A few years ago, after finding myself bored with my regular workouts, I decided to give yoga another try. I’d taken a class during college and liked it enough, so I figured it might be a good change for a while. Despite the dozens of yoga studios in the city, I started taking classes at my gym since I already had a membership there. To my surprise, I fell in love with it. Even though I was practicing my Chataranga Dandasana on the floor of a New York Sports Club rather than in a sun-lit room somewhere like Om Yoga where a peaceful energy almost radiates from the walls, I would race home from work every Tuesday night to make it to class, feeling like if I missed it, I would have a hard time getting through the rest of the week. For this I had Vince to thank. Vince was our teacher. He always wore a funny ensemble that included bright-colored bike shorts, a tee shirt and a bandana wrapped around his head. And he’d sit in front of the class at the beginning and end and always read to us—something from Yoga Journal, or a book on meditation—a little thought for us to carry with us in our practice that night, sort of like a theme for the hour. I remember, I would leave class every week and walk home feeling like the weight of the world had been lifted off my shoulders.
One Tuesday, at the end of class, before leaving, I went up to Vince to ask where that evening’s reading had come from and he showed me a book called, Still the Mind by Alan Watts. He gave it to me and said I could borrow it for a while. So I took it and I told him I’d bring it back in a week or two. Well, the next week I forgot it, and the week following I got stuck at work and wouldn’t be making it to class. I didn’t want Vince to think I was running off with his book, so I sent him a quick email letting him know I’d be absent, but that I’d bring the book the next week. What happened next literally sent me to tears. I got a response from Vince that he was no longer going to be teaching; that he felt he needed to go back to studying the practice himself. He didn’t mind that I still had the book and actually gave it to me as a going away present, though usually the one leaving gets gifts rather than gives them. He actually called it a “going your own way” present.
I ended up keeping in touch with Vince and met him once for a Saturday yoga class at Om. We followed with lunch at an Indian restaurant where he told me about his travels, and his Buddhist studies, and his family. And then time went on and we lost track of one another. I’d still go to the class, but from them on, it seemed more about the hour of physical activity rather than anything cathartic, but soon I got used to that. Then yoga faded for a while and I got on other kicks of exercise and head-cleansing.
Out of the blue, I went to that class tonight, at that same New York Sports in the same room where Vince used to teach. When I got there I was a little disappointed to find an older woman teaching the class rather than any of the other teachers I’d practiced with when I was still going, post Vince. It turned out her looks were deceiving, and despite her age that I am guessing was somewhere near sixty-five, she kicked our butts. And on my way home I remembered the classes with Vince, and the book and the bit about “going my own way.” When I was leaving Florida last week I stood with my mom, feeling sad to be departing from the comforts of our happy house and returning to my lonely Manhattan apartment. It’s always the same leaving— I worry how it appears to my family, that all of them are there and I made the choice long ago to be here. I’m still not sure which way to go or where I will ultimately land. But for now, I suppose this is my way.