Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Neutral Ground

The other day in Meghan's class, she repeatedly said between postures in the standing series, "Come back to neutral." That was a hard class for me. I struggled from the first set of Pranayama. Although we were deep breathing, I felt like my breath stopped at the top of my throat. I had to sit out one set of triangle and staggered through tree pose. The moments between postures were moments of great relief, and the idea of neutral calmed me through the anxiety that almost always accompanies a physically challenging class.

Each time Meghan said, "Come back to neutral," I thought about New Orleans. In New Orleans, the median strips throughout the city are called "neutral ground." Legend is that this term comes from early New Orleans history when the French and Spanish could only do business between sections of the city by standing on the "neutral ground."

"Neutral ground"-- a place where fighting will not occur, a space that belongs to no particular side, a place of peace. The word "yoga" comes from the Sanskrit root yuj, which means to unite or join or connect. I teach that yoga practice is an opportunity to find the union between the body and the mind, a peaceful place, a connected place.

When I was in New Orleans, I had the unique experience of eating BBQ on neutral ground in the seventh ward (See April 25th post "I like the struggle"). I'm a Nervous Nellie, prone to worry, especially in new situations and environments. Knowing that the place where we sat and ate was called "neutral ground" and knowing the history of this term, made me feel at ease, safe.

When my body and mind were at odds in Meghan's class last week, I needed to be reminded to find a place where they could connect. I pushed myself into the second set of Standing Bow even though I was seeing stars, so that by then end of the posture I was on the verge of full-blown panic. But then it was over and Meghan said, "Come back to neutral" and I was reminded-- "neutral ground," a place where fighting will not occur, a space that belongs to no particular side, a place of peace. And so it went through the class, posture by posture, hearing the words, remembering the connection, finding my peace.


  1. Thanks for sharing this one, Laura. Maybe its because I grew up in Nola... maybe its because I have been struggling in my practice, but the idea of 'feet together", "come back to neutral" and equating that with neutral ground is very helpful. I will use it in my class today! No fighting with myself in the neutral ground! xo Erika P.

  2. Erika! I had no idea you were from New Orleans. That explains SO much.


Please share your thoughts. I want to hear them!