yoga culture

Yoga Is: Film Review

AS PUBLISHED IN YOGA INTERNATIONAL

A Film About the Transformational Power of Yoga, written and directed by Suzanne Bryant

Yoga Is is Suzanne Bryant’s paean to yoga, an homage to the practice that held her together while her mother was dying of breast cancer. In gratitude, the former journalist explores yoga’s mysterious power—to engender love, happiness, and transformation—through interviews with such yoga world celebrities as Sharon Gannon and David Life, Alan Finger, Baron Baptiste, Seane Corn, Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa, and Shiva Rea. She also travels to India (though we see her there mostly with American teachers). Skillfully produced, the film charts similar territory to Kate Churchill’s thornier 2008 film Enlighten Up! but with a much less critical eye. Still, this is a good documentary for newcomers unfamiliar with yoga’s higher purpose, showing without a doubt that yoga is more than a sweaty workout.


AS PUBLISHED IN YOGA INTERNATIONAL

Yoga Woman: Film Review

AS PUBLISHED IN YOGA INTERNATIONAL

“Women have made yoga an international phenomenon and a multi-billion dollar industry,” observes Yoga Woman, a documentary from sisters Kate and Saraswati Clere. While yoga benefits both genders, Western women now dominate the practice, and they’re bringing issues such as body image, fertility, and family/work balance to the forefront. The film attempts to spotlight women of every age, race, situation, and nationality (though it remains U.S.-centered), and includes moving footage of pioneer teachers Patricia Walden and Angela Farmer, Seane Corn’s crew of yoginis building a birthing center in Uganda, and Indra Devi, “First Lady of Yoga,” who pestered paterfamilias T. Krishnamacharya until he accepted her as his student. In the end, Yoga Woman is a testimony to yoga’s transcendent power to calm, heal, challenge, and transform both individuals and societies.


AS PUBLISHED IN YOGA INTERNATIONAL

Yogi, Take Me to a Higher Place

AS PUBLISHED IN THE NEW YORK TIMES

When Raquel Prieto moved from Northampton, Mass., to Boston in January, there was one thing she sought as urgently as an affordable living situation and a job: an advanced yoga class.

As a dedicated yogi, she wanted to work on meditation and on poses, or asanas, requiring a lot of strength and flexibility and a deep mental focus.

Even after spending $700 and two months trying out studios, she still hadn’t found a place she could build on the advanced practice she developed in a Northampton studio. So she patched together a combination of home practice, classes at a nearby yoga center, visits to a meditation center and trips back to Northampton.

“I’m not thrilled,” said Ms. Prieto, 23. “It’s hit or miss.” Her search for satisfaction, she said, “was a huge emotional thing. I got depressed.”

With a yoga studio seemingly on every corner, it might appear counterintuitive for any yoga class to be in short supply. But Ms. Prieto’s experience is not unique; many seasoned practitioners report having a hard time finding challenging classes.

The reason is simple. Yoga has evolved from a passion for the few into a mainstream pursuit. There are 15.8 million adults practicing yoga, according to Yoga Journal’s recent “Yoga in America” study, with almost one third of them practicing for a year or less. The study also found that the number of people interested in trying yoga tripled from 2004 to 2008 to an estimated 18.3 million.

Since catering to the legions of more novice practitioners makes the most business sense, most of the classes at yoga centers are geared toward the basic and intermediate levels.

“Things have swayed backward from very advanced asana practice,” said Jasmine Tarkeshi, a director of Laughing Lotus Yoga Center, which has studios in New York and San Francisco.

Prime-time offerings must cater to the largest group of students, she added. “We have to make it accessible for everyone, especially those evening slots when most people can come.” Smaller advanced classes are typically relegated to less-desirable midday slots.

Part of the problem, say many teachers and practitioners, is a scarcity of instructors capable of guiding students into a more-advanced practice. These days, they say, many master teachers travel around the world giving workshops, another result of the profitable explosion in yoga’s popularity. Americans spend $5.7 billion a year on yoga classes, products, equipment, clothing and media, up 87 percent from 2004, the Yoga Journal study found.

