We are delighted to welcome Amanda to the teaching team at Balance. Come and meet her Thursdays at 7:30pm, donation based class until 5/29, then an Intermediate Level Vinyasa class. She will also teach Saturdays 10:00 Vinyasa on alternate weeks, starting 5/24. And stay tuned for more starting in June!
Last February I came to New Orleans on vacation for a wild and wonderful joint Bachelor/Bachelorette weekend. I did the usual touristy things – Bourbon Street, Cafe du Monde, a Swamp Tour- but I also managed to squeeze in a few yoga classes, and had the pleasure of visiting Balance Yoga & Wellness. At that time I never imagined that I’d be back here just one year later as a teacher.
Teaching yoga in NYC sometimes felt like a public service. The pace of the city is so relentless and intense that yoga becomes necessary for survival. Even after 12 years of adjusting to the city, I often got whiplash once I made it down the five flights from my tiny apartment to the concrete jungle below. I spent many years fully engaged in that hustle, working in the hospitality industry and squeezing my yoga practice into the few but precious spare moments. As a student, my yoga studio was a place of solace. An urban oasis. A place to escape from the rat race and hit the reset button, even if only for an hour a few times a week. A place to check out from the city, and check into myself.
When I began teaching full time, the yoga studio became more like a rehabilitation center. Harried masses would shuffle in, wait in line to signup for peak evening classes, and hurriedly tap out their last emails before (hopefully) turning off their iPhones and blackberries and shoving them into a cubby. Then they’d take child’s pose and exhale deeply – a beautiful sound for any teacher’s ears. My students were my patients. Eager – desperate even – for an hour of calm, presence, and separation from their handheld device. I wanted to give them what my teachers had given me: relief and respite from an otherwise hectic daily life.
My home studio was located in Soho, a bustling touristy neighborhood in Downtown Manhattan six floors up in an office building on Broadway, quite possibly the busiest street in the entire city. Just getting there involved weaving through crowds of noisy tourists on the sidewalk, squeezing onto packed trains and then into an elevator with other non-yogi tenants of the building. Those other people, in suits and heels, often snarled at those of us in stretch pants and ponytail, probably feeling jealous that they were getting off at a floor with cubicles instead of wide, open studio space.
Yoga then, was always what everything else in New York City life was not. Sometimes the commute home from class would be enough to diminish that blissful yogic feeling that I had so consciously cultivated with my students. Yoga is so much more than an “antidote”, but when your life environment is so decidedly frantic, it’s hard to get beyond the initial, pacifying effects of the practice and explore the deeper truths that lay in stillness.
The decision to move out of the city was not a tough one. I had enjoyed my 20’s there, but I had also fallen in love with New Orleans: the smell of jasmine in the air, the brightly colored and often peculiarly decorated homes, the proximity to the river, and the relative silence of the morning streets. After discovering a genetic (but stress-exacerbated) heart condition in 2013 I knew what I had to do: my heart was literally calling me to the Big Easy. A place where my life would be no less exciting, but much less intense.
Having been here only a month, it’s hard to say how my experience of yoga will evolve, now that my surroundings aren’t fighting back so aggressively against my practice. How much more will I uncover both in learning and teaching, now that de-stressing isn’t such an acute need? My guess, is that this New York City yoga teacher will have just as much to learn from her students as they will from her. I am honored and so grateful to be teaching in my new home and as always, for my teachers and the teachings.