Tag Archive for 'hatha yoga'

Life in the Straw Village

Basic Luxury in Kajuraho

It’s been an interesting process of getting used to living outside in India.

HI Kaj straw huts

The huts are exactly the same

“Living” means: sleeping, changing, writing, reading, resting, bathing, and answering nature’s calls IN STRAW HUTS. We have real flush toilets (as opposed to squat toilets), buckets for “showering,” and outside sinks (which makes for chilly teeth brushing in the pre-dawn hours when we stumble off to meditation).

HI Kaj wash sinks

There was never any soap at the sinks

“Outside” means: we have the illusion of privacy as well as some real shelter. That illusion is worth a lot.

But the huts are not warm. And many leak. We’ve had several loud and violent storms to test out their waterproofness—and mudproofness and damproofness. I’d give them about 50/50.

Huts inside

Inside our straw castles. Four to a hut! Mosquito nets strung between bamboo poles; industrial green carpet (over straw over mud) keeps out the worst of the damp.


You know a lot about your “eco hut”—and yourself— after two days of torrential rain in an area that is not supposed to have rain as the clay earth sluices down the paths and makes a mud dam in front of your hut.


HI Kaj straw village doorway

A strip of yellow silk in the doorway brightens up our huts

And the huts definitely do not protect us from the sounds of neighbors. Who knew that SO many people snore so loudly?

For us middle class Westerners, this way of living is a practice of austerity.

But as we’ve been reminded, for locals in Allahabad and Kajuraho, the way we are living is luxurious.

HI Kaj baths and toilets

Toilets and showers

I will admit that this is a step up from tent camping. I am writing this from inside my hut, for example, sitting at a metal table with a blue plastic tablecloth stretched over it. We have metal cots off the ground, and clothes lines, plus lawn-green carpeting to protect us from mud and dust.

And one thing I know: I can get attached to anything. Anything at all.

I got attached to the readily available WiFi in Kajuraho. Even the cold, cold nights, bathing outside from a bucket of was bearable if I had WiFi to make Facebook updates and write blog entries (only slightly kidding).

HI Kaj bucket bath vertical

You haul in hot water with one bucket, mix it with cold from the spigot, then pour over you with the cup provided. Bucket bath!

That disappeared in Kajuraho. But the bucket baths and cold temperatures remained. Wah-wa.

In Kajuraho, I got attached to hut 7 where I weathered the interminable storms. Hut 7 almost flooded in the mud sluice, was crowded with 2 women from Duluth, another from Chicago, and me. It was damp and damp and damp. And damp. Then musty. My bed was both sloped downwards and tilted to the side like a permanent Tilt-a-Whirl.

HI Kaj bucket bath close up

Bucket bath set up–close up. Basic, basic, basic.

And yet I felt anxiety when I had to move into hut 49.

(Now the question is: what do I care whether I’m in straw hut 7 or straw hut 49?! They are exactly the same, just positioned slightly differently towards the bathrooms. Still I got fixated for a few hours on how much worse hut 49 was going to be. I had established my patterns and I didn’t want to budge. This is the stuff I came to India to deal with?!?! Answer: yes.)

But after two or three days in hut 49, I had completely forgotten about the charms of hut 7.

So it goes.

HI Kaj campus flowers and tree

Campus gets pretty after torrential rains


Most of us have gotten comfortable with this quasi-camping set up.

Temperatures are getting warmer now and days are brighter. I don’t have to wear every single piece of clothing I brought to India when I go to bed. I don’t have to wait for a warm patch in the day to bathe (or just skip it for a few days until bathing is urgent).

I don’t mind doing laundry by hand. And every time I shower now, I’m sure to wash some undies. Life has become easier.

HI Kaj Silvie laundry

72-yr-old Sylvia does laundry by hand at the hot-water station

And there are some surprise boons. After all that rain, the desert campus has sprung into bloom. Ceramic pots of marigolds, cosmos, and asters line the paths and decorate the huts. The trees are sparkling green.

Birds have arrived in abundance: green parrots, eagles, sparrows, a large swallow-like bird, peacocks, neelkanth, and many many others that sing and chirp and whir. In fact, a pair of sparrows just flew into my hut!

