I was already starting to worry about the weather a week before I was going to teach the FREE yoga class in Prospect Park. If the weather turned out to be cool, I’d have to put a sequence together of non-stop movement so that people would stay warm. I began to wonder about the pressure to keep moving with Sun Salutes because every one knows them and expects them, even though I don’t like them.
It’s a deep honor to be given the golden opportunity of teaching a big, free outdoor class in Prospect Park or Bryant Park. Thank you, Lululemon and Bend & Bloom. It is also a considerable challenge. Even though I’ve been teaching for more than 30 years, getting ready for this event still brings up the jitters. I know the drill. Plan the sequence over a series of days, practice it enough times so that it’s part of my cellular system, then relax and have fun. Still, all the build up can be quite intense.
This year, there was going to be a change to the class in the park- there would be a sound system for amplification of my voice. I felt a big PHEW of relief. Not only a chance to feel like Madonna with a microphone while teaching a huge yoga class but no need to worry about shouting myself hoarse and burning out my voice trying to be heard outdoors by a huge group of people. Yahoo!!
Then I asked myself, what is it that I really want to share with all of these yoga students of varying levels in the great outdoors? In an hour-long event, with the pressure of managing a safe, non-stop yoga sequence for a class of more than 100 yogis, what would that be? For this class, I invited each person to delve into the more subtle aspects of themselves during their practice – body, breath, thoughts, emotions, inner intelligence and unconditional love, the 5 layers according to yoga philosophy.
I have a personal awareness test for myself during these summer classes outside – staying focused and in the present moment. For me, in these big classes on the grass, this means can I go through an hour’s worth of instruction without using the word ‘floor’? Why? Because there ain’t no floor in the park! So, I get to experiment with the words: earth, grass and ground.
When I came into the park, I met the lovely ladies from LuluLemon. Within minutes, there’s a convergence of migrating yogis coming towards us. They stream in from the edges of the park and keep coming. Everyone seems to know that it’s summer, it’s Brooklyn, it’s Thursday night, and there’s going to be a great yoga class. Thankfully the weather remained dry, though we heard some rumbling thunder in the distance. Mama Nature sent us this message to remind us who’s the boss.
It was so fun and always spectacular to see a whole lotta people doing yoga together. We touch down and look up to a wide, open sky. Gathering our breath, then letting it go. Moving, opening, holding steady in Tree Pose, like the strong trees around us in the park, then releasing. There were all ages practicing together, even one little girl named Isabelle, age 5, in the back with her mom. Friends come with each other, daughters with their mothers. In the end, we’re all coming together as one, moving like a migratory V.
The class is over and there is a collective, contented smile. Some people gather after to talk about the class and about their lives. Dusk falls and the park gets ready to sleep. We trickle out and onto the sidewalks, enriched for having touched a little bit of our human potential to reach the natural world and to be filled again with breath, beauty, vast openness and the energy of life around us. And I can feel that my jitters are now long gone.