While it is hard to accurately tell how many people have advanced practices, especially given the range of what constitutes “advanced,” a survey by the chain Yoga Works this year showed that 10 percent of its students self-identified as advanced. Further, the Yoga Journal study estimated that almost 12 percent of those practicing yoga have been doing so for 10 years or more, which at least demonstrates a strong commitment.

There are some generally accepted markers for what makes a student advanced. Barring injury, they are comfortable holding a headstand (considered an advanced beginner’s pose) for several minutes or more. They work on free-standing handstands, and attempt deep backbends, forward bends, twists and other arm balances. If they’re truly advanced, they don’t radiate smugness as they practice difficult postures.

“Lots of young strong people want crazy tricks, and that’s fun and part of it, but in my view that’s not advanced at all,” said Annie Carpenter, 50, a senior teacher at Yoga Works in Santa Monica, Calif.

Advanced yogis work on breathing techniques and focus, since mental acuity eventually helps them transition into meditation, considered the ultimate goal of yoga. Even if advanced students can’t find the fullest expression of a pose, they will try it with concentration and a sense of humor.

“You go to advanced to have that same feeling you had as a beginner, that sense of wonder that no one would believe what you did today,” said Liz Buehler, 34, a director of the new Yoga High studio on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

Cyndi Lee, the founder and director of OM Yoga Center in Manhattan, said that just the notion of an advanced class can scare some people off, but that her studio emphasizes the process, not the end point. “Advanced does not mean you are already advanced,” said Ms. Lee, 54. “It means you are ready to learn and practice advanced asanas.”

OM recently added advanced-level classes to prime-time spots on the schedule after students began requesting more of them.

Many students who are determined to keep progressing have enough knowledge to practice on their own. But they are also looking for skilled guidance and a community of like-minded practitioners. Others might work privately with a teacher, but the cost (from $75 to $150 an hour) can be prohibitive over time. Many take extra workshops, including teacher-training programs, to satisfy the craving for more knowledge and the chance to practice deeper poses.

NO BEGINNERS HERE  Aarona Pichinson performing a move at the Kula Yoga Project in TriBeCa during a two-hour advanced yoga class.  Credit: Christian Hansen for The New York Times

NO BEGINNERS HERE Aarona Pichinson performing a move at the Kula Yoga Project in TriBeCa during a two-hour advanced yoga class. Credit: Christian Hansen for The New York Times

Things weren’t always so arduous. Alan Brown of Manhattan began practicing yoga in the 1990s, when classes were smaller and there were fewer inexperienced teachers. Yoga enthusiasts were a small group striving to see what they could do next. “The classes were very advanced,” Mr. Brown said, and the people were devoted.

Though he has managed to find classes that he looks forward to, Mr. Brown, a film director and writer, believes that over time he has slid backward to a more intermediate-level practice. “We talk about it,” he said of his classmates from years past. “How great classes are so much harder to find now.”

Jamie Bishton, 47, who recently returned to his native Los Angeles after more than 20 years in New York, has felt a similar frustration. “I ended up going to general, open-level classes and always doing the same 14 poses,” Mr. Bishton said.

He enrolled in a teacher-training program without intending to teach. Once he graduated, he found that he knew more than many teachers leading open-level classes.

Mr. Bishton, who had a dance career in New York and is now an executive in his family’s auto business, cobbles together a practice from classes at several Los Angeles studios. But with commuting time a concern, he often ends up at Century City Equinox, the gym near his house. He has been lucky: the gym is fairly new and allowed him to design a yoga class advanced enough for his needs.

Ultimately, for those who want to learn difficult poses, breathing techniques, and subtle work with body energies, a senior teacher is an important guide. “If you’re going to do really challenging postures that ask a lot of your body, you need someone you trust to take you there,” said Kino MacGregor, who, at 30, is one of the youngest certified teachers in the demanding Ashtanga yoga tradition.

Ms. Buehler of Yoga High cautions that it its not just advanced students who will suffer from a lack of higher-level classes. “If people who were beginners five years ago continue to practice,” said Ms. Buehler, who teaches a weekly two-hour master class, “we will need to be able to offer them something more than just a midlevel challenge.”

