A Yoga Room of One's Own

In his current living space, Neal Pollack doesn't have the room nor is inspired to practice yoga. He's trying to find a yogic lesson in the situation.
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In his current living space, Neal Pollack doesn't have the room nor is inspired to practice yoga. He's trying to find a yogic lesson in the situation.

Eighteen months ago, I was renting a house on a hill in Los Angeles. It was a modest house, and a modest hill, but I loved living there. I had an office, with its own bathroom, on a second story. Two small private decks gave me views of the mountains and Dodger Stadium and downtown. I could open the French doors, on just about any given day, and feel cool breezes on my back as I wrote, or as I pretended to write.

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Almost every day, I did yoga up there.

Anyone who's ever had a consistent home practice knows the importance of space. When you've got the yoga bug, you're more likely to unroll the mat when you feel comfortable, safe, and relaxed in your environment. Up there in that room, I worked on my yoga, quietly and alone. Some days I did very aggressive sequences. Others, I just did 20 minutes right before bed. I would sit and meditate for up to an hour, listening to the rustling leaves, the birds, and, because it was Los Angeles, the endless scream of the leafblowers. I was so happy up there in my room; I just wanted to stay in it forever, doing yoga, vaporizing pot, and writing.

Then, for reasons that I don't want to go into here, we had to leave town, dramatically, traumatically, and almost overnight. We moved back to Austin, Texas, a nice place to live by most standards. But we ended up in an old, drafty house, the most decrepit place I've lived in 20 years. We're still here.

The house is small. There's nowhere to store our stuff, and we don't have a lot of stuff. Our old house had never been particularly clean, but in this one, every corner is taken up by boxes, or crates, or piles of laundry both dirty and folded. It's a hard place to love, and a harder place to practice yoga.

Not only am I uninspired, I also have no space. My small office is crammed with furniture. I practiced in the yard for a while, but then our erratic landlady dumped a pile of gravel back there, so that was out. A couple of times a month, I'll clear a corner of the living room and do my Sun Salutations or follow along to a DVD. But the floor is cold and dirty and I keep hitting my hands on the bookshelves. For these reasons, yoga is mostly a road game for me right now.

There are countless situations in the world more tragic than "middle-aged guy doesn't like his house." We're hardly trapped forever. When our lease runs out, we're going to leave. But as always, I'm trying to learn some larger yoga lesson from the experience.

I went from my favorite house as an adult to my least-favorite, from an ideal location to practice asana and meditation to a terrible one. But yoga teaches us that all situations, from the most exalted to the very low, and everything in between, are worth contemplating. When I think about the house I loved and the house I loathe, I have to remember that neither of them were my house. They were just spaces I was renting, kind of like our bodies are spaces that we're just renting. They're vehicles for us to observe the world as it changes around us, to experience suffering and joy, fitness and sickness, confusion and clarity. Your current situation, no matter how terrible, or wonderful, or dull, will change. It will all expire, like a travel visa. This is life's only guarantee.

That said, someday I really would like a dedicated yoga room in my house. If that happened, I'd be so grateful. I'd even consider sweeping it occasionally.