Archive for 2010

Round 2: Yoga on the Great Lawn pushed til 2011

Above: a few minutes of yoga on the Great Lawn before yogis fled for shelter

In June, nature and the NYC Park’s Department were more powerful than 13,000 people doing sun salutations on NYC’s Central Park: we got rained out. (More reason for mind training, folks! Were you really thinking about the sun??!?!? Or were you eyeing your cute neighbor? Or drooling over that tasty treat in your goodie bag?)

Flavorpill promised to try Y@GL again in September. But as of last week, they’ve moved Attempt #2 to 2011, promising not just a better experience then (lines fewer than 20 blocks long), but more tie-ins to charities, a national edition of these gi-normous “yoga experiences,” and a weekly health and wellness mailer.

It makes a lot more sense for an event that size to generate something more useful than an entry in the Guinness World Records. After all, most yogis want to make a difference.

In case you’ve forgotten—or couldn’t make it in June—you can watch Flavorpill’s videos and catch up. (They must have been shot from the helicopter that hovered over us making it impossible to hear.) And they really do provide a better view than we got from the lawn itself.

So even if you can’t do your downdogs in a throng of thousands, on a nubby lawn, with a new slippery mat (c/o Jet Blue) this September, you can still attend Flavorpill’s smaller yoga events (at places like MoMA) during the year. And of course, you’ll start getting the wellness mailer next month. Just think: there’s a whole year of them to warm you up for Y@GL 2011.

And if you’re among those who find the so-what factor fairly high, then you’ve got an entire month free of cheek-chewing. No more massive public gatherings in the name of yoga…. for at least September.

Need a Spot? Yoga on the Great Lawn, June 22

Be one of the 10,000 people moving your asana on Central Park’s Great Lawn next Tuesday (1 week folks!) June 22 for a HUGE group yoga class.

Flavorpill sponsors Elena Brower (who’ s done previous events at MoMA and The Standard Hotel) plus 20 live acts including musicians to lead an evening of yoga and New York City sweaty fun.

Be one of the first 5 people to leave a comment on this post (or DM me on Twitter: “@Yoga Nation”) and I’ll guarantee you a spot! (be sure to leave me your email address)

To take your chances in the open lottery (remember, they expect to overflow 10,000), register here and invite your friends.

See you there!

Oh, the Annoyances of Yoga Class

Yoga class etiquette. When to make noise, when to shut up, how to dress, even how to unroll your mat. Pretty common sense stuff—but not, apparently, common-sensical enough. Showcased Sunday in the Grey Lady, NY Region, are stories of yogis’ transgressions.  “Stretch etiquette for yogis.

The reporter finds that lots of things anger New York yogis, from leaving class early to skimpy attire:

Some men take a minimalist approach to yoga wear, and not everyone is pleased about having a sweaty, stripped-down man within arm’s reach. “There are guys in European bathing suits,” said an outraged Kendra Cunningham, a yoga lover and comedian who lives in Brooklyn. “We’re not in Capri here; it’s Cobble Hill.”

And she has prominent quotes from the excellent yoga blogger Yoga Dork. Here commenting on B.O.:

No one smells like a rose in yoga class. And you shouldn’t, because some people are allergic to or just dislike inhaling perfume. But body odor shouldn’t make you gag, either. Foot odor can be even worse. “I can handle B.O.,” the Dork said, “but there is nothing worse than stinky feet when you are mat-to-mat and you are upside down and close to people’s feet.”

It all comes down to knowing where you are and who’s around you. In fact, the people who are the most disruptive probably just need more yoga.

Then they might not have to arrive in such a key-clanging whirlwind and leave early, before the final relaxation they desperately need.

No Plans Yet? Hit Yogi Fest Today

Sometimes it’s just too much to make Memorial Day plans ahead of time.