HI Kaj garden cosmos

After the rains

At night the jackals howl their mysteriously poignant songs arching back and forth across the hills. The farmers answer them with their ghostly shrieks meant to scare away nilgai—the large antelope/deer/horse-like creature that tramples crops (the male is actually blue colored).


HI Kaj guest services hut

Himalayan Institute campus, Kajuraho

Most of us have forgotten our discomfort in the straw village, our Western privileges, proving that you really can get used to anything.

Even basic luxury can be luxurious.

HI Kaj Sherry Sivlie lunch in town

Sherry, Sylvia and I go into town for lunch–breaking out!

And now some people don’t want to go back to their easy showers and toilets, central heating and A/C.

You really can get attached to anything.

HI Kaj kunda at tree

Kunda (fire pit) at the special banyan tree

Flowing with the Kumbha Mela

I always understood that I was coming on a pilgrimage when I signed up to come to the 2013 Kumbha Mela in Allahabad, India. I just didn’t know what part of this trip was going to be pilgrimage. Or even, perhaps, what a pilgrimage was.

Women in saris KM

On the road to the Kumbha Mela

I fantasized about meeting holy teachers who had descended from their reclusive, Himalayan caves—I had read about this in a newspaper article.

I dreamed of unexpected—but very enlightening—encounters with humanity on the dusty road to the great festival: After all, Parahamsa Yogananda famously met an incarnation of his teacher’s teacher at a Kumbha Mela in the early 20th century.

At the very least, I thought, the Himalayan Institute in Allahabad would invite some sages with whom they had personal connections to the campus for talks and maybe blessings, too. This was a long-awaited spiritual gathering  of up to 100 million people, and I was traveling from so far away, after so much preparation—something had to happen.

On the KM road

On the road

I’ve been in Allahabad for 2 1/2 days now. On the first day, we were hauled (literally) up the Ganges on wooden boats til we reached the most auspicious place, the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers, as well as the mysterious Saraswati river that you can’t actually locate on any map.

Small, strong men rowed, punted (with long bamboo poles), and pulled us with string. The boat traveled against the current, under makeshift pontoon bridges,  dodging garbage and sand bars, until we reached the sangam, the meeting of the waters. There, we blessed ourselves by scooping up handfuls of the highly toxic river (E.coli levels at 100x what’s acceptable), saying a prayer, then sprinkling the auspiscious water over our heads—and liberally dousing with hand sanitizer afterwards.

It seemed like cruel labor for the men until we were informed that their previous cargo had been SAND (sand from the Ganges is highly prized by cement factories).


going up Ganges


Still, nothing happened. But no worries, I thought, tomorrow we are going into the Kumbha Mela for real, finally reaching a destination that I have been thinking about for 3 years. With 8 square miles and countless sadhus prominently dressed in orange robes, something was bound to happen.

I set out with Stewart, my new Glaswegian friend. We were so deep in conversation about the pilgrimage itself that we hardly noticed the piles of fine white sand that our feet were kicking up. Soon our mouths were full of sand, and any exposed skin slathering in sunscreen was covered, too. I noticed local women were holding the ends of their saris over their mouths.

KM road

Kumbha Mela road is dusty, muddy, and hot

It was the tremendous noise that stopped our conversation. Singers, chanters, proclaimers and lecturers projected at top volume through cheap loudspeakers. Meanwhile rickshaws, motorcyles, bicycles, and Mercedes Benz jeeps (full of sadhus in orange robes) honked and whistled and rang on either side of us. We couldn’t hear anything else.

We caught up with other people from the Himalayan Institute at a fork in the road: now we would go down into the mele, and maybe cross a pontoon bridge to the Kumbha Mela grounds on the other side of the Ganges.

Bike on road to KM

Anyway, anyhow

We added Ali and Mangesh from London, also Selina an English nurse transplanted to America to our two-some, and together headed down towards the sangam, the confluence. This time from the land.

Along the way, we browsed bangle shops, haggled for malas (since Mangesh speaks Hindi), took photos and generally wondered what was going on inside all the tent camps that lined the makeshift road. That’s where, supposedly, the sages held court.

