Archive for June, 2009

Punk Rock Yoga? from Seattle, My Friend

I started this post thinking that Sadie Nardini’s Bon Jovi Yogi was in direct competition with Seattle’s (new-to-me) Punk Rock Yoga. But, as so often happens when posting, the more I dug around the more the story changed.

In fact, it seems that Nardini’s New York Fierce Club (yoga studio) offers a version of Seattle-based Kimberlee Jensen Stedl’s punk stuff. (Offered by Brian Williams  though his bio isn’t explicit about it.)

Created in 2003 (yikes! how did we miss it?) Punk Rock Yoga is offered once a week for the rest of the summer at 20/20 Cycles in Seattle (as well as locations in Boston, Las Vegas, Missoula, Toronto, and —wait for it—Weisbaden, Germany).

PRY is designed to liberate yoga from the rigid, elitist, body-slimming aerobics-wannabe exercise routine it has become—says creator Kimberlee Jensen Stedl (see her earnest, but somewhat rambling mission statement).

She covers a lot of territory without giving much idea of what happens in a Punk Rock Yoga class (we’re *dying* to know!). It has live music (sometimes), a community vibe, and—almost totally against the spirit of punk—a rock’n’roll sensibility.

(By the way, anyone read Iggy Pop’s brilliant put-down of rock’n’roll this week in NYMagazine? So good.

NYM: Have you grown weary of rock and roll?
Not necessarily, but I’m really irritated.

NYM: How come?
I think it’s now officially the world’s worst form of music. Even a mid-level cumbia band in Venezuela sounds better than the biggest-selling rock bands.)

Even more sadly, there are no pictures.

So, plucking again from the mission statement: Stedl explains, “For several months while taking both yoga and belly dance classes, I noticed that I would leave the belly dance classes feeling joyful and connected with the other participants, while I would leave the yoga classes feeling cold and isolated. I sensed this was due to the complete detachment from everyone else in the room that occurs in most yoga classes. What I needed was a more balanced approach, whereby at least a portion of the class was dedicated to connecting with others.”

(That’s why everyone has dyed blue hair that stands, glued-up straight in perfect Mohawks?)

“These observations drove me to incorporate community-building aspects into Punk Rock Yoga classes, such as adding partner poses into each class and incorporating more group activities into our classes.”

“The more I taught and the more I immersed myself in the professional yoga community, the more I carved out a mission for Punk Rock Yoga: I want to scrub the elitism and rigidity out of modern yoga.”

Okay—but it’s hard to imagine true punks being inclusive, flexible socialists. Unless I’m really, totally getting it wrong. (What does punk mean these days to Seattle-ites?)

Whatever it means, I would really like to see gloved hands (YogaToes–“yoga grip hand gloves”?), blue Mohawks, old Doc Martins, and safety pin earrings and nose rings moving through sun salutations. That surely would be a yoga democracy.

Or, would it be anarchy?

Related Posts:

Bon Jovi Yogi, January 2009

Fierce Club Opens in Nolita, March 2009

Recession Blues Quite Real for Yoga Teachers

A few weeks ago, the NYTimes Magazine did a piece on freelance professionals who are suffering under the recession. ( Dristi Yoga blog tipped me off—thanks Dristi!)

The opening anecdote gives a nice, succint picture of what it’s like to be a yoga teacher, recession or no recession. You freelance, you shuttle yourself around the city. At some places all your regulars show up, at others no one comes. You wonder if you might make more money doing something else.

Emily Bazeldon, the reporter, writes: “From Greene Hill, [yoga teacher Lisa] Feuer went to teach a prenatal class elsewhere in Brooklyn; she teaches in Manhattan too, and sometimes she crosses back and forth between the boroughs two or three times a day to get to her web of workplaces. “I spend a lot of time on the train,” she said on the subway to Greene Hill, “and it makes you wonder: If you had a regular job and you didn’t have all that travel time, would you make better money in the end?” She gave a small laugh. “But I love what I do. So I try not to think about that.”

So yes, love is the answer. And the desire to be free of the 9 – 5 shackles. But the article’s outlook is pretty dire.

“Even in her best years, Feuer was never affluent, but with child support she was able to live what she considered a middle-class life. This year, however, because of the classes and students she has lost, Feuer is on track to make as little as $15,000, a 30 percent drop from the past. But because she is underemployed rather than out of work, she is not eligible for unemployment insurance. She also doesn’t show up in the unemployment statistics.”

Yikes! That’s pretty bad.

Times are hard for all freelancers, writes Bazeldon, but when the economy turns (whenever that is), things should pick up again. It’s just hard for the middle-class, used to its i-Phones and coffee shops, to slip into poverty. In the meantime, be extra nice to your yoga teachers—they might be on a steady diet of rice and beans with a side of water. And yoga teachers, creativity might be the answer….

Angel Franco for NYTimes

Angel Franco for the NYTimes. Karl Allen in Manhattan performance (as in performance art) space.

…As in, those with a creative streak seem to be doing better than most  with this best of this batch of lemons. They’re pursuing projects they never had the time for when they were running hither and thither across the city for work. “Defiantly upbeat inspite of grim circumstances” says this inspiring May 19 Times article. An inspiring perspective.

