A finance guy, an architect, a comedian, a poet, and a handful of others were sitting around the yoga studio, talking about the election. That sounds like the beginning of a dirty joke, but it was actually the start of a rather somber group chat with a few awkward silences sprinkled throughout. Topics shifted from energetic Palin slams, to the last eight years and Bush theories, to Septeber 11th. A guy spoke up that he lost several good friends working in those buildings. Another in the room had been a rescue worker. Everyone was quiet for a while until the architect broke it up with, "Isn't this yoga, aren't we supposed to be talking about our feelings?"
We've all felt the hits from the economy, the doom of global warming, and now we're bracing ourselves for the election. This group, all from completely different backgrounds, ages, and life experience comes to the studio for the physical and mental release. This isn't your stereotypical aspiring-something-to-make-me-famous yoga crowd prancing around in the latest outfit, networking their way to wherever-I-can-get-land. We have Coast Guard members, programmers, city workers, traders, environmentalists . . . all lined up downward dogging. Some of the people who come are laid off from their jobs. Our regular ex-finance guy told us that half his old trading floor is empty now. He also advised us to keep cash around and buy a gun. I had a strange feeling he was only half-joking. The architect let us in on behind-the-scenes stories about greed and corruption of city workers that I've only heard about on the History Channel. Our comedian friend chimed in about time he spent in the military, and reasons why he was die-hard republican until the last few years.
Seeing this diverse group practice yoga together reminds us there are more similarities than differences among us. For an hour and a half everyone in that room is doing pretty much the exact same thing, with a few crashes and wobbles here and there. Everyone is breathing together, and on some level we all are grateful to be there together. Not in a weird, "I want to talk about my feelings" yoga way, of course. More in a "thanks man, I hear you" way. These are regular people. They wouldn't be picked out of a crowd as "yoga people."
Most of the people coming to yoga regularly now say they need it to decompress from their daily lives and stay positive and healthy. They keep coming back. And they're not the traditional new age yoga clothes spiritual-seeker crowd. I think this shift is happening all over. All kinds of people are practicing yoga now. They're coming not just to stay healthy and strong, but also to find a sense of community, some peace of mind, and to have a place they can call their own that's free from the stress going on outside. First-timers ask if they can leave their mat. Maybe because they know they'll be back and want to claim a little bit of calm for themselves.
Even though the conversation wasn't as fluid and witty as it could have been, no one in that room wanted to leave after class was over. I'm sure part of that is yoga makes you feel really great, especially after an hour and a half class. But that's not the usual routine. I've been to a lot of places where students bolt out the door the minute class is finished (or even jump up a few minutes early to get a good headstart). So maybe people are sticking around now for the juice and cookies, but the other part is they want to stay and talk. People are craving connection now and want to hear what each other are going through. It just feels good to come together, sweat it out on the mat, and talk for a bit before we all head home and have to turn on the news.
"What are we going to do when it's over?" someone asked the group, referring to after the election. "We'll probably go back to watching videos of cute cats on YouTube." I know it won't solve the financial, environmental, or health care crisis, or bring world peace, but who doesn't like a good cat video?
And with that I offer you a little bit of decompression, Cat Steals Peanuts. It's twenty eight seconds of mindless home video footage that is sure to make you smile. Cat videos on YouTube are the new meditation.