Dodging shouting street venders and colorful crowded markets in this chaotic neighborhood, my sister, Naomi, and I slid into a shop on Canal Street filled with purses.
Naomi’s primary goal for this excursion to Chinatown in Manhattan was to find a knockoff Louis Vuitton book bag for school. I never cared much for name brands but I do like to see new places, people, and experiences. Chinatown NYC is one of the first ethnic neighborhoods in the US, located in Lower Manhattan, New York City. We heard that there are plenty of good deals to be had.
I looked up and around the room. Purses, scarves, fake jewelry, and other trinket souvenirs filled every inch of wall space. One of the salesmen approached my sister to see if he could help her find anything in particular. She explained that she came here specifically for an LV bag.
He paused, looked up and around towards the wide entrance to the street and whispered for her to follow him as he guided her towards a closed door in the back of the store.
Doors hold the essence of mystery, separating two distinct areas, keeping things apart.
“Oh my god, we have to go into a back room?” I thought. “I didn’t sign up for this! What should I do? What if they kidnap or rape us back there and the purse thing is all just a façade for international sex trade? Should I follow her?"
Doors are a barrier or a boundary, which must be negotiated, before the threshold can be crossed.
Well, I can’t just stand here and watch and wait. I’m too much of an adventurer. I can’t let her go alone. Besides, I think I know more about escaping than she does. I used to watch a lot of MacGyver.” I shook my head ‘no’ at her with frighteningly wide eyes. She kept walking in the direction of the door and didn’t even look back…
A door is first and foremost an entrance. On a literal level a door usually leads to the inside of something. On a metaphorical level, a door can become an entrance to nearly anything, but it is most commonly used to symbolize portals and passageways on many levels throughout history, or the entrance to another world in mythology. The Roman god Janus was the god of doors and doorways, and also the god of beginnings, endings, transitions, gates, gateways, and time.
So when we face a closed door, we face a choice. At the moment, this is my gateway to adventure and maybe transition. It’s either a symbol of opportunity or one of imprisonment.
We entered into the dark room.
He turned on the light. There wasn’t much back here, just some boxes. Why are we here?
“This way” he insisted with his heavy accent. He led us to yet another door, but this time it was even smaller. I thought my vision was playing tricks on me.
I whispered to Naomi, “Did that door just get smaller?”
She replied, “I think so, shhh.”
We entered into another dark room and the knots in my stomach grew tighter.
My logic was resisting, but my gut told me that I had to stick with my sister or she could disappear forever and it would have been my responsibility to answer to the rest of the family.
This room was equally as bleak. Another storage room. Where are the purses?
He led us to a third door! This one was only about 3 feet tall!
I felt like I was in Alice in Wonderland. Did I just grow larger?
Through this last and final door into a dark room. I took a deep breath. Maybe this will be my last…
He flickered the lights on and LV, Gucci, Coach, Chanel, Tory Burch, Versace handbags and totes were glittering across the walls. Although not labeled, most of the prices were $20-65 according to our salesman. My sister wandered slowly around the room and looked at each purse. I wondered if our other sister, Rebekah, is looking for us. Was she still in the store or did we lose her and Grant. I stayed on alert just in case this was a distraction and we were still going to get kidnapped.
She finally found it and didn’t even bother to haggle.
We left through these rectangular doors just as we entered them.
Rectangles are the most common geometric shape encountered. They are supposed to suggest security and solidity. Now, that I feel safe and still in one piece, I accept them as a symbol for our peace.
New York City is built on squares and rectangles. The square can be seen as a symbol of civilization. In nature, things generally have rounded or uneven sides. Cities, however, are filled with buildings with square or rectangular footprints. They have right angles that represent order, mathematics, rationality, and formality. Home to the headquarters of the United Nations, New York is an important center for international diplomacy and order in the world.
New York City is the most populous city in the United States. Manhattan's skyline, with its many skyscrapers, is universally recognized, and in 2011, it had 5,937 high-rise buildings, of which 550 completed structures were at least 330 feet, and with over 50 completed skyscrapers taller than 656 feet. These structures are arranged within a grid system of squares that are based on the right angle.
I Love New York (I ❤ NY) is both a logo and a song that are the basis of an advertising campaign since 1977 to promote tourism in New York City. These letters are settled within a square. Squares can also suggest conformity and equality.
In Buddhist symbolism a square (earthbound) inside a circle (eternal whole) represents the relationship between the human and the divine. Further, the four sides and four corner of a square or rectangle can represent the four directions, four seasons, four elements, and the four common phases of human life.
The majority of text we read is set in rectangles or squares. Their familiarity and stability, along with their commonness can seem boring. Web pages are rectangles made up of smaller rectangles and squares. Every element on a web page is defined by a rectangle.
Over the last few years I’ve been stopping in NYC on my way back from adventures in Europe. To me, NYC means grounding in my homeland after soaring in from another continent.
I try to take advantage of a few days in the city to reconnect with best friend from high school, Ruby, and my fascinating cousin and his wife, David Kahne and Ave Gardener. In this sense, it is these familiar, stable, and trusted concrete shapes and right angled forms that rise to the sky, that suggest solidity and comfort.
Another form of this rectangular comfort is my Clean Bottle Tritan Square. It features a stylish square top and bottom with a rectangular prism body, much like the skyscraper buildings in NYC. This stable style prevents it from rolling if dropped, and it can still fit into most cupholders with a Lifetime Guarantee.
The wide convenient handle is comfortable for carrying and it comes in 7 different colors with custom printing available for bulk orders. This BPA-free rectangular prism features a removable bottom for easy cleaning (Dishwasher-safe) and an optional Fruit Infuser or Water Filter.
