It's been nearly 3 weeks since I packed up my belongings, including my pooch Rosita, and left my Mexican home of 5 months, for the streets of New York City. Thankfully, I spend the majority of my time in quieter neighborhoods in Brooklyn, and only travel to Manhattan for appointments or when I sometimes teach a class at Kula Yoga in Tribeca. Getting used to the energy, noise and the amount of people around has been quite the transition, but one that I've gotten better at now that I've done this before.
Rosita was a champ throughout all of the flights and layovers. We were treated like VIP's at the Atlanta airport, having an escort the entire way through from customs to baggage and through security. So many people think it's difficult to transport pets from another country, but it's quite simple really. If you have the necessary paperwork, you've contacted the airline in advance to reserve the space and understand the policies, it's easy. She fit in her bag, right under the seat in front of me and thanks to my animal intuitive friend in San Pancho, Barbara, we were prepared for the journey. I was more worried than I should've been because it was my first time transporting an animal, and I love her like a child so naturally, I was concerned about her. But after so much loving attention from airline/port staff and fellow passengers, I realized that my worry was unnecessary.
Once we arrived and settled into my first location, I had a few good cries, it's always hard landing back in a big, challenging city with no real place to call home. It was cold, rainy and I was on my first few days of a 6 month stretch back in America. Having given up my Brooklyn apartment last year, I now move around, staying at different places taking care of pets or gardens, or sometimes just sleeping in an empty bed or couch. It's not sexy having to lug your stuff around, biking between your storage space for things you need, and spending money on car services, so yeah, it can get stressful. But more often than not, I get to enjoy quality time with animals or friends, in a completely lovely area, enjoying local culture and am usually tickled pink by all of the different people I get to interact with, especially with a dog or two by my side. I started out staying a couple of nights with my friend and fellow yoga teacher, Jess, who lives near the East River in the Columbia Waterfront neighborhood, near Red Hook. She's met Rosita and like most people, fell in love with her, so it was the best place we could land.
I took it easy my first two weeks in terms of not over-working myself, and instead giving me and Rosita plenty of downtime to adjust, sleep and play. After Jess's place, we transitioned over to Boerum Hill, where I stayed in a gorgeous brownstone with a family, who's dog and garden I care for often. With Mom traveling for work and Dad and kids busy with life, it was my job to make sure their dog, Tuki, was well-cared for. The dogs and I enjoyed walks to Prospect Park for the off-leash hours. I used to walk this area of the park daily when I lived a few blocks away from 2009-2012. I would stare longingly at the dogs playing freely, wishing I could have one of those too. I honestly thought it impossible at that time in my life, I was barely keeping my head above water and had a hard time imagining having enough resources to provide for another animal. Having a cat for 8 years in NY was not easy, most people don't want to share their living space with an animal if they don't have one already and a dog would really be hard as they require much more care.
The other dog, Tuki, was a pro running around the lawn, teasing and barking his way to happiness with other dogs. Rosita was enjoying the off-leash part, as that's how she lives in Mexico, but she's still a bit shy around other dogs. She'd just rather run up to people and get free pets. After a lovely 12 days at the Brownstone with a backyard and garden, we went back to Jess's place for 2 days, and then another friend's couch in Park Slope for 1 night, and now I find myself in Historic Clinton Hill, for a week to care for another dog and 2 kitties. The architecture and local scene are making me wish I had lived here at some point in my nearly 10 years here. Hmmmm.
I'm relieved that Rosita is managing it all like a seasoned traveler. I've been racked with guilt that I've taken her away from such a sweet life in a little beach town to a crazy, concrete jungle with no real home and plenty of change to deal with regularly. But like me, she just needs a little time to adjust and she's fine. She's so mellow and sweet and as long as she has me, some yummy food and a good bed, she's happy. Rosita, the other dog, Sofia and I walked to Fort Greene Park this morning to enjoy their off-leash hours, and Rosita is starting to get the hang of teasing and playing, although she always resorts to following me or finding a kid to elicit pets from. She adores little children, probably because they're the same size and they're generally sweeter than most adults.
I've learned how important it is to make time for self-care and do something non-yoga related when I have some down time. One of my favorite ways to do so is to enjoy some of Mother Nature's magic at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and last week I got to enjoy it with my friend, Inari, who was visiting from Minneapolis. It was literally raining Cherry Blossom petals as we entered the gardens, and the blooming peonies were heavenly. This week, I booked discounted community hours at a local day spa, CityWell, enjoying their hot/cold treatments (steam, sauna, hot tub, hammock, cold shower) for just $25 for 2 hours. It takes the edge off and has me back to my happy place in no time. I also meet incredibly interesting people there. When you're both in a bathing suit camped out in a small sauna, you might as well get to know each other. I've meet artists, healers, authors, academics and travelers, a great way to spend a morning in Brooklyn before heading back out into the jungle.
Revisiting and teaching at my studios has been a real treat. It's been wonderful to reconnect with such strong and awakened communities. And while I feel more confident every year that I teach, I still get nervous when I step into teach a class when I return to NY to resume my schedule. While the people are just as awesome and interesting here in NY, the energy and expectations are much different than those I face in Mexico. But, I enjoy this duality and the challenge keeps me focused and inspired to keep learning more and trusting in myself. I had the honor to teach on Mother's Day, one class held at Prema Yoga in Brooklyn. I adore this studio and booked a cellist, Kirsten McCord, to play alongside me teaching.
We had a great turnout, several friends and new students attended, and I used the opportunity to present a Root Chakra theme for the class, exploring our ancestral patterns and energy found at the base of the Spine. It was a powerful class, I spoke about my Grandmother, whose independent spirit helped her move past a torturous childhood with an unstable mother, who emotionally abused her and had them move 18 times by age 18 because she would never pay rent and would just wait to get evicted and move onto the next hole they'd call home.
My Grandmother said education kept her going through all of the uncertainty and after her kids were grown and her husband passed away, she finished her college degree at 72 and completed her Masters at 84. She was productive all throughout her senior years, traveling to Tibet and China, writing and editing for the local paper or books of poetry, she was known to petition the City Council in St. Paul to expand Skyway hours to serve residents better, and she also managed to get the City to prepare and delegate land in Mears Park to local residents, who could adopt a small garden area, and plant and care for whatever they wanted to grow. She kept going, worked hard, and achieved so much more than was expected from a woman born in 1915 to parents who couldn't manage the business of life.
She continues to inspire me even though she's passed, and her vision and character were passed down to my mother, Mary, who raised 7 kids (5 bi-racial and adpted when it wasn't the norm), and she went on to get her Master's degree with 7 kids under the age of 12. She'd put me on the back of her bike and we'd ride to the University of Minnesota campus everyday where she'd drop me at pre-school so she could attend classes and achieve her dreams. I have some strong women in my family, and I'm fortunate to learn from them and carry on their spirit. I was grateful that many people shared their thoughts, feedback and thanks after this class, and it once again reassured me that I'm supposed to be doing this, even though sometimes I'm scared as hell to walk to the front of the room and share from my heart.
Yoga is more than physical practice, and when someone gets just a taste of that, the moment is awash with opportunities to understand themselves in ways they never have before. Being a part of that process fills me with joy, and I'm so relieved that I get to do something I love in life that makes a difference, even if it's sometimes small in the grand scheme of things. I'm easily bored and the study of yoga, it's anatomy, history and philosophy provide a fascinating adventure that has brought so much abundance to my life, and I'm grateful.