Often, as we took our pictures, a small crowd would gather to take photos of us. It seemed fair, although it was weird. Or a sage would stop and, with a kindly expression, stand a little too close and stare at us with unblinking eyes.


A baba

After a packed lunch of potato chips, pakoras, and (fake) mango juice-boxes we  visited the bathing areas that faced the sangam. Here,  whole families and villages were bathing in the holy river, the Ma Ganga. Selina was excited to immerse herself, but I wasn’t interested in getting closer to the bacteria.

Ganges bathing KM

Bathing in the Ganges

Mangesh did buy a boat of flowers and sent it out into the waters. (It flowed right back in, and Ali made fun of him.)

Girl selling at Ganges

Flower boats

And then we had to admit that we were hot, still hungry, tired, and ready to go back to the campus. Which seemed a long ways away at that point. We were done and we still hadn’t really encountered that thing that was supposed to happen.

We were just tourists wandering in a fair ground, surrounded by thousands of people elaborately wrapped in gorgeous colors, or lining the roads trying desperately to eke out a living.

KM palace

Entrance to a sadhu’s tent camp

The language barrier made it so that we would never really understand whose tent camp we were passing, which ones to go in, and which ones to avoid. They all looked as if they could swallow us up whole, exotic as we were with our very pale skin. Even Mangesh, who is Indian, couldn’t understand what we were seeing.

Tired from the dust, the noise, the heat, and the more-or-less aimless wandering in search of the fulfillment of Our Pilgrimage, we turned back.

“Are you feeling the auspicious energy, or anything?” asked Ali, former IT guy for a London investment bank.

“Not really,” I said. “I mostly feel tired.”

There were some silent, tired nods around our little group.

At last, we picked a tent camp at random and stopped in. The less digestively-challenged of us  accepted the free meal being offered, sitting back to back on the ground with Indian pilgrims who presumably did know why they were here and what they were supposed to be doing.

On the way back, I suggested a rickshaw. Mangesh haggled a price and we dove in—Selina, Ali, Mangesh and me. We picked up Stewart who had booked it on ahead of us. He looked very pleased when we pulled up.

Stewart and Ali KM

Stewart and Ali in the rickshaw

“The Ganges is inside you,” said a senior Himalayan Institute teacher. “Don’t get caught up in whether you immerse yourself or not. Notice her qualities, how the river flows, how constant and abundant she is. This is what you want to connect to. The vitality, the power.”

“There are so many political factions at the Kumbha Mela,” said another teacher later over chai, “And in India politics and religions are completely mixed together, no separation. There are serious lobbyists working the Kumbha Mela. It’s all over our heads. Sure, there are some very accomplished holy teachers in there, but the chances of us figuring out who’s who are slim. Even so, we’re all here at an auspicious time, doing our own practice, and that’s the benefit. The Mela is not the benefit, it’s your own practice.”

The rickshaw ride back was wonderful. Back on campus, we bathed from buckets in straw huts equipped with clean water. I didn’t care how simple it was—the water, the quiet, and the afternoon breeze felt as “authentic” and “auspicious” as anything ever had.

The circus wasn’t the point: the point was—as it always is— all within.

JH Selina Mangesh

Selina, JH, Mangesh


3 Reasons Why I’m Sponsoring a Child in Brazil

Flying back from my brother’s home in September was emotional. He was 4 weeks (out of 6) into intensive chemo and radiation, confused, weak, and scared about the future. His wife and I were working around the clock to care for him–and his two kids who were just starting kindergarten and pre-school.

It was hard to leave at that moment, especially to return to my rather foreign life in New York. I was a part of his family more than ever now, and they needed all the help they could get.

(Two 1/2 months earlier, Bill had been diagnosed with a stage 4 brain cancer, just a few weeks after his 36th birthday.)

My brother, Bill, one week after diagnosis, with his family. July 2011

On that September trip, I had gotten close to my 5-yr old nephew, Alex, and my 3-yr old niece, Sammie. I had gotten to know my sister-in-law in a way that only people thrown together into crisis can. I had one of the most intense—and in an odd way, satisfying—experiences of family I’d ever had.