Anyone had a recent experience of losing work then gaining something unexpected and super?

Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough

I don’t often practice ashtanga anymore, but last Friday I needed to move. I needed something familiar and not to heady. I decided to take a led class just up the street from me where the teacher was good.

About 2/3 of the way through the zillion jump-backs and chaturangas, a car stereo outside the street-level studio started pumping out Michael Jackson. And we had him–crackly, staticky and super loud–for the rest of the class.

I’ve been hearing yoga teachers around the city talk about playing MJ in their asana classes. If you’ve ever had a yen to play Thriller in yoga, this is your week.

We could all probably do with a dose of  Don’t Stop til You Get Enough (a possible theme to any great yoga class) or The Way You Make Me Feel as we absorb the loss and celebrate MJ’s genius.



Pattabhi Jois Memorial NYC, June 14, 2009

Sunday, June 14, ashtangis and the greater yoga community of New York City gathered in Donna Karan‘s gorgeous Urban Zen space in Manhattan’s West Village for an evening of remembrances celebrating the life and legacy of Shri K. Pattabhi Jois.

Entering Urban Zen for P. Jois Memorial

The white space was hung with long yellow scrims that caught the late afternoon light and brightened the windowless space. The black cushions on the floor were strewn with the petals of red roses, and garlands large and small framed sepia-toned pictures of Guruji at the front of the space. Food was served the back–delicious spicy popped rice with chutney, and samosas and chai.

Jois the father

Four hundred people had RSVPd. Those who came were a good-looking bunch, with a lean, clean, healthy glow. Many had young children with them.  It was a grown-up yoga community, one that has weathered their initial zeal for yoga and matured into seasoned practitioners.

Representing the yoga world were Alison West (Yoga Union), Leslie Kaminoff (Breathing Project), Michelle Demus (Pure Yoga), Hari Kaur (Golden Bridge), Rodney Yee and Colleen Saidman (Urban Zen), James Murphy (Iyengar Yoga NY), Carlos Menjiva (Jivamukti), and someone from Bikram yoga.

Jois teaching

On the walls around the space, photos of Guruji, his family, his students, and his travels over the years played in a continuous loop. After Eddie Stern, Jois’ long-time student, director of Ashtanga Yoga New York, introduced the evening, three Hindu priests changed a part of the Upanishads, 18 minutes of piercing, passionate sound meant to disperse the elements back into the world, to help Guruji on his journey. In the background of this austere music, was the sound of children chirping and playing.

Videos of Jois

“When a great person is born into the world, he affects everyone,” said Stern. “Regardless of whether they follow his teachings or not.”

Other speakers mentioned Pattabhi Jois’ generosity as a teacher, the inclusiveness of his sangha, and his “sympathetic joy”—his availability to all who had even just a flicker of interest in trying yoga.

“He took complete delight that someone was growing through their yoga practice,” said John Campbell, long-time student.

Ruth Lauer-Manenti, a senior Jivamukti teacher, relayed the story of how she first went to Mysore to practice with Pattabhi Jois. “Sharon Gannon [director and co-founder of Jivamukti] had just come back from Mysore. She was thin, thin, thin. She looked kind of green and she had a dislocated shoulder. She said, Ruth, you gotta go. So I went the next day.”

” ‘Yes you can’ was his message—it’s what so many of us took from him,” said Lauer-Manenti whose practice helped her to heal from a near-fatal car accident.

“He always wanted you to do your best, including making it to his birthday every year.”


Jois believed—in fact, he lived the idea—that yoga is the science of transformation: 1% theory, 99% practice. Yoga is mind control: controlling your helter-skelter thoughts and practicing love (plus a 2hr, 6-days-a-week, demanding asana practice) instead.

As he famously said, “Do your practice and all is coming.”

Yoga Licensing Issue: My Update on Yoga Dork

I’m excited to have a guest blog post on YogaDork today! Yoga Dork is one of my very favorite yoga blogs out there, covering yogic issues with sincerity, humor, pizzaz. (Others think kudos are due, too: YD got a great mention in Yoga Journal this month!) Thanks, YogaDork!

The issue at hand: as you know, in early May, New York State launched a smack-down on yoga teacher training programs, suddenly requiring them to apply for costly licenses, and to cease and desist services until all paperwork was done. Needless to say, there was a big freak out.

Lots has happened since then. To get the latest on the licensing issue, the changing case of characters, and the power of unity in yoga, go to and read my post!

Hasta la vista (and watch for more guest posts on YogaDork about the licensing issue).

How Cool: Yoga for the Deaf Foundation

Last week reported a very cool story in their “NYer of the Week” column.

Yoga for the Deaf

Yoga teacher Lila Lolling, inspired by the works of Hellen Keller, got herself trained in American Sign Language, and now is one of only 20–that’s right, TWENTY–people in the world who teach yoga to the deaf.

(Another one is the inimitable Susan “Lippy” Oren. Amazing teacher and salty dog besides.)