Seeking a deeper yoga practice? Here are a range of advanced classes that are favorites among high-level students.

NEW YORK Kula Yoga Project, 28 Warren Street, Fourth Floor (212) 945-4460 http://www.kulayoga.com

Advanced flow yoga by Schuyler Grant, Fridays at 4:15 p.m.

Ms. Grant teaches several creative Vinyasa classes in TriBeCa. Emphasis is on strength, stamina and breath work.

CALIFORNIA Yoga Works, 2215 Main Street, Santa Monica (310) 664-6470

www.anniecarpenter.com. Level 2-3 class with Annie Carpenter, Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays at 10:45 a.m.

Known as a teacher’s teacher, Ms. Carpenter uses a style that blends asana with exploration of subtle muscular and skeletal movements, breath work (pranayama) within movements and meditation.

MASSACHUSETTS BKS Iyengar Yogamala of Cambridge,

St. Mary’s Church, 8 Inman Street, Cambridge, (781) 648-3455

www.yoganow.net

Level 5 with Patricia Walden, Wednesdays at 1:30, by permission.

Ms. Walden, a highly accredited Iyengar yoga instructor, teaches a Level 5 class, the highest in the Iyengar system. Emphasis is on alignment, poses, healing and discovering one’s true nature.

FLORIDA Miami Life Center,

736 Sixth Street, Miami Beach

(305) 534-8988

www.miamilifecenter.com

Mysore-style Ashtanga with Kino MacGregor, Monday to Friday at 10 a.m.

Meysore Ashtanga Yoga Kino MacGregor.jpg

Ms. MacGregor leads Mysore, or traditional-style practice, up to the fourth series. The highest level in Ashtanga is the sixth series. Many people don’t make it to the second series.

ILLINOIS Yoga View, 2211 North Elston Avenue, Suite 200, Chicago

(773) 342-9642

www.jimbennitt.com Level 3 with Jim Bennitt, Mondays at 12:30 p.m.

Mr. Bennitt, a former clerk at the Chicago Board Options Exchange, teaches at Yoga View and two other studios.

This class, the highest level he teaches, weaves breathing and meditation techniques into a demanding physical practice.


Music City Goes with the Flow: Nashville Yoga Gets Moving

AS PUBLISHED IN FIT YOGA

When circumstances kept Nashville-natives Tom and Daphne Larkin from moving to California in 2004, the last thing on their minds was opening their own yoga studio. But as experienced yoga teachers, they realized they had to listen to the obstacles.

Three of four planned trips to LA had fallen through when a friend suggested they see a space on Hillsboro Road-—just a few doors up from Nashville’s famous Bluebird music club. That changed their minds for good. “Daphne called me right away. It was just so perfect,” says Tom, 40.

Daphne, 42, agrees, “We liked the space and thought, this is what we’re supposed to do—be in the flow, in the current.”

The idea of bringing some Shiva Rea-inspired fluidity into Nashville’s yoga scene was understandably tempting. Iyengar yoga—which both Tom and Daphne had studied before discovering Shiva Rea, their long-time teacher—had dominated Music City for many, many years.

Wallace Joiner of the Yoga Society of Nashville (est. 1977), says, “Jan Campbell and June LaSalvia were the first yoginis to teach in Nashville, and that was over 40 years ago.” Even today, most of the dozen or so studios in Nashville teach the Iyengar tradition. Only one other studio in town teaches vinyasa. There was lots of room for expansion.

Sanctuary for Yoga Body and Spirit opened in October 2004 a few miles from downtown Nashville, in the affluent Green Hills neighborhood. With help from family, Tom and Daphne painted the walls vibrant colors, constructed a cute boutique, and imported ornately carved wooden screens (which help to block out the Walgreen’s red-neon sign that shines in from across the street).

They began with an ambitious roster of 20 classes, all of which they taught. “At first we were excited that even one or two people were coming. We aimed for 5.” In little more than two years, attendance has grown to a steady 200 and 250 students per week. Now students ask when they plan to expand.

“It’s been successful beyond our wildest expectations,” says Tom, a former Web designer who now runs Sanctuary full time.