If you leave now, you’ll still have time to catch most of Yogi Fest 2010 in New Windsor, NY. Swing by for a yoga class, some yummy food, entertainment in the children’s tent and an amazing kirtan with various Bhakti Collective folk, including Shyamdas this evening. Here are the deets:

Directions to Yogi Fest 2010

2010: Yogi Fest  March 29th

MAIN HALL
11:30 AM-12:45 PM – Yoga and Pranayam with Amy Pearce-Hayden (The Yogascape Carmel, NY) (All levels)

1:15-2:30 PM – Yoga with Bryn  (Laughing Lotus) (All levels)

3:00-4:15 PM – Energizing Your Spine: The Science of Twisting with Raghunath  and Bridget Cappo

4:30-5:00 PM – The Yoga of Gratitude with Dhanurdhara Swami and Raghunath

5:00-5:30 PM – Arati (traditional puja with ghee lamps with kirtan.)
Kirtan by Prema Hara

5:30-7:00 PM – Prasadam (feast) official end of our program. You’re invited to stay as more and more Indian families come for kirtan and talks with two distinguished guests:

7:00 PM -?  Krishna Kirtan and Katha with Shyam Das and Dhanurdhara Swami

KIRTAN TENT

11:30 AM-12:20PM – Kirtan  with Keli Lalita  ( Karuna Shakti Yoga)

12:30-1:30 PM – How to Play Kartalas (Indian hand cymbals) with Balaram Chandra (Kripalu Yoga)

1:40-2:20 PM – Transcendental Poetry with Mark Oppenheimer

230-310 PM – Yoga for Depression: Q&A with Mark Oppenheimer and Raghunath

3:15-420 PM – Chanting with Keli

CHILDREN’S TENT
11:00 AM-4:15 PM – kids yoga, Crafts and games, stories,

2:30 PM – Special Event: Pyari the Magician

REJUVENATION CENTER: COMPLIMENTARY BODY WORK:

  • Mark Terza of Metta Massage @ The YogaScape
  • Balarama Chandra Thai Massage
  • Tammi Price of Sacred Traditions: Acupuncture
  • Melinda & TJ Macchiaroli Thai and chair massage from Bodhi Spa Hudson NY

All Things Considered tracks The Great Oom

Earlier this spring Columbia Journalism professor Robert Love published his book The Great Oom, The Improbably Birth of Yoga in America (Viking Adult, $27.95).

This biography chronicles  Pierre Bernard’s transformation from an Iowa-born nobody into a radical leader of mind-body consciousness–in the late 19th century. According to this NPR story, contemporary yogis have Bernard to thank for the existence of yoga in America.

All Things Considers interviews Love on this fascinating story in which author Robert Love tells NPR’s Guy Raz how Bernard weathered early rumors of rampant sex and drug use, and later an arrest, to lay the foundation for an empire.

Listen to the interview with Robert Love on NPR here (opens an MP3 file).

Core Power Yoga: Part 2, The Hustle in Denver

The Hustle in Denver: Continued from Tuesday….

“For our annual review,” he said, “we have to give a private yoga class to a senior instructor. Okay. Seems doable, right?”

Only when his day came, this senior instructor turned out to be a nationally recognized yoga teacher, a big name, a celebrity.

“So you know,” he said grinning, “He was pretending not to listen and I was correcting him and stuff. It was just weird. Right? But you never know what curve-ball life is going to throw you.”

Who was the teacher? What did Andy do? What was the feedback? I was dying to know. Someone in the class asked.

“Nope, not telling!” said Andy. “He gave me some good feedback that I’ve incorporated into my teaching today so here we go!” Like so many yoga class pre-ambles, Andy’s didn’t quite connect the dots.

Andy opened with a sequence of slow sun salutations to upbeat disco-y club music. It reminded me of Miami–super positive mixed with aerobics.

“C’mon people, let’s move it.” Thump-a-thump-a-thump-a-thump went the music. We cycled through the sun salutation sequence more quickly now, then held awkward pose and twisted. He adjusted me. “Lift your thoracic spine!”

I noticed most of the students seemed to have had some good basic training. The two guys behind me were struggling–sweating and sliding and looking around. But most of the women were adjusting themselves as they needed, not pushing themselves into contortions out of their range.

The women next to be chose to do all the hardest variations of many poses, but even so there wasn’t too much of a show-offy vibe in the room. The practice seemed safe.

Huh, I thought. This is the formula, and it’s kind of brilliant. A one-hour class (low commitment, low impact on your day), hot enough (gets you sweating so you quickly feel like you’re working out), teaches safe alignment (so people don’t get hurt), and just a little bit of dharma talk (how this applies to your daily life) with –oh no!–not the dreaded–

It was true: ab work. Right, I thought, it’s called “core” power yoga. I never liked working my abs, beginning as far back as grade school.