I worried about leaving them at this moment, yet I needed to get back home to keep my own life going.  If my life fell apart—emotionally, financially, or otherwise—I wouldn’t be much good to anyone.

On my poignant plane ride back, thinking so much about family, I also felt lucky to be in a position to help. My brother’s airline (he’s a pilot) was flying me out to the west coast of Canada and back. My job as an editor was giving me the time off. I was able-bodied and I had a enough savings to afford miss a paycheck.

Still, I also felt the temptation to retreat into worry, sadness, and self-pity. Nothing compared to my younger—and only—brother getting stage 4 cancer.

Yet instead of descending into self-indulgence, something else, completely surprising, happened.

On the plane’s head-set TV,  an advertisement came on for an organization that sponsors children and their communities in impoverished parts of the world. Usually I leave that kind of work to other humanitarians. But that morning I felt an instant connection to those children. I deeply understood what it would mean for them to have some extra help.

In fact, for the price of a sandwich every week I could get a child a visit to a doctor, help her (or him) grow a garden, or even buy her textbooks or help her go to school for the first time. Thinking about it made me cry all over again.

I thought about it back at home and I investigated the organization. I waffled and I wavered. But the feeling that I needed to do this persisted.

So here are the three reasons why I decided to sponsor Ana Souza Silva, age 7, of northeastern Brazil.

Ana, 7

1. There is almost no price on giving ($10 a week? nothing), but there is a huge price to not receiving. To give to someone who needs help is an honor and a privilege.

2. I am Ana; Ana is me. We are connected. The act of giving is the understanding that our lives are, ultimately, bound together. It’s the, “there but for the grace of God go I” idea.

3. I’ve felt a special connection with Brazil for several years, and it’s a country I will most likely visit again. The fact that I might meet Ana one day makes giving her money all the more real, and all the more meaningful. (I’ve already started the paperwork!)

4. (I know I said three, but there are more!) It’s really, really easy. It’s the easiest way I know to give thanks for the privilege of my own life. It *is* the embodiment of “thanksgiving.” Why wait for the date in November before I embrace this commitment to living?

5. It’s almost hard to describe how exciting and moving it is to give a little money to Ana each week. It chokes me up every time.

Maybe this holiday season you might also give to a needy child or a needy family. It really feels amazing. I chose to work through World Vision. They are a Christian organization, but they get great reports. Happy November!

Yoga is a Religion? Right?

Yoga is a religion—at least according 57% of non-yoga-ing Americans polled by the Yoga Alliance last Saturday, Yoga Day USA. The (semi-)regulatory organization was gathering  Americans’ opinion of the sport (?) to see what stops more people from trying it out.

According to its press release, inspite of the ubiquitousness of this multi-billion dollar industry that’s firmly routed in the material ($$) world, many people still think of it as New Age or only for the very nimble. (Sometimes it seems that way, depending on what center you go to and what style you practice…)

“there are many Americans who know little about yoga or, worse, have incorrect assumptions which inhibit them from participation. The three most common misperceptions are that yoga:

  • Is religion-based. 57% of those who do not currently practice yoga believe that it requires mantras or chanting related to a form of worship.
  • Requires flexibility in order to practice. Nearly 3 in 5 Americans – 59% of respondents – who do not practice yoga think that it requires a person to be in at least “decent” shape. In truth, however, anyone – of any size, shape or physical state – can benefit.
  • Is not really exercise. Half of men who have never practiced yoga believe it “isn’t a workout.” In contrast, 73% of people who do practice believe it is just as effective as running, swimming or weight lifting.

All events are free on Yoga Day USA which is sponsored by the Yoga Alliance. Attitude adjustment might cost extra—maybe as much as a monthly membership to a local center.

TimeOut NY Reviews My Basics Class!

It’s payback: after writing about other people’s classes and techniques I’ve been reviewed in TimeOut NY’s Fitness Issue, 2010. It’s a nice little write up.

Jonathan, the shy English reporter, had no context at all to understand what he was getting into, because…

…he had NEVER done yoga before. The word “vinaysa” was just a bunch of letters to him. Oy! Putting me to the test.

But he did well. In a class of 17, he selected a spot at the very back corner of the room where I slid him props and—a good student—he took child’s pose as needed. We all had a good time. Thanks for coming, Jonathan.

