At one of the studios where we teach there is a parking issue. I don’t think that the studio owner predicted the popularity of the place, and well, there are a lot of cars and they are spilling out onto the street.
No big deal, right? Street parking is perfectly legal and yoga people are healthy— they can walk a few blocks. But it’s not that simple. Because there are crazy neighbors.
I guess the neighbors have been living there for a long time. Maybe they’ve been parking their cars in the same exact spots forever, tacitly agreeing with their neighbors that this is their spot. All I know for sure is that when their parking program got disrupted by yoga traffic a couple of these neighbors got really ornery.
We’ve had multiple instances of dog poop mysteriously appearing on the studio stairs while class was in session. One student went out to her car after class to find “Do not park here!” written across her windshield in lipstick. We’ve had people lay on car horns in the parking lot during Savasana.
The studio owner has tried talking with these people, offering them parking cones and flags to mark their territories, but they seem unappeasable. And rageful.
Last night, as I arrived for my six o’clock, I could sense the tension. One of the neighbors was walking his dogs around in circles on the street where people were trying to park (is he also our poop bandit?). He was purposely making it physically difficult to pass him, and saying intimidating things to people as they tried to maneuver around him. Several students were upset by their encounter with him and one of my students was near tears, telling me that it makes her want to go practice somewhere else. I can hardly blame her.
This was no kind of energy to start a yoga practice with. I was feeling anxious myself, which is no place from which to start teaching.
There are lessons to be learned from this. One is simple: arrive early. When you practice at a busy studio you need to give yourself some extra time. Classes fill up, parking is tough; there are obstacles. Another lesson is harder: don’t let the obstacles fluster you. Even when the obstacle is a mean guy.
After class, one of my students told me a friend had offered her this advice: When a person is being mean to you, try to imagine them standing in front of you with a handful of shit. Would you take that handful of shit from them? In the same way you wouldn’t take the poop from their hands, don’t take their anger, or hate. Don’t let people hand you their shit. It stinks.
We can think of yoga as training for handling situations like Angry Neighbor Guy. We put ourselves in these uncomfortable, difficult positions and try to breathe and be calm there (happy, even). It’s hard in the studio, but it’s even harder out in life. So, what can we do about the jerks we encounter? The people who want to belittle you because of their own frustrations and inadequacy issues? The same thing we do as we struggle through a strong class: breathe consciously, and try to smile. Practice this. Practice. Practice. And Practice.
The other lesson is this: Don’t park in front of the house with the Mitt Romney yard sign.