“Lift your elbow up to your knee! Hold! Switch! Hold! Switch! Now scissor kicks one minute! Go!”  Ouch ouch ouch ouch ouch. Agony. Yet was this part of the appeal to my sweating class mates? You get to do yoga AND do the hard work of the gym, all in one place?

crow pose (bhakasana) c/o sarawhitney.net

Andy stopped us to demo crow pose, an arm balance.

Then he demo-d one legged crow. Then he demo-d no-legged crow.

“So when life throws you a curveball,” he grinned, “you just gotta go with it, do your best.”

That was fine, but he gave no hints about how no-legged crow might be possible for us without abs of steel.

“Look at me!” he said, giving a second demo. “Use your core!”

I stuck with two-legged crow.

Now thoroughly dripping with sweat we continued on with more standing poses, some backbends, a few twists, a shoulderstand. The music continued pumping. Everything was soaked. My hair dripped like a garden of wet snakes. The thin material of my pants was almost transparent. My face, red.

Final relaxation was brief. I had just begun to relax when Andy started talking again. Another “jai!” with a floor slap and the class was over.

“Okay guys thanks a lot, have a great weekend!” Andy grinned, “And we have an inversions intensive coming up at our Cherry Hill location this weekend, also a level 2 training you guys should all do it, as well as more classes with me coming up! Thanks guys!”

I took myself to a shower in the women’s changing room which was like a mini gym/spa mix. Three shower stalls with large plastic pumps of soap and shampoo, similar to a gym.

The black stones inset into the floor (like a mat in front of each shower) had a spa-like quality to them. And for once I didn’t mind the industrial-grade lotions: I had to be clean; I was meeting people for dinner. This was very convenient.

And like any busy business person, I was already multi-tasking on my way out of the studio. I paid for my class while talking on the phone. I was signing my credit card receipt while negotiating: Could I be there in 10 minutes? In 5? Where was the restaurant? Could you, I asked Andy, call me a cab? How do you get a cab in this town? I hadn’t seen any on the streets. Susan, text me when you know the address. Andy, yes I need one with a credit card machine. Oh, thanks for my card back. Yes, thank you so much for your help. Susan, see you in 10.

No one was left in the studio by this time with its little boutique and posters for trainings, boot camps, more classes, more workshops.

In my purist yoga-loving heart I knew what I was doing—multi-tasking and not being very present– was annoying and a big yoga no-no. But as a business person at that moment, it made sense, it was what I had to do.

And in that moment, Core Power Yoga made total sense. I didn’t have much time, I had a lot of things to juggle, I wasn’t thinking straight, I was barely coordinating the elements of my life right. Core Power delivered all that I needed in a very manageable chunk, and I fit right in.

The Hustle in Denver: Core Power Yoga

With one minute to go til class, I was still at the check-in desk.

“Is there any way I can do any of this after class?” I asked the guy checking me in, “I don’t want to be late.”

Not to worry, the teacher, a smiley blond guy in a grey sleeveless T-shirt was still there, too, admiring a student’s mala beads.

It had taken me 30 minutes, walking in a tight skirt and cork heels to get from the conference center where I was working a giant, anxiety-filled book fair, to the Grant Street location of Core Power Yoga.

I’d first heard about Core Power from an instructor at Pure Yoga in New York, who was originally from Chicago. “They’re all over the Mid-West and southeast,” he’d assured me. “They’re bigger than Yoga Works by far.”

News to me. I live in New York. I only sometimes get to the west coast and almost never to the middle of the country.

I heard about them again while interviewing the entrepreneurial maverick and former owner of Sonic Yoga, Jonathan Fields. “They more than anyone have really mastered the business model for yoga franchises,” he said admiringly. The words “yoga” and “franchise” together made some people’s lips curl in mistrust. But I was curious. What made this place work?

When a work trip came up to Denver, I knew I had to check them out. At the last minute, the trip was cut from 3 days to 2, so I also knew it wasn’t going to be easy to get there.

