I often get to help my daughter with her work in New York City and, each time I go, I pack up my yoga mat and together we attend as many classes as our schedule allows. Although I am still in the first year of “working out”, my daughter has been cross training for many years. She works out with a trainer, runs along the East River and takes yoga religiously. I am always amazed that she can just throw her hair up, put on her workout gear and look beautiful before, during and after her sweat. I even have a memory of one of her school coaches asking me: How is it she looks like she just got off the runway instead of the soccer field?
I, on the other hand, would never leave the house without hair and makeup done, much less appear in New York City that way. Having my bangs trimmed and done was always key to a good day.
Yoga, however, has changed all that.
My daughter and I arrived at her hot yoga studio in our favorite outfits. I had on my new short shorts and matching sports bra, prepared for the intense heat, and she had on the same. My daughter had a beautiful braid in her hair, and I had on my pony tail with newly trimmed bangs. We were looking good!
The class opened up and, as we got into the flows, the teacher began to speak about masks and humanity.
Will you show your humanity to another? she asked.
As we practiced, she spoke of how most of us wear a mask during our days; how we present only what we want others to see; how we carefully position the way we present ourselves to the world. She went on to relate this to how we all prepare for yoga by making sure we wear outfits that we feel look good, that our yoga hairdos are just so and by even wearing a little makeup.
Yoga, she said, strips all that away. We do yoga, she said, to remove our masks. We sweat. We drip on our neighbor. Our hair falls and gets plastered to our temples and foreheads. Our outfits cling to us with perspiration. Maybe we look a little funny in our poses. Maybe we are not looking so good anymore. Maybe none of it matters.
Yoga removes your mask, the teacher said. But do you care? Will you show your humanity to another? Do you dare?
After the class, we stepped outside, our bodies actually cooling in the summer evening’s heat now that we were out of the hot studio. There I stood in Union Square in New York City, sweaty, bangs pinned back, whatever makeup once there now gone. I felt amazing.
Let me take your picture, my daughter said. Your humanity is showing.