One of my favorite pastimes in Manhatten, other than wandering through Central Park, is to relish in the art at the famous museums like the Met, Moma, and Guggenheim. The Guggenheim contains many paintings by modern artist, Piet Mondrian who infused the De Stijl (Dutch for “The Style”) movement with mysticism around straight lines and right angles through his simple, direct approach. The movement also had an influence from Parisian Cubism, though members of De Stijl felt that Picasso and Braque failed to go far enough into the realm of pure abstraction.
They worked mainly in an abstract style and with unadorned shapes, intersecting plane surfaces, basic geometrical figures, primary colors and neutrals combined with a strong asymmetricality and the relationship between positive and negative elements in an arrangement of distinctive forms and lines. With these techniques, they sought to investigate the laws of equilibrium that are apparent in both life and art.
The essential idea underlying De Stijl’s radical utopian program was the creation of a universal aesthetic language based in part on a rejection of the decorative excesses of Art Nouveau in favor of a simple, logical style that emphasized construction and function, one that would be appropriate for every aspect of modern life.
Founded by a cohort of Dutch artists in Amsterdam this movement also included Theo van Doesburg, Jacobus Johannes Pieter Oud. Although the movement comprised painters, sculptors, typographers, poets, those in the decorative arts, it was the architects, who were able to best capture the serious and harmonic core of these principles in the early twentieth century.
Rietveld Schroder House in De Stijl
Our yoga mats are another example of the symbolism in a rectangle. When we come to our mat, it feels like home, a place to let go, get centered, and relax- stable, secure, harmonious, balanced, simple, and solid.
Ancient yoga practice in India was originally conducted on grass, on hard earth without any cover, or for the wealthy, on a rug of deer or tiger skin. With yoga's introduction in the West in the mid twentieth century, many practitioners used towels or cotton mats on wooden floors. Rubber mats were introduced as an intermediate material to prevent cotton mats from slipping on wooden floors. In 1982, while teaching yoga in Germany, Angela Farmer used carpet underlay cut to towel size during yoga classes; later she returned home to London with the material. Angela's father, Richard Farmer, contacted the German padding manufacturer and became the first retailer of "sticky mats".
Today yoga mats are a staple for asana practice as they are specially fabricated to prevent hands and feet slipping during asana practice. They are also commonly known as non-slip mats or sticky mats. They are becoming as fashionable as they are functional, available in an endless variety of colors and designs.
Yoga Blocks are an invention of the modern/contemporary era by the father of modern yoga, B.K.S. Iyengar. These are the ultimate representation of stability and equality in yoga. Aiding our alignment so that each body can experience the pose.
In the '70s and until quite recently, blocks were almost always made of wood. People would make their own blocks, often leaving sharp edges, and the size was never uniform. Today, we use modern foam, and more recently cork when it comes to easy storage and transport.
As a yoga teacher, I prefer using the Vitality Yoga Block for live demonstration (as well as taking photos and videos), adjusting my students, and in my personal yoga practice. This block has a smooth exterior with an extra firm interior. I enjoy the lovely lotus flower design on the front, especially for taking yoga photos.
I can certainly trust standing on the block during poses like Dancer, Uttita Padangustasana, Half Moon (Ardha Chandrasana), and Warrior 3 (Virabadrasana III). Further, it guides my alignment in Triangle (Trikonasana), Powerful Chair Pose (Utkatasana), and Revolved Pyramid.
Iyengar was a poor and sickly child of 12 siblings. He struggled with malaria, tuberculosis, typhoid fever, and general malnutrition. "My arms were thin, my legs were spindly, and my stomach protruded in an ungainly manner," he wrote. "My head used to hang down, and I had to lift it with great effort.” He credited yoga for saving his life.
When Iyengar was sixteen, in 1934, he was sent to live with his sister and her husband, Krishnamacharya, in Mysore. He arrived at a time of vast anticipation in the development of modern yoga. Indian nationalists were particularly engaged with the global trend for physical culture in part because British domination was often justified in terms of physical superiority. Krishnamacharya, an intense intellectual who had sacrificed respectability to pursue the unconventional path of hatha yoga, was at the forefront of this revival. Iyengar stated, “He would hit us hard on our backs.” Though weak and stiff, Iyengar did his best to comply, injuring himself badly but impressing the audience of Maharaja's court at Mysore.
Krishnamacharya, eager to evangelize, eventually sent Iyengar to teach in colleges and gymnasiums in Pune. Iyengar worked hard as an instructor, afraid that, if he failed, he’d have to return to his brother-in-law. He knew from experience the dangers of forcing oneself into poses prematurely, and he set about developing a slower, more anatomically precise type of yoga, using props like blocks and blankets to help students find correct alignment.
No other modern yoga teacher was as influential as Iyengar. His Light on Yoga stands incomparable as a guide to physical practice. As a Yoga Journal tribute put it, when “teachers refer to the correct way to do a posture, they’re usually alluding to the alignment Mr. Iyengar instructs and expertly models in his book.”
Iyengar describes yoga as a “timeless pragmatic science evolved over thousands of years dealing with the physical, moral, mental and spiritual well-being of man as a whole.”
Therefore, thanks to Iyengar, we can practice yoga poses with the assistance of these rectangular blocks to aid in our alignment. We have the equal opportunity to get the most out of the pose without injuring ourselves.
Today, you can find Iyengar studios all over NYC, although he has passed away, his offspring now lead the ashram in India and other worldwide institutions.
Hannah seeks to find relationships between nature, cultures, yoga, and art through her writing.
My Paintings are now on Yoga Pants!
Fun Yoga in the Park
Travel the world with me through yoga!
These themed lessons are fun for all ages and levels at Mission Bay Park.
See the page, Park Yoga, for more information!
Lessons from Abroad