One of the best fringe benefits to working in the running industry is that working out during the day is pretty much a given. In the marathon office the staff typically runs, goes to the gym, walks or takes a yoga class some point each day. Yesterday was on a fast downhill slide, so Sabrina and I decided to break free of the confines of small office space, continually ringing phones and the “count down to race day” tally I have on the white board (88 days in case you are wondering) and head to a yoga class in Cow Hollow. Stretching and relaxing would make the rest of the day enjoyable and productive.
We signed up on line for the killer first visit package, grabbed some mats and headed to what would be a new class for us both. After spending 20 minutes to find parking we arrived with only minutes to spare and realized:
1. We must not be the only people with accommodating “do as you please” work benefits and;
2. Getting to this class early is mandatory if you actually want to be able to place your mat on the floor.
I told Sabrina to get in line to sign us in and that I would do what the rest of those searching for inner peace were doing: try to snag some hardwood floor real estate. I quickly found a spot for Sabrina’s mat and then turned to look for my own space. It was packed! Meditative music was playing loudly and the room was warm- almost stuffy. A few lit candles released the scent of jasmine. I scanned the room wondering if there was at least one fellow yoga-ister who would move a few inches to one side or the other so that I too could enjoy this setting. I was met with blank stares by those who were bold enough to actually make eye contact with me.
Typically I’m bold. If it were a new running class I was joining I would have no problem making small talk with fellow runners, asking about how they like their shoes, what they were training for or if I could join their group that was stretching out. I’ve been known to make running friends by asking people what to do about black toe nails or how to best stretch my It band. Runners are welcoming like that.
This class, however, was not about warm and fuzzy. Everyone seemed to be in search of enlightenment, but they wanted it all for themselves. These people were not going to move. They watched me struggling to sort out where I could make this work and no one would budge. It was almost as if they were challenging me to ask them to move. What has happened to common courtesy? What happened to embracing life and goodwill and peace that Yoga inspires? Not this group.
Taking a deep restorative breath I headed out the door muttering about how rude people can be and met Sabrina at the front desk. I explained the situation with my voice reaching a frantic stressed out pitch. I told her where her mat was and asked the gal at the desk to make sure I wasn’t docked for the class that that I clearly wasn’t going to partake in.
Sabrina gave me the look she gives me when she’s thinking that I remind her of her mother and made her own attempt at getting me some downward dog space. Moments later she returned with a wide smile. “I found you a spot! Come on!” She had gotten someone to move and had placed my mat on the floor.
Between the time she had left the room and brought me back in (oh, about 45 seconds) someone had MOVED MY MAT and placed theirs in its spot! Are you kidding me??!? I am still in shock at the audacity. And it wasn’t moved into a nice wide place, but pushed off to the side where I wouldn’t be able to stand on it, let alone find the peace I was intending for this practice.
Infuriated and not wanting to make a scene (okay, I did actually want to make a scene, but did not want to embarrass Sabrina) I grabbed my mat not waiting to hear the reason why this person chose to be so brazen. I asked for my money back as I was not intending to come to this studio again. Sabrina was suddenly behind me asking for the same thing. The girl insisted it wasn’t this crowded at the 8:00pm class and that we should come back. No Thanks!
Back out on the street I pondered what to do. I promised Sabrina (and my husband) I would go to Yoga and it was looking as if this wasn’t going to happen. Now, in some ways, Sabrina is the child of our office. She’s a young pup, 20 years my junior. But she is often times more resourceful, more balanced, more pro-active than I. “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”, she joked with a smile.
We found ourselves, 10 minutes later, on East Beach next to Crissy Field. Laying my mat on the soft white sand and kicking off my shoes I stood to feel the wind whip through my hair. I took a deep breath of fresh air as I gazed at a wind surfer under the Golden Gate Bridge. The sun was bouncing off the waves and warming my skin, a shadow was cast on the hills of the Presidio, small black birds were pecking at sand, and a small dog was chasing a ball along the shore. There was no meditative music to be heard, no soothing voice of an instructor telling me how to bend, no candles burning in the room. Instead I found a renewed sense that couldn’t be conjured in a dimly lit studio. I held child’s pose a bit longer that I would have in a teacher led class. I skipped the poses that hurt my knees and I focused on stretching my IT Band. I found that half moon pose is much easier to hold on the sand.
I know I won’t be going back to that particular yoga studio in Cow Hollow. But I will return to the amazing “studio” by the San Francisco Bay, very soon. And, if you want to lay your mat down next to me, I’ll make room for you, running friends.