Lolling is shown in the video (that I couldn’t   figure out how to import) pounding on the floor to signal poses, waving a fan to wake students up, and even chanting OM with her deaf students. In class at East/West Yoga, the mesmerizing Alex Grey paintings on the walls provide a trippy backdrop.

Lolling says that one of her goals is to create a dictionary of yoga poses for the signing community. Her foundation will also provide scholarships for teacher training for the deaf. One student, Kat Burland, quoted in the article, says, “It’s just totally visual, it’s wonderful. And because of that I have relaxed and my total health has improved tremendously.” ”

The video is really worth watching. Check it out here. Go NY1!

More Yoga for the Deaf2

Sri K. Pattabhi Jois–The Big Memorial

On May 18th, one of the three biggest influences on yoga in the West, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (1915 – 2009), passed away in his home of Mysore in South India just short of his 94th birthday. This is no longer news.

However, the outpouring of memorials and testimonials from every corner of the yoga world continues to be news. (Update, June 8: Pattabhi Jois remembered in New York Mag‘s Intelligencer section this week, too.)

From BKS Iyengar and his most senior teachers in the US, to yoga bloggers and more Americanized yogis (like Madonna? that link was to a blog called, “Absolute Madonna”), many have been paying homage to this larger-than-life man who not only exerted enormous influence on what has become Western yoga, but liked to shop on Canal Street and wear Calvin Kline breifs.

As New Yorker writer, Rebecca Mead, said in her 2000 article, The Yoga Bums, Jois “is perhaps the last person you would expect to own a framed photograph of Gwyneth Paltrow.”

Jivamukti Yoga School in New York held a fire ceremony the day after his passing, led by the inimitable Manorma, followed by 12 days of continual chanting.

Tidbits from Guruji’s biography: The first Westerner (not an American) studied with Pattabhi Jois in 1964; the first American in 1972. In 1975, Jois and his son Manju made their first trip to America. His web site says that, “Guruji has, for 63 years, been teaching uninterruptedly this same method that he learned from Krishnamacharya in 1927.”

Tias Little, founder of Prajna Yoga, writes, from a workshop in Antwerp, Belgium:

“His passing is indeed a considerable loss to the yoga world, for not only did he have mastery of the yoga asanas and have the shakti to transmit this extremely formidable and rigorous practice to all those who walked into his shala, but he was a master of the language underlying the yogic teachings. … With Pattabhi Jois’ passing not only do we lose a great hatha yoga master, we lose a solid link in the chain of direct transmission of scripture learned by heart.”

Eddie Stern, founder of Ashtanga Yoga New York, who invites us all to join next weekend to remember his teacher, writes:

“Among the great joys of the last years of his life was that he became reacquainted with his contemporaries, including Mr. Iyengar, Mr. Desikachar, A.G. Mohan, and Swami Dayananda.  In the spirit of the renewed friendships of these great yoga masters, we would like to extend and invitation to you, and to every yoga school in the NYC area, to come join us on June 14th, at 6 p.m., in remembering and celebrating the very great flash of lightening that was Pattabhi Jois.  In doing so, we honor the spirit of yoga which, in the scriptures, is compared to a great tree that provides shelter and shade to all who stand under it.”

So here it is. Deets for the Big Memorial in New York: June 14, 6pm at 711 Greenwich Street in the West Village. Please contact Alexandra Seidenshaw (201-259-9933, to RSVP. Everyone will be there. Be there, too! Witness a piece of yoga passing into history.

Tasmai Shri Gurave Namah
Salutations to that GuruPranamah

“It’s Not About the Money”

One of the things I enjoyed at the Yoga Journal conference in New York, May 14 – 18, was coming across new, brilliant manifesters of yoga. One was Brent Kessel. After his presentation, I bought his book. I took it on vacation. I read it on the beach. I love him.

True, possibly only I could read a book called It’s Not About the Money while supposedly relaxing. But I did find his ideas exciting (and he’s a good writer). I loved the notion that we live out unconscious stories about money—and we don’t need to. As in yoga, we just need to wake up!

As an experienced financial planner and a long time ashtanga yogi, Kessel is in a rare position to speak to yogis about money—and be heard. We yogis don’t really seem to want to talk about brass tacks. Unless we’re forced to, by, say, opening a studio, or trying to make a living as a yoga teacher.

But the aversion to seeing—with eyes wide open—that our yoga exists in a money-driven world, is just a form of avoidance. In fact, in some images of Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of abundance, she is surrounded by gold coins.

Our (Westerners) discomfort putting money and yoga in the same thought seems to work us up into a knot. Do we understand why? Not really.


So, I’m looking forward to Kessel’s workshop tonight at East/West books in Manhattan, from 5:30-9:30.

Now that I understand his system, I’m ready for the experience. What money type am I? What are my strengths and weaknesses? What stories do I tell myself about what I can and cannot have? How are they holding me back? To me, this seems as yogic a workshop as meditation or pranayama.

I wish everyone abundance and prosperity—and freedom from whatever stories are driving you. Even if we don’t care about being rich, we do want to get free, right?

East/West Books: 212-243-5995, 78 Fifth Avenue @ 14th Street