And thanks GO Yoga for having me as a teacher these past 7 years. (Come to GO’s 10-year anniversary party, Saturday, January 16, from 6pm on.)

The Review: Go Yoga

Types of yoga offered: Vinyasa, plus a creative interpretation of different schools.
Name of class: Basics with Joelle Hann
Length: 90 minutes
What to expect: A brisk yet beginner-friendly session, capped off with a Maya Angelou poem and a group om
Level: Yoga newbies can do it.
The verdict: Joelle Hann used the dimmable lighting and music to good effect, controlling the mood of the room. She also watches over her students with a sharp eye, supplying blocks and straps and correcting alignment. You’ll sweat during the more active part of the class, but you’ll leave feeling limber and relaxed, rather than fatigued.—Jonathan Shannon

Yoga 2009: 10 Highlights

What happened last year? Did it pass like a kidney stone or like savasana? Lots of subtle changes for me personally, and a big leap into the blogosphere for Yoga Nation. Part of me wishes I had a time machine to go back ten years (if I knew then, what I know now…) and another part looks forward to the madness and the mystery of a new year.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s see what happened in 2009….

1. Fierce Club opened in Nolita. Sadie Nardini, of Bon Jovi yogi fame, not only opened her own kick-ass studio in Nolita last March, but later in the summer she also joined up with YAMA, an agenting enterprise for enterprising yoga teachers. Yes, folks, the future is here…

2. The movie, Enlighten Up!: A Skeptic’s Journey into the World of Yoga, launched to mostly positive reviews (and some grumbling from yoga teachers) proving that yoga can entertain Americans for at least an hour and a half on the big screen. Director/yogini, Kate Churchill, and skeptic/subject, Nick Rosen, tussle and tumble around the world looking for the truth about yoga.

3. Inappropriate Yoga Guy “Edited” Yoga Journal. Yoga Journal spoofed itself in this 5-part online mini-series in which the unforgettable, and wildly inappropriate, Ogden, took over the inimitable magazine offices as a hazardous (and sometimes naked) “guest editor.” Went live April Fool’s Day.

4. Sri K. Pattabhi Jois passed. One of three Indian grandaddies of modern, Western yoga, 93-year-old Pattabhi Jois, passed away in May, and was fetted through the early summer. The memorial held at Donna Karan’s Urban Zen headquarters on June 14 in the West Village created even bigger buzz than the first ever NYC Yoga Journal Conference in May.

5. Licensing Issue ravaged New Yorkand is not over. Should yoga studios pay large sums of money to New York state to be “licensed” to train yoga teachers? Widely seen as a pitiless money-grab, this proposed legislation threatens to shut down many tiny yoga studios that rely on teacher-training programs for basic income. (For this issue, yoganation was also a momentary guest-blogger on the illustrious YogaDork.)

6. On the other hand, Brent Kessel made clear that yoga and money can live happily together. Financial advisor and long-time ashtanga-yoga practitioner, Kessel wrote a practical, inspiring and possibly profitable book called It’s Not About the Money (which it never is: it’s always about the junk in your head). Read my interview with him on Frugaltopia.

7. The inaugural Wanderlust Yoga and Music Festival rocked Lake Tahoe in July. This ingenious festival blasted open indie minds and took over taste-making in the yoga world. Who said yoga can’t be radically cool? Driven by yoga and music-exec power couple from Brooklyn, Wanderlust will happen in three locales in 2010. Thank you, Yoga Journal (San Francisco), you may now hand over the reigns. The young uns’ (uh, Brooklyn) got it from here.

8. Celebrity Yoga Teachers—Problem? In late August, YogaCityNYC sent me to report on the Being Yoga conference upstate. The question: Is a media-friendly yoga teacher the natural outcome of yoga’s presence in America’s consumer culture? The peaceful yoga crowd at Omega had a lot to say. READ my final article. …..(One source said: “I’ve never had a PR agent or invited myself somewhere. Everything has happened because of the shakti manifesting in me.” The next day I got a message on Twitter inviting me to review her latest DVD.)

