TreeHugger Town & Country: Yoga in the morning, yoga at night

triangle pose at the beach
CC BY 2.0 Dennis Yang

TreeHugger Town & Country is a bi-weekly series that compares and contrasts modern green living in a city and a small town through the lens of two twenty-something women. Katherine Martinko is a stay-at-home mom with two little boys in the town of Port Elgin, Ontario. Margaret Badore lives in New York City with her two roommates and small dog.

Katherine: Early morning yoga is coffee for the soul

Few things get me out of bed at 5 a.m., but early morning yoga is incentive to do it. The class doesn’t start till 6, but I like to ease into my day. I tiptoe downstairs through the blackness, enjoy a banana muffin with a cup of Earl Grey tea, then step outside into the still-dark morning and drive to the other side of town for yoga.

Today there are only two other students. In the murky light of the CrossFit gym, where our teacher Karly hosts free drop-in classes, we spread out our yoga mats and lie down. The familiar smell of rubber floors, metal plates, and old sweat swirls around my head. Just hours ago, this same space was full of gasping, panting, pounding feet, and slamming bars, but now it has metamorphosed into a peaceful cocoon of calm.

Karly tells us to set an intention for the day. I settle on patience, and will strive to be more patient with my children today. We move slowly, stretching lightly, getting progressively more intense. At first I can’t flatten my feet or straighten my knees during Downward Dog, but as time passes, I feel flexibility returning. She tells us to stretch a leg upward and I hear a collective snap, crackle, pop in all of our hip joints as we move into a new position. It’s funny, but I swallow my giggle before it ruins the mood.

For an hour we bend, sway, stretch, hold, twist, reach, and lean. Each movement seems subtle, yet their combined effect leaves me feeling exhilarated. I collapse into shavasana, the resting pose at the end, and am aware of my skin tingling, my heart beating, and breath coursing through my body. I lie there for four glorious minutes, willing it never to end. When the time comes, it takes every ounce of willpower to start wiggling life back into my fingertips.

Two happy little boys are waiting at the door when I get home, so full of questions and observations that you’d think I’d been away for a week. I greet them with enthusiasm, ready to face the day alongside their inexhaustible energy.

Margaret: Taking my brain off the internet

I am not a morning person. I admire Katherine's ability to start her day with yoga, but the first thing I stretch for in the morning is my iPhone. Most days, I'm checking Twitter before I'm out of bed, looking for stories to cover and keeping up with the news. I'll listen to NPR while I make breakfast, check my email over tea and schedule Facebook posts as I eat.

I have a corner of my room where I can work standing up, but I do most of my writing from the living room couch. I know it's not healthy. By the end of the day, my legs are stiff and brain is like a hamster in a wheel. So for me, yoga is the perfect activity to do when I need to get off the internet.

My yoga studio is a one-room affair above a sushi restaurant. I make it to class about twice a week. There are many fancy yoga studios around New York City, but this one is bare-bones: walk-ins only, $5.00 per class or suggested donation, rent a mat for $1.00.

The room will be packed for the after-work classes. Expect your mat to be two inches away from your neighbor on all sides. Call it what you will—good vibes, good karma, good energy—I don't take any of that too seriously, but there's something awesome about 30 sweating New Yorkers packed into a small space and actively trying to stay in a positive mood.

There are lots of companies doing their best to make eco-friendly yoga gear, and that deserves praise, but perhaps the greenest thing about yoga is that you don't need much gear. What I wear to the yoga studio is more old-high-school-track-shorts than organic-bamboo-ansana-leotard.

At the beginning of class, I often struggle to stop thinking in Tweets or making tomorrow's to-do list. But a few sun salutations in, and I'm able to focus on my breath and feel my body in space. I remind myself over and over: shoulders down, heart forward--the best corrective for a day spent hunched over a laptop. In pigeon pose, the ache of the stretch obliterates all other thoughts. My teetering mastery of crow pose or warrior three demands full attention.

By the end of class, the street traffic feels miles away and I'm totally blissed out. I'm able to shut the lid on the internet and feel like my work day is really over.

Unless someone Tweets at me.

TreeHugger Town & Country: Yoga in the morning, yoga at night
Yoga can be coffee for the soul in the morning, or a great way to put a lid on the work day.