“We taught what we were learning,” pixie-haired Daphne adds. “The community followed.”

In spite of the studio’s success, Daphne has kept her full-time job as director of online marketing for the Country Music Association and the couple still teach 19 of the studio’s 25 weekly classes. They encourage their 6 staff teachers to bring their own expertise to their vinyasa teaching whether it be in Anusara or therapeutics.

But the vision is theirs. “We want to allow for creativity and freedom of expression in all of yoga’s forms, but especially vinyasa,” says Daphne, a former dancer and actress. This “melting pot” approach was inspired by teachings they witnessed in LA where established teachers blended influences from all over, while holding true to their own style.

This approach seems to work for their clientele who are as much Nashville locals as film and music people in Nashville on business. “The music industry brings a lot of people here—musicians, executives, celebrities, film-types,” says Tom. “People drop in and feel at home. It’s more like the yoga they are used to in LA.”

Several A-list actors and musicians are regulars, but the vibe at Sanctuary remains friendly, relaxed, and intimate. The evening I practiced there, two newcomers to the studio were welcomed and made comfortable. Regulars were greeted by name, and several people stayed after class to chat with the Larkins.

Just back from a trip to the Bahamas with country star LeAnn Rimes, one of Tom’s private clients, Tom and Daphne are excited about the future. “We see traveling a lot more, giving workshops,” says Daphne. The couple will be giving their signature Yoga Groove workshops in Kentucky and Ohio this summer, and hope to expand to Memphis, Atlanta, and L.A. in the near future. “But right now we’re just so grateful to have a fantastic community here.”

Tom agrees, “The community is very warm. People enjoy each other’s company. Sometimes we have to quiet people down so that we can start the class.”


Between Poses, a Barrage of Pickup Lines

STRETCH AND FLIRT  Many women are familiar with the seedy character in the “Inappropriate Yoga Guy” video, above.

STRETCH AND FLIRT Many women are familiar with the seedy character in the “Inappropriate Yoga Guy” video, above.

The Phenomenon of Inappropriate Yoga Guy

THE words “Do you come here often?” are not sweet nothings when you are going into final relaxation during a yoga class. Nor do most yoga practitioners welcome someone who flirts shamelessly as mats are positioned during the lull before the teacher arrives.

Now, a popular online video starring a lech named Ogden has the yoga community chuckling in recognition and talking about the problem of men who come to studios in search of phone numbers rather than enlightenment.

The comedy sketch, aptly named “Inappropriate Yoga Guy,” has racked up nearly 1.8 million views since its debut on YouTube in June — no doubt the biggest hit to date for GoPotato.tv, an online comedy network in Los Angeles, which produced the video starring Avi Rothman.

Wearing a goofy headband, Ogden “Oms” far too loudly, brags about the retreats he has attended in Nepal and Mexico, and makes eyes at Kimberly, a buxom long-haired beauty, during class. He even grabs her hips to perform an adjustment (a correction usually done discreetly by a teacher).



Hilarious as it is, “Inappropriate Yoga Guy” raises a delicate issue that the video now has people discussing openly: that while the majority of yogis are respectful and friendly, a handful of interlopers use classes to hit on a succession of lithe, toned regulars. More than a dozen students and teachers and six studio owners interviewed for this article said they knew an Ogden-type character.

“There’s always a guy who wants to put his mat next to the hot girl,” said Hillary Raphael, 31, a writer based in Washington. Ms. Raphael, in her 20 years of practice, has found inappropriate yoga guys so prevalent in studios that she wove them into her novel, “Backpacker,” to be published next month by Creation Books.

Yoga regulars aren’t prudes; rather most of them abide by some unspoken rules (such as no talking or no looking around) that some newcomers unwittingly break in pursuit of comely dates.

Ms. Raphael described an experience she had during a vinyasa class she used to attend at Sal Anthony’s Movement Salon in Manhattan. “All you could hear was people’s steady breathing,” she said. “Yet this guy next to me was trying to strike up a conversation the whole time.

”The man, who was in his early 40s, used a loud stage whisper to ask about Ms. Raphael’s hobbies. “You could hear people’s breath sagging and stopping,” she said. “They couldn’t believe it.”