9. BKS Iyengar turned 91. Really, you need to see Enlighten Up! the movie just for the scenes of Iyengar talking about the meaning of yoga—not empty New Age spirituality, but real internal work, with a few beads of sweat and social service thrown in. For his 91st birthday, this tremendous force of a man requested that students hold a fundraiser to benefit his ancentral village of Bellur. If everyone gave $3, more people could eat.

10. The Yoga Clothing Wars continued with lots of news about LuluLemon throughout 2009. Their stock was up, their stock was down. We loved them, we were peeved. Mostly we were conflicted about the giant success of a giant “women’s activewear” company. Good news: they have excellent yoga clothes for men. More good news: they are inspiring small yoga clothing companies, too. More good (-ish?) news: they are EVERYWHERE. Planet Lulu!!

HAPPY 2010, yogis and yoginis! Here’s to a happy, healthy, inspired, productive, restful, and OM-ing new year.

Considering a New Year: 10 Resolutions

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about new year’s resolutions. Maybe because last years’ were unexpectedly potent. Over Christmas dinner last week (at a table surrounded by friends), I remembered one of them: “Be better friends with the friends I already have.” Huh, it worked. I also made some new friends. How great is that? (I raise a toast.)

The other was to start a meditation practice. After 20 years of attempts, I finally did it. Sitting every day! (Thanks for the method, Alan. Thanks for the prodding, Vanessa. Thanks for the company, Tim.)

So, here’s what I’ve been thinking about this week for the coming year. Take it or leave it—it’s free. Here’s to a happy new year—and an inspired decade.

1. Keep a small notebook-–a small one that fits in my pocket. Write down ideas, events and thoughts of the moment, lists, words overheard, sights overseen. I started this in November at the suggestion of a writing teacher (thank you, Victoria) and it has blazed some interesting new trails. How much was I censoring myself? A lot.

2. Break out of the routine for one hour every week—even if it means walking down a new block (which in fact I love to do). In 2010, I’d like to shake things up; keep the brain and spirit fresh. Visit new parks, museums, bookstores etc. Cheaper than a ticket to Rio de Janeiro, too.

3. Use a key phrase for comfort.  Sometimes I have a mantra from my meditation teacher and then I forget to say it. But it could also be a phrase someone—anyone—has said that was moving. Health psychologist Kelly McGonigal, for new year’s 2006, said, “one of the most moving experiences I have had was when one of my teachers said it to me – “Whatever happens, you can handle it.” Another good one is from ad exec, Paul Arden: “Start being wrong and suddenly anything is possible. You’re no longer trying to be infallible.”

4. Take on a reasonable amount—and no more. This week I set out to do a reasonable number of tasks each day instead of a superhuman number. It’s been fantastic. Lo-and-behold, I’ve been getting more done and feeling friendlier, too. (It sure helps to get to work at noon.)

5. Check in weekly to see where I am and what’s ahead. My own personal 1:1 staff meeting. I’ve set Friday afternoons for this weekly accounting. It’s actually pretty fun, and it helps manage the overwhelm. Another good idea from Victoria.

6. Use iCal on my laptop and on my iPhone. Getting my schedule out of my head and onto “paper” clears some space…. for all those thoughts that I need to get down in my notebook! (See #1.)

7. … also it’s *really* interesting to see how much junk I’m carrying around in my head. I would like that junk to stop jabbing me in meditation, so I’m excited to put it down somewhere. (The creative company Behance has all kinds of strategies, apps, and stationary to help with this very thing—thank you, Jocelyn Glei!)

8. Inbox zero! Again: inbox zero!

9. Annoying people and situations (hello, crowded subway) offer a chance to learn and grown—I know, I know, SUCH a cliche! But there’s a catch: they are opportunities only if I can stay vulnerable. It is challenging not go into habit—and so, interesting. Heart forward!

10. Open your eyes. For one minute every day, see who and what is around you. This summer I noticed an overgrown corner lot at S1 and Driggs. I’ve lived one block from it for probably 10 years: in July it was lush vines, weeds, morning glories, and leafy tree branches spilling over the fence. It was wonderful to walk past. I found myself taking detours to stroke the cat-tails, smell the flowers, inhale the green. Even if you’ve seen your local spot or your trusted people a 1,000,000 times, see them again. Recall the native greeting in Avatar, “I see you.”