Map in hand, I ducked out of the freezing, artificial air of the vast conference center and marched—well, more like hobbled—over to the studio.  The darn skirt had gotten compliments at the book fair but slowed me down (and gave the backs of my thighs a kind of rug burn) on Denver’s wide streets. There was no striding in that skirt. And time,too, was tight.

Finally arriving, I felt like the little engine that could. I think I can I think I can, I know I can I know I can. I did! I did!

I did a speed-change in New York style—30 seconds, in, out, done—and found a spot in the large, low room (that was frayed around the edges; the silvery ceiling needed a paint job). It was heated, but not to Bikram levels—thank goodness. I don’t like to tremble and shake, slipping and sliding in yoga class.

Denver, the mile-high city, at 5,000 feet above sea level is not only oxygen poor, it is extremely dry. The heat—and sweat—felt good. It was also a nice change after the crisp mountain air outside.

Three rows of students faced a long mirror. The instructor in the grey t-shirt was a cheerleading soul named Andy. “Okay guys, I’m going to chant in Sanskrit,” he said smiling, “then you slap your hands down on the floor and yell “Jai!” (victory). Okay?”

He chanted the chant, we slapped the floor. Then he told a story….

To be continued on Thursday….

Costa Rica Yoga Bliss…. part 2

Part 2: Some Impressions from our Costa Rica Yoga Retreat, Feb 26 – March 5.

Here in the jungle, we’re constantly adjusting to the temperature, the abundance of oxygen, to being in yet another yoga class. With a class at 6:30 am and another at 4 pm, muscles are lengthening, joints lubricating, breath coming more an more easily.

Pre total relaxation

When we arrived, people’s faces were tight and drawn, tired from travel but also tired from the responsibilities of work and daily life.

After a few days people’s faces begin to look relaxed and then something magical starts to happen. Their faces start to glow, they start to look younger, more open, and more enthusiastic about the smallest things–a delicious taste, a warm breeze, an interesting thought.

To me, this is evidence of prana, the life force that gives vitality, rising and flourishing, bringing clarity to the skin, friendliness to dispositions and peace to people’s minds.

Chill-axing

As the stress of city life washes off it’s easy to see the toll it takes—bad sleep, rough digestion, low energy and poor mental functioning.

In the jungle, we’re just a short walk from balmy tropical waters. We lounge in a luxurious lodge built from local materials and staffed by local characters, some of whom have been walking this jungle their whole lives.

Slowed down, with relaxation a part of our daily routine, we begin to feel the spark of life pulsing again, that unexstinguished flame flare up more brightly.

And at the same time, immersed in teeming wilderness, we see ourselves in the context of all life, the constant movement and change of all natural forms.

Our hikes in the jungle show us snakes, spiders, monkeys, pixotes (a racoon-like animal wiht a long tail), pecaries (stinky wild pigs), and huge gloriously blue morpho butterflies.

Life is all around whether or not we check our email, return phone calls, ride subways, acquire or lose status or money, no matter who we know or are related to.

This is a visceral yoga lesson. Prana has many expressions—animal, vegetable, mineral, cognating, non-cognating—and a fierce intelligence. Nature, the material world, is more than just how much we weigh, how we style our hair, how we look in our yoga pants, how flexible we are, what we do, what we own.

Consciousness is sometimes valued higher than nature, but here it’s impossible to ignore nature’s power. Aside from the annoyance of bug bites (mosquitoes, black flies, no-see-ums etc) this nature is marvelous:  fecund, generous, majestic, strong, eye-opening.

It makes us revel in our own nature. And as Mr. Iyengar says, we notice, attend to, and love the body, as we would care for a child. It is a vehicle to all knowledge.

At the end of morning yoga practice, we have a sweet final relaxation serenaded by the tide going out, cooing mourning doves, seeds dropping on the clear roof over the deck, the low rumbling of nearby howler monkeys.

Back at the lodge, we breakfast on eggs, pancakes, fruit sauce, fresh juices (mango, sour-sop, tamarind, orange, pineapple etc), tortillas, tomato slices with fresh cheese, and of course lots of fruit.

Then it’s time to decide on the rest of the morning’s activities—a quick sweaty hike up to a platform that overlooks our cove? A cooling swim? Both? A tour of the botanical garden a short kayak away? A knowledgeable guide will take us and tell us more and more and more interesting things about this incredible place we have landed in.