Other men are even bolder. Stephanie King, 40, a jewelry designer who practices yoga five times a week in Los Angeles, said she has had cringe-worthy encounters during her 20 years of practice. In one instance, a fellow regular Ms. King had met in passing approached her after a power yoga class and asked if she had enjoyed her practice. She had. Then, apropos of nothing, he asked if she wanted to be his lover.

Ms. King calmly told the man she would think about it. After a particularly intense practice, it can take a moment to regroup and get your social bearings. But once at her car, she called him and said, “I just want to let you know that I’m going to pass on being your lover.”

Her politeness masked annoyance. “I was put out because he just ruined my blissful feeling after class,” she said.Another time, an attractive man stretched his hand out during a floor twist until it rested on Ms. King’s breast; he removed his hand when asked.

“If you’re going to a yoga studio to pick up girls, or boys for that matter, you’re not doing yoga,” said Lama Sumati Marut, 54, president of the Yoga Studies Institute in Tucson.

Yoga, done seriously, is a discipline designed to achieve enlightenment in this lifetime, he said.

Needless to say, not everyone who drops into a yoga class is on a spiritual path. Consider the women at Yoga Works in Midtown Manhattan who can’t help flirting with Steve Eisenberg, much to his delight. “It’s a very social environment,” said Mr. Eisenberg, 38, a consultant who helps companies create digital media.

“They’ll say, ‘I’ve seen you around,’ and start chatting,” added Mr. Eisenberg, who is single and said he enjoys the attention.

The question is: What responsibility does a studio or a teacher have if one student is making another uncomfortable?

Some instructors like Kelly McGonigal, 29, who teaches at Stanford University and at the Avalon Art and Yoga Center in Palo Alto, Calif., take matters into their own hands.

“I had a popular class that some of the regulars stopped showing up to because a guy was relentlessly hitting on them,” said Dr. McGonigal, who has a Ph.D. in psychology and edits the International Journal of Yoga Therapy. She confronted the overeager student in question, and he backed off, saying it was all a misunderstanding.

“He didn’t realize that he was perceived as hitting on people when he invited them out to dinner or to parties,” she said.

Teachers, who are most likely to notice misbehavior, are the ones who should aim to make their classes safe havens free of distractions, said Judith Hanson Lasater, president of the California Yoga Teachers Association.

But in Dr. McGonigal’s case, that was not possible. “It was happening outside of the classroom,” she said.

It was only after a chance encounter on the street with two of her students that Dr. McGonigal found out “they had stopped coming because they didn’t want to see that guy.”

Having an outlet for complaints would help, said Dr. Lasater, who has a Ph.D. in East-West psychology.

Most studio staff agree that teachers dating their students is a difficult situation at best, and exploitative at worst. But there is little consensus about student come-ons. After all, is asking for a phone number in a yoga studio any different than swapping digits across treadmills?

Some say yes. Trolling for dates at yoga studios strikes a lot of regulars as tacky and reprehensible — even to some bachelors.

“Why would I stare down a girl in yoga class?” said Christopher Porzio, 36, a photographer in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, who practices at least four times a week. “People are coming to help themselves, to get more comfortable. Why rob them of their comfort?”

For others, it is a gray area. Fred Busch, 32, the owner of Miami Yogashala, knows that some male and female members actively scope out dates at his center. He is uncomfortable with it but, he said, “there’s no law against talking to someone.”

To confuse matters, some centers foster dating. For instance, the Joy Yoga Center in Houston offers singles classes once a week, an hourlong vinyasa practice followed by snacks and socializing. Surprisingly, or perhaps unsurprisingly, two-thirds of the participants are men.

The Flow Yoga Center in Washington already has a class on Thursday night nicknamed “social flow,” after which students go for cocktails, and has plans for speed dating in its tea lounge.

But the downside is that one student glomming on to another can dampen a studio’s atmosphere. That is what happened at the Dallas Yoga Center in Texas, when a 40-something man’s overtures disturbed some female students. As soon as studio staff noticed the man’s unsettling behavior, the director, David Sunshine, took the man aside for a heart-to-heart. “We don’t mingle the dating scene with yoga,” Mr. Sunshine said. “We focus on quality yoga teaching.”

