The DMV on a gorgeous spring afternoon is the perfect place to practice yoga. The fluorescent lights, the stale, airless quality of beige linoleum despair sprinkled with crying children and tension so thick you can feel the collective sphincters puckering all around you. State offices seem designed to provoke and/or depress you. If there was ever a group who needed yoga it was these people that I shared space with on an impossibly uncomfortable wooden bench that was seemingly designed to cause lower back pain and tension.
It’s easy to do yoga in a cave in the mountains, cut off from life and it’s distractions and obligations. It’s also easy to go to a beautiful yoga studio complete with soft music and soothing lights, a refuge from your daily life and family, surrounded by like-minded seekers collectively tuning in to their breath and moving together as one. In the DMV it’s hard enough to take a deep breath from the lack of circulation and funky smells emanating from the people around you let alone thinking of doing yoga. Besides their charming smells their moods and energy range from bored to tweaked to aggressive to depressed.
The yoga I am referring to is not the kind done on a sticky mat while chanting Om, although mantra and asana practice would probably make the wait time pass more quickly. The yoga I mean is the kind we practice anytime, anywhere without anyone ever knowing it. It comes from a place within your heart, the place you melt into in deep meditation or savasana relaxation at the end of yoga class or when you’re doing anything that you love like gardening, running, reading a book, playing with your kids or pets or watching a sunset. The place where we remember that while we are going through the motions of being a part of society and dealing with bureaucratic offices and oceans of paperwork we can rest in the ocean of peace and contentment that is the reality of who we are if we choose to remember it.
I sat on the sadistically designed bench flanked on each side thigh to thigh with a man who has perhaps forgotten what soap and antiperspirant are and a woman who believes that you can never wear too much perfume. I looked out across the sea of faces and saw a woman with a freshly soothed child no longer crying, resting her head placidly on her mother’s shoulder and to an older couple sitting beside each other holding hands while each read their own book. I smiled and breathed, although not too deeply, grateful for the luxuries of my culture and country where at least I had the opportunity as a woman to drive and own a vehicle. No matter how physically or mentally uncomfortable you are you can usually find a reason to be grateful which is what yoga is all about. Yoga doesn’t change life, but it can change your reaction to it.
I sat and waited patiently, grateful for the physical practice of yoga for making my lower back stronger and less tweaked by the seating arrangements. I held my number lightly careful not to watch the clock or the “now serving number” ticker too closely, watched water never boils. I remembered my excitement at passing my road test and the first taste of freedom my license brought me at 17 years old, now 17 years behind me. Before I knew it my number was being called and I smiled at my bench mates and wished them a speedy passage. They smiled back, hopefully their tension released just a bit, if only momentarily. Yoga off the mat is quickly becoming my favorite way to pass the time.