We can also just take an hour or two on the seaside lounge chair under the almond tree chatting with whoever happens to be there–hanging out can also feel like a real indulgence.

We’re here for a week. No electricity, no phone, no money, no shops, no roads, nothing but yoga, the lodge, the jungle, the sea and the elements, the staff and each other. The rhythm of our days is simple and sweet, a luxury we all need.

This is what I wish I could give all my students–not to mention friends and family. Life pared down to extremely simple is what we’re dying for.  Beauty mixed with simplicity–and relaxation mixed with asana, meditation, and breathing–helps connect us to ourselves, see us in context of the greater life. It helps us remember who we truly are, and what it is that really matters.

Costa Rica Yoga Bliss….mmmmm….part 1

Back in late February, during the last terrible snow storm, I ran off to Costa Rica with Stephanie (my cohort in yoga teaching) and 7 yoga students to luxuriate and practice yoga in the tropics. It seems like a while ago now though I still have the tan-lines to prove it.

It’s easy to forget what was so worthwhile about being away. Especially in New York, where the vibe is “life is less-than incredible elsewhere.” But a retreat deep in the Costa Rican lushness is pretty incredible.

This year, I wrote some impressions to help me remember the sweetness of going on retreat. Below is part one and later this week, part two. Here goes…

Most mornings, around 6am when we stumble from our cabins into the lodge, we can see the scarlet macaws dancing and squawking in the almond tree 100 meters down at the beach.

We listen to a flock of toucans call. Just waking up, I have a sense of the jungle as a great big force with dizzying power, constantly growing, changing, demanding, expressing itself and requiring our full presence. Pay attention! It seems to say.

On moonlit nights the banana palms leaves and dewy paths are bright and silvery–and seem to quiver with life. It feels magical.

In the lodge, we lean over the balcony, or sit on the polished floor as we sip steaming tea and coffee, nibble a piece of ripe banana,  pineapple or papaya, trying to wake up.

From the nearby kitchen, comes the low sound of a radio and rhythmic chopping of the cook prepping the day’s food. A shy woman with her glistening hair pulled neatly back, in tidy cut offs and a grey T-shirt finishes mopping the almond-wood floors.

Yoga is at 630 down at the yoga deck near the beach. At 625 we gather our rolled up sticky mats and walk down through the reedy marsh over a wooden planked walkway (turtles, tadpoles, and toads underneath) over the lagoon with small red-winged black birds swooping by. The sky is flawless.

Everything is damp–from the planks on the yoga deck, damp from heavy afternoon rains, to the straps and blocks, kept in big plastic tubs, to the thriving jungle. Here in the south west of Costa Rica on the Pacific near Panama the humidity feels like it’s about 7000%.

Our clothes are never dry nor our hair. Long hair is always wet. Fine hair curls. Paper musts. Passports peel open like blooming laminated flowers. At night, the sheets begin damp and only get steamier with body heat, tossing under the draped canopy of mosquito netting.

But this is good news in class. For yoga this means that we don’t need to do many sun salutations to warm up. We can begin  with a quarter the number of lunges and warrior ones and twos before our bodies build the necessary heat to move on to variations.

Within a few minutes, the night’s stiffness–from active sleep, from yesterday’s hike to the waterfall or kayak trip to the snorkeling spot down the gulf–soon begins to shift and change, and even in these cool morning hours people sweat.

Costa Rica Bliss, Part 2 coming on Wednesday… stay tuned…

Meditation & “True Love”: Musings for V-Day

I’m delighted to have a personal essay up today on the online magazine YourTango.com, “smart talk about love.” It’s a new venue for me—and a new genre. Soul baring!

Well, soul baring with a purpose. I use a story of my own heartache to talk about a powerful meditation practice. For me, this is also a writerly experiment: the personal essay is a form I’ve long admired.

Also, I’ve been trying to reveal more of myself in my teaching as a way to engage students and avoid setting myself up as an untouchable authority. After all, I am very human.

Your Tango is a relationship-focused magazine, so while you’re there you can also read why bad relationships are a waste of time, or watch a video of Valentine’s Day cards we wished existed.

My piece is How Meditation Lead Me to True Love, on the home page, and in it I tell you how, for me, meditation and love are related.

Let me know what you think!

Had any similar experiences?