This morning, I attempted to go to yoga class. This was my second time at this new studio in Rockville. The studio has a beautiful jungle theme with fake plants everywhere - vines hanging along all of the walls and draping from the ceilings, shrines of rock, plants, and candles in every corner.
To begin class, the teacher had us sit with our eyes closed and chant a mantra together. As we were chanting, I began to smell something odd.
"Om nama shivaya. Om nama shivaya."
Man, that is some crappy incense.
"Om nama shivaya, gurave. . ."
I don't think that's incense. I think something's -
"FIRE!' someone yelled from the hallway.
A girl from my class threw open the door to the studio, and the room instantly filled with smoke. I peeked out and saw that the entire hallway was engulfed in flames.
"Blankets! Bring blankets!" a man yelled. We all started handing our yoga blankets to him as he and a few others smothered the flames as best as they could.
Then I noticed how filled with smoke the air was, and that I was feeling a little dizzy. I grabbed my shoes, socks, and coat from along the wall in the smoky hallway, put a yoga blanket over my mouth and nose as I rolled up my mat in the studio, and ran out the back door, encouraging others to do the same. Soon we were all outside with our rolled up yoga mats, shivering together, watching the fire trucks roll in.
Apparently, someone's jacket had fallen off of a hook in the hallway into a candle, and ignited the whole, plastic jungle. I realized that there was no way any classes would be able to be held, so I sat in my car for awhile, waiting for the fire trucks to clear the parking lot so I could get out.
Sitting in the quiet shell of my car, parked directly in front of the studio, I watched the action in front of me like a slow-motion, silent movie. Fire-fighters ran in the building and emerged with piles of blackened, smoking yoga blankets, shoes, jackets, purses, and plastic jungle leaves. Huddles of women in yoga pants stood in groups around the parking lot, clutching their mats, telling the story to each other, each from their perspective.
And what I noticed was that no one seemed upset, or scared. People were smiling, helping each other, even laughing. And I was reminded of the whole cycle of experience; I went from peacefully chanting in a meditative state, to pretty much the most heightened state of movement and action one can have.
I took a moment in gratitude for my capable body that got me out of there in time. I was also grateful for the smooth, calm way in which the yoga teachers and studio owners put out the fire, ushered people outside, and moved peacefully, yet effecively, through the whole situation. I was grateful for the fire fighters who were on the scene in under three minutes. And mostly, of course, I was grateful that the only thing that burned were material possessions. What a perfect reminder of impermanence.