Plenty of singles don’t mind having another yogi propose dinner. Elana Wertkin, 31 of Park Slope, Brooklyn, went a few dates with a cute guy she met in a neighborhood class.

“We walked out at the same time and he said ‘Let’s go for a smoothie,’ ” said Ms. Wertkin, a documentary film producer.

But her interest in him was soon cut short. On their third date, he confessed that part of the reason he loved yoga class was watching women lie on their backs, legs spread.

“I had to stop going to that studio for a long time after that,” Ms. Wertkin said.


Yoga Mat Mania

AS PUBLISHED IN FIT YOGA

Yoga mats used to come in two colors—purple or blue. But today, color choices abound…as do a wide range of textures (for traction), thicknesses (for more cushion), and materials (for sweaty or not-so-sweaty practices).

As an extra plus, mats are now more health- and eco-friendly and less likely to be made with toxic materials such as latex, chloride, and PVC (polyvinylchloride).

With all these options, which is right for you? Check out our handy chart for the newest and brightest, as well as some traditional favorites. Read the full article (PDF FORMAT).


Fancy Pants: LuluLemon Arrives in NYC

AS PUBLISHED IN TIMEOUT NEW YORK

At last, the wildly popular Canadian yoga-clothing company, Lululemon Athletica, brings its innovative and high-quality gear to New York.

Already in L.A. and Chicago, the company’s designers use fabrics such as Silverescent (which draws on the anti-bacterial qualities of silver) and Luon (which wicks away moisture), to create sexy clothes for yogis and non-yogis alike. Lululemon also has a soul: In 2005 its stores gave $300,000 back to local communities through their Charitable Giving Program. Look good, do good: sounds good.

1928 Broadway at 64th St (212-496-1546, lululemon.com)


AS PUBLISHED IN TIMEOUT NEW YORK

Goal Mate: Yoga for Running, Golfing, Dating, Public Speaking

Photo: Alexander Milligan

Photo: Alexander Milligan

Whether to improve your game or give you game, these inventive classes use yoga to enhance other pursuits.


For Going the Distance (running, golfing, cycling)

Pros on the Nets, the Mets and the Giants have all done yoga. Now savvy amateur athletes can benefit from asana guidance, too. This winter, Yoga Works (212-769-9642, yogaworks.com) offers a variety of two-hour yoga workshops that help runners, cyclists, skiers, golfers, dancers and marathoners train smart and stay focused.

Eschewing the smorgasbord approach, the Running Center (therunningcenter.com, 212-362-3779) holds ongoing yoga classes specifically for runners’ needs—knee and leg health, breath control, and mental endurance.

Yogi J.Brown (917-446-8871, yogijbrown.com) works with golfers on precision and flexibility to improve their swings and their scores.

And come January, Marissa Spano (917-734-7301), a recent transplant from Hawaii, will offer group classes for cyclists, using the techniques of pranayama (breath work) and asana to strengthen knees, ankles, wrists and shoulders and to develop balance on the bike. Ask her about her work with divers and surfers, too.


For Getting Some (dating, sexuality, fertility)

“First comes love, then comes marriage…” and now comes yoga for all stages of coupling. Start with Y-Date?!, an annual event at Noodle Yoga, in Dumbo, Brooklyn (718-624-5525, noodleyoga.com), where owner Nadia Block holds an open-level class followed by a singles soiree (the next Y-Date?! is scheduled for Spring ’07).

Once you’ve met the One, prepare yourself for consummation at a Yogic Ecstasy workshop with Marisa Sullivan (347-563-1404, yogicecstasy@yahoo.com) in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Sullivan helps women (and soon men) to expand their orgasmic potential through kegels, breathing exercises, vocalization and guided imagery.

And keep those nethers supple and toned at the ongoing Let’s Stay Juicy class at the Breathing Project (212-979-9642, breathingproject.org). If your next stop is babyland, boost your fertility in a Receptive Nest workshop led by Barrie Raffel and Karen Safire (212-898-0414), which focuses on restorative poses and calming the nervous system.


