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Shruti Eva Saini Headshot

An Ironic Route to Relaxation

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I've estimated that it takes about 20 minutes or so to walk from one end of Newbury Street to the other. And even more so during the weekend when the famous street transforms into an obstacle course as Bostonians and tourists alike come out in droves to soak up whatever rays of transient sunlight they can whilst enjoying the restaurants and shops.

So on this particular Saturday morning I was silently cursing myself for not having left my apartment a few minutes earlier in anticipation of the weekend crowd.

Actually, Newbury is one of my favorite streets in the world to people watch because of these crowds. It's sheer joy to sit back, sip a latte, and just watch the motley cast of characters go by in their J Brand jeans, hipster sunglasses, and Burberry bags. But when I'm trying to traverse the street with intention, their absence of urgency can be downright infuriating.

Couples are window shopping a little too leisurely, strollers are being pushed a little too slowly, and kids are sauntering a little too languidly (whatever happened to kids running a little too wildly??) behind their parents. And in these moments of hurriedness all of my previously held notions of their adorable cuteness quickly dissipate into annoyance as I impatiently try to dodge past.

Skirting past a group huddled around a duo playing street music, I glance down at my blackberry. 11:53am. Almost noon. I'm going to be late. I increase my pace.

Turning the corner of Newbury onto Boylston, I catch a glimpse of red. The Red Cross volunteers with their trademark clipboards and signature smiles. Standing there expectantly and sizing up the sea of side walkers, readying their sights on a target. Don't make eye contact. Pretend to be on the phone! I bring up my blackberry just as one of the Reds catches my eye.

"Good morning! Do you have some time to help the unfortunate?" He's cute. I might have been tempted to stop and gab a little but his somewhat judgmental expression hits a nerve with me. Well, yeah of course I have time for the unfortunate. I'm a kindhearted person dammit! But, just not right this second. I have to get to my yoga class. They'll LOCK the doors on me if I'm late! I meet his gaze with a slight shrug of my shoulders and a pathetic shake of my head. He flashes a smile and reinforces my apparent callousness with a breezy, "Okay, no problem, you have a great day!"

I break into a run.

I arrive at the yoga studio exactly at 12pm. My hands sweaty. Throat dry. And so thirsty by this point I momentarily debate sticking my hands into my mouth. I don't.

Standing there, panting and trying to regain my breath as I check-in, I steal a glimpse of myself in the mirror beyond the counter. Mascara streaked. Ponytail askew. Hair plastered in wet streams across my face. Not exactly the state of serenity I was aiming to be in before my serene yoga class.

Nonetheless, I'm here. Let the relaxation commence...

Throughout the hour, in addition to instructing our movements, our teacher provides us with some informational principles and guidance that form the basis of yoga's teachings.

In between stretching, breathing, and posing I try to absorb what she's saying. As I come up into warrior's pose towards the end of class, the realization of the absolute irony of my morning commute to class hits me. I let out a laugh. Perhaps a little too loudly. I quickly burrow my face in my arm and only release a full smile as we transition into the downward dog position and my face is hidden from view. (I know myself a little too well to know that an unanticipated giggle can transform into a full blown laughing fest if I allow it to).

After a few heavily measured inhales and exhales I revisit the thought that made me laugh. In class we're learning how important it is to preserve a sense of balance and serenity within us. How imperative it is to maintain an inner core of calmness and to adopt a more patient world view. Not to rush. Not to be hurried. Not to worry. Basically, not to maniacally push through life as I had done a mere hour earlier on my crusade to getting to class to achieve relaxation.

I think back to my people watching days. The last time I did that was nearly nine months ago.

We always seem to be rushing. Rushing to the office, the store, the train, the post office, the restaurant, the gym, even yoga class... those pockets of time when we're not in an active state of rush seem to be fewer and far between. Even in those moments when I personally find myself not rushing and just waiting, I still seem to want to create a synthetic state of rush. Blackberry in hand, eyes focused downward, checking and re-checking my email in case an absolutely important message has come through.

I think there's something pretty special about the person who doesn't feel the need to be distracted and is content and at ease with truly just being present. It's definitely a skill to "turn off" and simply be observant. I suppose I need to remind myself of this the next time I inadvertently leave my blackberry at home. Instead of looking around the bus for discarded newspapers and reading materials on empty seats to occupy my attention, I might be better served to just look up and out the window.

As we melt into our final position, our instructor tells us that it is about the journey and not the destination. Yes, I've heard that before.

I let out another muffled laugh as I recognize another bit of irony about what she just said. This morning the reverse to the adage seems to hold more resonance. My destination of class ultimately unlocked some interesting lessons about my journey to get here.

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