Elizabeth Bedi, AB’13 (anthropology), teaches a free community yoga class on Thursdays at noon in Harper Court. The class is sponsored by CorePower Yoga on 53rd Street. (Photography by Tom Tian, AB’10)

Doing yoga in public

Lunchtime asanas outside your office building—not for the faint of heart.

If you choose to live in the same neighborhood where you work, there are certain trade-offs to be made. Advantages: sense of community and (in my case) seven-minute walking commute. Disadvantages: total lack of privacy.

I’ve run into University colleagues while jogging, drinking, taking my kids out for pho on Thanksgiving instead of cooking an actual American meal, and having my vital signs taken at the Duchossois Center for Advanced Medicine. (During that encounter I learned my colleague’s weight, 155 lbs. Awkward!)

Yoga in Harper Court

But doing yoga in Harper Court, half a block from an office building where I work with 450 colleagues, is a new level of oversharing.

The free class, sponsored by CorePower Yoga on 53rd Street, is held Thursdays at noon, when Harper Court is blocked off for the farmers’ market. Last week, when it was warm and sunny, every mat was full. This week rain threatens, so there are just a few yogis; there is no crowd to hide in.

The instructor, Liz Bedi, AB’13 (anthropology), explains that it’s a beginning-level class, but it soon becomes clear that I’m the only real beginner (a perennial one, after more than a dozen years of yoga practice). With no judgment, Bedi suggests simpler options and offers one gentle adjustment after another.

Yoga in Harper Court

During the hour-long class, I notice three people from my job shopping at the farmer’s market; they are all kind enough to ignore me back when I pretend not to see them. The people who do acknowledge us—a little girl who stares openmouthed and a woman who says “Namaste” as she walks by—are strangers. At one point Bedi tries to get the security guard from my building to join in: “We saved you a spot!” she calls, pointing to an empty mat in the front row. “Someday,” he promises without conviction.

Yoga in Harper Court

At the end of class I discover that Bedi is one of those fabulous teachers who gives each student a mini massage during the final relaxation. Afterward I lie on the concrete feeling tired, calm, and much more blissful than after yesterday’s lunchtime outing (for a small bacon cheeseburger at Five Guys). A cool droplet of rain hits my left ear. To my right, I can hear a bird sing. At this moment, in the here and now, if my colleagues can see me on my cat-scratched yoga mat in my unflattering yoga pants, I do not care.