I woke at 5:15 am, as usual, last Thursday and peered through the blinds to review last night’s snow. Eight inches or more and still falling. I called the Bikram studio and, alas, no weather cancellations. I shrugged into my pants, zipped my parka to my chin, pulled my gloves tight and walked into the white.
The atmosphere was too gentle to be declared a storm; an elegant layering of particles, dense on the ground, unperturbed by tires or boots, easing up at eye level to a downy grey flecked with pinpricks of white, ascending to an expansive, bloated vault above. Particles of snow flowed down from this endless sky smooth as a five o’clock drink; without force, without urgency. There was so much snow, but nary a flick of wind. I was shrouded in iridescent brilliance.
The walking was easy; the snow deep but fluffy. At the corner a distant motor and faint headlights announced an oncoming plow at a slow, steady speed. I realized then a plethora of mechanical hum – trucks in all directions carved paths in the snow, reasserting the organization of streets upon the landscape.
I arrived at the station, one of a few. A train arrived at a dawdling pace. It stopped. I boarded. We moved on. Cautious, deliberate. As the train went underground we moved a bit faster, but not much. The few passengers were quiet; a moving meditation.
I emerged at Back Bay. The streets were not plowed. Ribbons of grey tire tracks meandered in easy curves, as though the vehicles were dancing a casual fox trot to their destinations. Maintenance staffs of the commercial buildings scraped their shovels across granite paving. A section of townhouse storefronts along Boylston Street remained unshoveled. A series of distinct boot prints punctuated the clear expanse of glistening snow. A brave person created the first depressions, then perhaps one or two others matched their gait. The prints formed an intention; they were trod heavily enough to be called a path. They led to the studio door.
There were six of us that morning for the 6:15 am Bikram yoga class, plus the owner Jill as the teacher. We were an indulgent group, drifting into the 110 degree room to stretch and sweat while the rest of the world woke with a chilly shrug and proceeded to dig themselves out from nature. With so small a group, we each received helpful corrections, our practices improved.
By the time we finished, showered and changed the snow had ceased, the sky grew brighter. The day blossomed and would be fine. Still, very few people were on the streets and those who were focused on their snow moving tasks; essential employees all. I decided to walk to my office, about 15 blocks. I appreciated the stretches where sidewalks were clear; I navigated the portions still clogged. I felt superfluous, separate from the singular activity of snow removal that bears down like a commandment immediately after a storm.
When you practice Bikram it is hard to describe how essential it becomes to you. If I miss a day when I am in Boston, I feel incomplete. On days that I can’t practice first thing, I travel through my activities unbalanced; something is amiss until I get to class. Only after I have completed my daily class can I establish my connection to the world. For Bikram practitioners, the yoga is essential. That is why the studios almost never close for weather. That is why six of us struck out to go to class that morning.
I could have stayed home; I could have had a cup of tea and waited for the snow to dissipate. I could have shoveled my walks. But instead I rose through the snow, savored the early, quiet streets and warmed my body with stretching and empty-minded meditation. I shoveled later, after I got home that night, because in the morning, yoga is essential for me.