Friday, October 26, 2007

Seriously Righteous Yoga

So, I have news. Big news.

In the month that I have been "home" in Washington, DC, I have accomplished two awesome things.

First, I am almost over my extremely bizarre (albeit mine, mine, all mine) phobia of extremely large escalators. Phobias are such a funny thing. For me, it is not escalators, per se. Medium-sized escalators of less than, say, 30 steps are ok. I don't necessarily like them, but I can handle them without too much panic setting in. But large escalators? The super-sized kind that take 10 minutes to ride?!!? Are you kidding me? They make me frantically search for an elevator to get where I'm going. (Of course, this situation isn't helped by the fact that I also loathe elevator riding and by the time I find one, I'm usually on the verge of hyperventilation at any rate. Strange, but true.)

For those of you who don't know, Washington, DC is full of super-sized escalators. Take, for example, the Woodley Park escalator. I once had a job interview in the Woodley Park area. The escalator at that particular stop made me late. Very late. The elevator to street level was broken at the time, and so I was left with little choice but to put my body on that moving stair contraption thing and let it take me against my will. Of course, my first three attempts at this had me running backwards back down the damn thing until my own state of embarrassment overtook my desire to be composed and punctual interviewee. White-knuckled, sweating profusely in my cute suit, and on the verge of hysterics, I finally reached the top. Going back down was yet another part of the story, but I'll leave that to another time.

Phobias make absolutely no rational sense. In my case, the only rational thing to do is to blame this particular scenario on my grandmother who scared the bee-jesus out of me at the ripe old age of 4 when my family moved to the District of Columbia. Her Old World, prophetic-sounding warning that escalators have the ability to eat the fingers and toes of little girls who don't pay attention to where they are going still rattles my psyche.

At any rate, I promised good news, so here it is: I've been silently, yet deliberately working to overcome this silly phobia. For the past couple of weeks, I've been riding every escalator in the city. I've been using breathing techniques from yoga and meditation to calm my heart rate, and using every opportunity to ride an escalator as a moment to meditate and notice the changes in my body rather than freak out. So far, it's working very well. Of course, my grand opus will be riding the Woodley Park escalator. In the meantime, I am happy to report that I am a basically functional person again. So, yay...

The second item of newsworthy importance is that all of my escalator riding hasn't been a complete waste of time. Usually, this has been done in my combined effort to find a yoga space in DC that rocks. First, let me say that my world-traveling yoga mat and I have trapsed all over the DC metro area together. My search has culminated in the discovery of a righteous, holistic-feeling, yoga safe-place in the heart of town. For anyone interested, Tranquil Space Yoga in Dupont Circle is just the place I had in mind. It's an intimate, gentle place, a fantastic escape from the affairs of pounding the concrete and a perfect spot for calming the girl who is afraid of the city's escalators.



Restaurant Gal said...

Friendship Heights, Tenleytown. Yikes. Bethesda is pretty horrible, too. I once saw a family of tourists huddled around their absolutely panic-struck teenage son on the Woodley Park escalator. For the record, my grandmother used to tell me much the same thing about department store escalators, back in the day.

Worth the trip up the moving metal stairway, however, if you found Tranquil Space.

VJ said...

"Her...prophetic-sounding warning that escalators have the ability to eat the fingers and toes of little girls who don't pay attention to where they are going still rattles my psyche".

As well it might. Generally, they are a reasonably safe public conveyance. Able to 'through put' more traffic than a bank of elevators in a similar space, and hence their continued utility and popularity. Still they've got a very long history of being more than just slightly less safe than their elevator cousins.

Loose clothing & shoes are forever getting stuck in their maws, and when cranky they have been known to cause serious but semi regular crushing injuries to yes, carelessly placed fingers, toes & hands & feet. Most installations will give you a short blurb about warning of using the escalator with a baby carriage or unattended children. Children are indeed most at risk from injury from escalators, and recently there's been a spate of accidents with the popular 'croc type' & open toed sandal shoes on more than one escalator around the country.

Now think about it, other than fairly generous weight weight limits, you've probably never seen a warning of any sort on an elevator, right? Sure, you know that you don't open the doors by forcing them open between floors (actually difficult to do), or step off until it reaches all the way up to a full floor level (ditto for most fully functional & built building elevators). Most installed passenger elevators of recent vintage (post 1930's), will have a fully enclosed cabin, an emergency stop button easily accessible, and an auto-brake that will quickly engage if the control & lift cables are damaged or indeed broken or severed. Not fool proof by any imagination, but about 5-10 times safer than escalators on an ongoing basis, and this has well been known for yes, almost a century.

So overcoming phobias is good. So is generally being better informed of rationally accepted hazards that litter our modern landscape. Stairs are a well known hazard too. But since they typically need minimal maintenance, it's difficult to know just how dangerous in relation to escalators.

So as usual Granny knew a bit of what she was talking about. Escalators have gotten a bit safer since her time. They'll probably never be as safe as elevators though.

This moment of prophetic acknowledgment is brought to you on behalf of grandparents everywhere. Reminding you to call or write. And by Depends undergarments.

Cheers & Good Luck! 'VJ'