For the Call-back, the Calling and Speaking Up (writing, singing, public speaking)

Liz Caplan of Yoga for Singers (212-645-9369, lizcaplan.com) works with Broadway performers, while Suzanne Jackson of Yogasing (610-444-4135, yogasing.com) works with opera singers and public speakers—both offer yoga workshops, coaching and DVDs to help open up the muscles used to breathe, and to help calm performance jitters.

To get the creative juices flowing, award-winning TV commercial producer Barbara Benedict offers Yoga for Writers, Artists and Other Creative Souls at Levitate Yoga (212-974-2288, levitateyoga.com), a vinyasa class that incorporates artistic assignments (bring a sketchbook or journal).

Yoga for Public Speaking is also a part of Yoga Effects’ comprehensive 8-Part Beginner’s Series (212-754-5600, yogaeffects.com). Director Liz Mandarano says yoga helped her become a better speaker and lawyer—and motivated her to quit the corporate life. Who says creative leaps are limited to artists?


Cosmic Con: The Path of Yoga Conference

AS PUBLISHED IN TIMEOUT NEW YORK

Calibrate yourself with the universe at the Path of Yoga conference.

In India, millions gather at kumbha melas, or spiritual festivals, to cleanse body and spirit in sacred rivers like the Ganges. The Omega Institute, the upstate center for holistic studies, will host its own form of kumbha mela in Manhattan September 15–18 with the seventh annual Path of Yoga conference. This year’s pose-a-thon, which alternates each year between New York and Miami, welcomes 28 established instructors—some of them full-blown yogic celebrities—who’ll lead more than 85 workshops. We checked in with a few standouts, each of whom has several sessions; here’s what to expect. 

Sheraton New York, 811 Seventh Ave at 53rd St (800-944-1001, eomega.org). $445, individual workshop price TBD. Pre- and postconference intensives $125, non–conference attendees $175.

Author of Yoga for Depression Amy Weintraub.jpg

Amy Weintraub

“We’ll be using techniques to create self-acceptance and compassion. Every time you roll out your mat you’re creating sacred space—accepting where you are first, then moving towards where you want to be.”

Author of Yoga for Depression, Amy Weintraub has learned to use the yogic techniques, including pranayama, or breath control, to balance moods and emotions.


Master Ashtanga Yoga teacher David Swenson.jpg

David Swenson 

“The most important thing is to practice in a way that you enjoy so that you’ll want to do it again the next day. It’s just a matter of practice. That’s all [my guru] Pattabi Jois has ever said.”

Master teacher David Swenson has practiced ashtanga since 1969. His workshops will expand students’ understanding of vinyasa and hands-on adjustments in this physically demanding practice.


Shiva Rea Yoga Teacher TimeOut NY Interview.jpg

Shiva Rea 

“My classes are about awakening the sahaja or spontaneous flow of yoga. The way Americans interpret yoga can be quite rigid; I help people connect to the inherent freedom of their fluid body.”

California yogini Shiva Rea wants her students to experience yoga not just as physical practice but also as an embodiment of the life force flowing within us.



John Friend Anusara Yoga Teacher Interview TimeOut NY.jpg

John Friend 

“Yoga promises the experience of the very essence of life. It inspires you to be a full citizen and to add to the artistry and goodness of the world.”

John Friend’s internationally popular style, anusara, emphasizes alignment, joy, and community in practice. Friend is a busy bee at this conference: He’s giving six workshops, including Rock with Shakti, and Align with the Divine, in addition to the keynote address.


Ken Wilber: Man of the Our

AS PUBLISHED IN TIMEOUT NEW YORK

Ken Wilber thinks we could all benefit from adopting each other's philosophies.

KEN WILBER TIMEOUT NY.jpg

Ken Wilber, founder of the Integral Institute, has written more than two dozen books. In his latest, the forthcoming Integral Spirituality: A Startling New Role for Religion in the Modern and Postmodern World (Integral Books, $23), the scholar draws on science, psychology, philosophy and world religions to argue that an integral understanding of them all will benefit our lives more than a my-way-or-the-highway attitude. On Friday 8 and Saturday 9, he brings his complex theories to the masses, joining Tibetan Buddhist monk Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche at the New York Society for Ethical Culture for a program titled “Spirituality and the Modern World.”

