Sweating and praying (sort of) in New York

At six o’clock this morning I was in a room in New York filled with the sound of chanting and dozens of sweating bodies. The astanga yoga studio I go to here opens at 5.45 and while we practice, traditional religious rituals are taking place in the elaborate altar area–a kind of gilt cabana with Indian elephant god statues, and flowers and food as offerings. There was also a fellow chopping vegetables in a back room, and after a while I could smell rice cooking, and butter heating (or was I just imagining this, as I heated up?). I don’t know if it was breakfast for the yogis or the gods.

 

At 6.30, Eddie calls us to attention and we chant the invocation prayer (an invocation, I think, not an incantation as a friend put it last week—though I rather like the idea of a magic spell, and wish there was one for doing a perfect headstand). I’ve been told to work on slowing my breathing, to improve my focus. It’s fascinating that focus has become my f-word in business, too. So much is burgeoning this year that I need the admonition more than ever (and I’m getting it, too, from all directions).

 

As I listened to the chanting this morning I reflected on the oddity of my being involved in two Asian practices, yoga and aikido, both intense physical training activities that include religious rituals. Maybe, I told my son a few weeks ago, with all this praying and chanting, I’m becoming a bit more spiritual. “Sure,” he said, “Mom, you’re about as spiritual as a cannonball.”