 Since that last hiccup week, things have started to look up. You’re right, we all get lemons, right? We all suffer, it’s one of life’s great mysteries. Why? Why do we have to suffer? I’m uber grateful I’m learning technologies to ease the suffering. That’s the whole point of yoga, Buddhism … ease that suffering, and help others in theirs. It’s pretty rad. 😉 Can’t wait to see you in three weeks!

    2. Here’s to hoping the lemons are seasonal, and not too constant! 🙂 Since that last hiccup week, things have started to look up. You’re right, we all get lemons, right? We all suffer, it’s one of life’s great mysteries. Why? Why do we have to suffer? I’m uber grateful I’m learning technologies to ease the suffering. That’s the whole point of yoga, Buddhism … ease that suffering, and help others in theirs. It’s pretty rad. 😉 Can’t wait to see you in three weeks!

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