Photograph: Roxana Marroquin

Photograph: Roxana Marroquin

What is the “integral approach”?
It’s a map of human capacities and tools developed by comparing theories spanning the last 2,000 years—psychoanalysis, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, science, philosophy, etc. Common themes tend to emerge.

You say that modernist and postmodernist theories have trashed ancient thought, such as the world’s major religions. How?
The great metaphysical traditions contain extremely important truths about body, mind, soul and spirit, but express them in ways that made science—in this case, science is modernism—very suspicious. Science came in and said, “I need objective evidence.” And in part that was right: Those traditions couldn’t understand, for example, what’s going on with the brain’s chemistry during meditation. So half of what science did is really important. But the other half was a disaster; it reduced everything.

So science and religion became locked into a domestic dispute?
Yes [laughs]—of colossal proportions!

And it’s important to reconcile these ideas because otherwise we only profit from one body of knowledge instead of both?
Exactly. The integral approach finds common ground. Why should these things be fighting? It makes no sense whatsoever.

But now you’re coming to talk along with someone who is a master in one particular spirituality. Isn’t that counter to the integral approach?
You can use any tradition you want, including, in this case, Tibetan Buddhism, as a basis for the integral approach. People get excited because we don’t tell them what to think. They fill in the blanks themselves.

What do you hope will ultimately come of your theories of spirituality?
I hope we could all have a bigger view of things. There’s a lot of war in the world today—and virtually every answer to it is “Get rid of the other views.” It’s crazy—not once did somebody say, “Hey, wait a minute: Everybody’s right.”


Wellness: The Twisting and Turning Trends of the Season

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Fall Preview 2006

The world of yoga will stretch in several new ways this season.

Yoga day spas: Area Yoga and Namaste Yoga were among the first to offer extras such as bodywork, nutrition counseling and even psychotherapy. Before you know it, you could be using your class card for a facial.

The slipping of savasana: When centers cram the content of a 90-minute session into 60 minutes of “express” yoga, savasana—the meditative relaxation that concludes each practice—is sometimes shortchanged, and is in danger of disappearing altogether.

Downward-facing daddy: First there was mommy yoga, then kids’ yoga, even dog yoga. A few family-unit classes have already popped up and we expect many more.

Small time: Big studios stay big by offering scads of basic classes to attract beginners. Veteran practitioners will flee to smaller studios (such as Kula Yoga Project, the Shala and Yoga Center of Brooklyn) in search of reliable, advanced classes taught by homegrown studio owners.

Alternative deities: Classes such as Jill Satterfield’s are fusing Buddhist principles with yoga practice. The 92nd Street Y and the JCC hope to launch Jewish yoga classes within the next year. It can’t be long before Christian yoga, popular in the Midwest, makes its way here.

Yogi passports: Based on the popularity of retreats in Costa Rica and Mexico, NYC studios are sponsoring studies farther afield; trips are planned to Brazil, Japan and Patagonia this year and next.

“Power” power yoga: Since sports-tailored classes—yoga for golfing, surfing and biking—will soon flourish, it can’t be long before career-performance classes sprout up. How about yoga for public speaking?


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The Zone: Union Square, Yoga HQ

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On Mon 1, Jivamukti Yoga School, a giant among centers, opens its highly anticipated, eco-friendly new studio. The 12,000-square-foot space features floors made of recycled tires and a vegan café designed by natural-food chef Matthew Kenney. It also consolidates Union Square as a mecca for practitioners: East West Yoga opened in January; nearby Be Yoga relaunches this month as Yoga Works; heavy-hitters OM Yoga and Bikram Yoga Union Square have been booming since 2003; and at least five other studios exist in the area. Things have certainly changed since Kundalini Yoga East struggled to find an area landlord willing to rent it space in 1994. Some yogis anticipate competition, but not Sky Meltzer of Yoga Works: “More places means more yoga for everyone.” Let the sweat begin.

Jivamukti Yoga School, 841 Broadway at 13th St, second floor (212-353-0214).


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