i practiced ashtanga yoga at the broome street temple in new york city for years with my teacher eddie stern. the overwhelming gratitude that fills me for having had the opportunity to do so is not a thing for words, but some reflections are perhaps worth writing about…
external changes were something to get used to at the temple. it was always something: the multi-colored walls changing their multi-color, the four months we practiced in eddie's apartment upstairs during renovations to the temple (which for me was exciting and felt like a four month snow day off of school), or the occasional winter morning when the heat was busted in the old soho building where the temple occupied the 2nd floor…when that happened eddie would send a message on the web regarding dress warm for practice. i'd show up and see eddie in socks, sweatpants, a thick hoodie, and a winter cap to keep warm while he taught. many other students wore socks and sweatpants too, but we all practiced nonetheless.
summer mornings the beads of sweat would run down my face and back the second i entered the room, which felt like a sauna even before the sun came up. on these days it was early morning slip and slide and i'm not sure how much "yoga" really got done in there, but something happened. that's for sure. i'd wipe up the puddles of sweat from around the edges of my mat as a courtesy for the next person. when leaving i wobbled down the stairs like a wet noodle. whatever the temperature outside i felt like i was walking into a refrigerator. but i never left disappointed that i showed up.
ultimately, looking back on my time at the broome street temple, what occurred to me then and continues to inspire me today has little to do with these anecdotes that give me a giggle. it's the consistency of "practice as usual" that underlies these funny exceptions to how things typically were...wait, here it is more clearly: it's that the students in that room, to me, are fucking super heroes. with all their traumatic experiences, coping with new york city life, the cold, the heat, housing change, partner change, work change, etc., they came to practice. and it's not because they could bend into shapes that i'm writing this…if that was exciting i'd stay home and watch reruns of gymnastic events. they simply showed up, and it takes real courage to show up for yourself and your shit consistently in any context. what's truly incredible is they continued to show up for themselves. every. day. year after year. whatever it is that happens in the mysore room on any given day, at the very least, they showed up, made some shapes, practiced breathing, and were quiet for at least an hour or two. for me, that constitutes super hero status.