It’s great to open your eyes.

Stubdog: Half-Price Yoga?

According to the ad copy on Flavorpill’s “thehookup,” Stubdog offers half price tickets on music, comedy, dance, special parties—and YOGA.

Is that yoga classes, yoga events, yoga fashion trunk shows? Not clear. A quick search of the site turned up zero offerings in any of their cities currently (Houston, Los Angeles, Dallas/Ft Worth, New York).

But a half-price anything is worth it these days. So I pass it along to you, dear reader. Maybe while you’re waiting for a yoga class to pop onto the list you’ll catch an Afro-Cuban extravaganza or the next Eddie Izzard?

Stubdog for Event Tickets – Houston, Los Angeles, Dallas/Ft Worth

LuLu or Cult: Clothes Call?

The NYTimes Style section today (The Critical Shopper) goes after the LuLu culture, focusing on the boppy, sunny, perky, happy, can-do, yes’m attitude of the staffers. The writer walks into the flagship store in Manhattan (sounds like the set-up to a joke) and “A nanosecond after I entered, a spunky girl greeted me with a “Hi!” as if she were my life coach or wife.”

His take is that it’s all a bit culty. Not just out on the LuluLemon-covered streets (which is what New York Magazine’s juicy LuLuLemon article this past summer was talking about), but in the store itself.

LuluLemon works hard to create such boppy attitude in its educators, with personal growth coaching that sometimes includes a session at Landmark Forum.

This is not very “yoga,” but it is to be expected if you are to create a brand that appeals to the public on a global scale. Lululemon understands that we like our enlightenment to be results-oriented, self-esteem boosting and comfortable so that we can flop on the couch after doing our inner work and watch “Grey’s Anatomy.”

Hmm, true: how many of us like our enlightenment to be results-oriented? Many, I’d guess, though we’d never say, “Oh, checked in with Brahman, supreme cosmic spirit from Hindu Vendanta philosophy this morning, cross that off today’s to-do list.”

Aside from using the word relentlessly relentlessly (well, twice, gad zooks! “relentlessly sunny”, “relentlessly cheery”), he also does his bit to give the back story on Chip Wilson and review the clothes. He likes the selection of men’s clothes. He seems to practice yoga himself. He’s a fair reviewer, not beneath a bit of ribbing:

Some of the get-ups are insanely garish. Run Ultra pants have black and white swirly striped panels over purple fabric and look like something Patricia Heaton wears on one of her 14 sitcoms; cropped bottoms with green plaid fabric around the waist is fine if you want to look like a Scotch tape dispenser while you are in Uttanasana.

Any Lulu article must discuss the unusual materials in their clothes, and Albo obliges. And, like the NYMag writer, he takes a shot at the purpose of wearing those hot pants anyway (hint: it’s not all about “wicking away moisture”):

The materials, with names like Silverescent and Luon, are obsessed with wicking away sweat and therefore suit the typical yoga-goer’s secret mantra: I am willing to bow to an elephant-headed god, but I refuse to look skanky when I walk to my car after class because there might be a hot guy around.

It seems we can’t get enough of LuLu, even if we’re making fun of her: she’s an easy entree into yoga culture for, well, people who perhaps relate more to the lifestyle aspect of yoga than the, say, sutra-studying aspect. And she provides an opportunity to play in the entertaining contradictions in this yoga-saturated moment.

September is Here! Ack!

Summer is my season. When the weather turned over the weekend, and the sting of September was in the air, I admit I felt heartsick. My season was so short, and so weird this year. I didn’t quite get enough. Never even made it to the beach!

But, September is here and yoga nation is back. My impromptu dog-days hiatus from blogging is over (you can even need a vacation from blogging and from Twitter), and I’m ready for a fall season of yoga news, yoga quirks, and yoga love

Watch for my upcoming piece on YogaCityNYC about celebrity yogis! Up next week. In this space, I’ll have news from the American Viniyoga Institute (where I’ll be over Labor Day), plus a video of John Friend trying slackline yoga, an interview with the makers of the next yoga film—and more, folks, and more, and coming your way….