Field Notes: Developing Educational Standards for Yoga Therapists


What is a yoga therapist versus a yoga teacher? Is yoga therapy clinical or relational or both? Should training standards start low (200 hours) to be more accessible, or start high (1,000 hours) so that they are rigorous and safe?

These are some of the hard questions that the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT) has been debating since the fall of 2009 in an effort to establish minimum standards for yoga therapists-in-training.

Yoga therapists work with clients whose issues can range from low back pain to cancer to schizophrenia. Along with client safety, which is paramount, the other issue here is credibility. In the last five years, the IAYT has been striving to achieve a level of professionalism for the field, establishing a peer-reviewed journal, annual conferences, and academic-level research. Standards are one of the final steps in this process.

The call for input will close in July 2011 after which the educational standards will be formally drafted. But even then the process won’t be over Member schools will get to comment on the draft, and the committee will make any necessary revisions.

Standards are intended to protect the public and promote yoga therapy as a professional field, but not everyone is happy. Some yoga therapists worry that conforming to rules will lead to bureaucracy, rigidity, and homogeneity.

John Kepnes, executive director of IAYT, acknowledges this issue, saying that it’s everyone’s worst fear. “We want to keep the yoga in yoga therapy. I will walk away from anything that does not do that.”


Yoga Anatomy Online Course


Yoga Anatomy Online Course by Leslie Kaminoff,

With 25 years’ experience teaching anatomy, Leslie Kaminoff launched his popular Yoga Anatomy course in an online format this fall. The nine-month intensive covers three major areas—breathing, the spine, and the articular body—and inlcudes instructional videos, weekly online chats, and homework. Even better, it counts as 144 non-contact credit hours with Yoga Alliance.


The Guru in You: A Personalized Program for Rejuvenating Your Body and Soul: Book Review


Former male supermodel Cameron Alborzian has written a compulsively readable book on yoga and ayurveda, littered with stories from his modeling career, personal life, and therapeutic work with clients. The Guru in Yoga aims to get people on the path of health and healing by helping them set clear intentions, work with breath and asanas, and apply ayurvedic techniques. For those who can’t afford Alborzian’s handsome services, this book is a helpful alternative.



Reaching Seekers: An Interview with Max Strom


Born a 12-pound baby with club feet, Max Strom spent the many years of his early life in casts and braces—or in surgery—before he learned to walk. In 2002, he established the center for Sacred Movement in Venice, California, now home to such teachers as Shiva Rea, Saul David Ray, and Eric Schiffman. Twelve years in the making, his book, A Life Worth Breathing: A Yoga Master’s Handbook of Strength, Grace and Healing(Skyhorse Publishing, $24.95) collects his insights on yoga practice and life, incorporating stories and exercises for yoga students and teachers.

Based in Ashland, Oregon, Max is New York for a book signing tonight at Pure East and workshops this weekend at Pure and Yoga High. Luckily he had time to talk to YogaCityNYC about his new book and what he’s been up to recently.

Joelle Hann: You’ve been teaching for 20 years. What motivated you to put a book together at this point?

Max Strom: During teacher trainings I would feel compelled to say things that seemed to come from a source inside me that I wasn’t that familiar with. I would think, that was a really nice quote, who said that? Then I realized I’d said it. I jotted these things down until I thought of making them into a book for yoga teachers

But the book shifted focus over time. In 2002, I opened a yoga school in Venice, CA, and sold it to Exhale in 2005. I didn’t work on the book in that time—I was much too busy.

Now I travel a lot—220 days last year. That helped the book. It grew my focus from local, LA-oriented, to national and then to international, including Beijing, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur. That helped feed the book, giving it more of a general appeal.

JH: Who is this book for?

MS: First, I wanted to reach yoga teachers. Then I wanted to reach yoga students, but also more than yoga students. From owning a studio and traveling, I realized I wanted to reach people who are starting to ask the questions: who are we? where are we? where are we going? The book is geared towards that person who is already a bit of a seeker.

JH: Your book is called a “handbook” from a yoga master. Some sections contain exercises, quotations, and other reflections based on yoga or Buddhist ideas. How do you imagine people using it?

MS: It’s not a book to read once and set aside. Ideally people will read it and consider the exercises. Sometimes they are very simple.

For example, when you walk through a busy area like a busy mall or the streets of New York, notice what your habits are: are you only looking at people you are physically attracted to, wondering about them as a potential boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife?

Do you notice the older people, the children, the homeless people? What if you looked for a saint or master instead? How would that change how you assess people?

It’s a way of looking at your present life with your present attention, broadening your perspective and breaking unconscious habits. And it’s an exercise that changes not only how you look at people but also how people look at you.

JH: So instead of looking at the world as a consumer, you’re looking at it as a responder?

MS: You’re aligning your intentions with your actions. You may really want to transform, but if you go about your day acting from your unconscious habits, then not a lot of transformation is going to happen. But if you look anew then you can transform.

JH: Have you had personal experience with that exercise?

MS: In India, I met a homeless woman who had withered legs from polio. She had a profound effect on me and we didn’t even speak, because we didn’t know each other’s language. Her presence was powerful.

JH: Have you had similar experiences in the United States?

MS: I might not necessarily see a sage, but I might see people who have an open heart or are kind or who are walking through the world trying to see everyone, seeing souls rather than bodies. You start spotting them and they spot you. It’s not a special skill; anyone can do this. It changes your energy field.

JH: How did you come up with the idea of looking at people anew?

MS: I realized that often when I would walk I would have a story going through my head. I wasn’t really present. When I learned more about being mindful I tried to walk slower, with a different awareness. I started to notice people differently. I thought, why not actively look, actively seek out people with more developed souls and open hearts?

JH: You had quite a journey from being club-footed and growing up in pain, to becoming an international yoga teacher. What about that experience informs your book?

MS: When I first started practicing hatha yoga it immediately became clear it was affecting me in a healing way. Besides becoming more flexible and more fit, it was opening up my feet from years of tension from the club feet. It helped my lower back and my neck pain. When you can get someone out of pain quickly you know you’re on to something big.

Then, an Australian Ashtanga teacher taught me how to breathe. Once I started focusing on different breathing practices it became a centerpiece of my practice. It started to affect me emotionally—it had a powerful accumulative affect.

I have no problem with the physical benefits of yoga but it’s kind of missing the best part. It’s hard to describe. It’s like, you can make love with someone just for the exercise but you’re kind of missing the point.

JH: So your book is saying that yoga can transform you.

MS: Over time, especially running a studio, I would see people make new choices. They get out of bad jobs or relationships or into good ones. They realize what they need to do. All kinds of changes beside the physical ones happen.

Physical yoga will change you to an extent. It will have its way with you. But then after that it takes discipline. You have to learn your strengths and weaknesses, and take initiative to make yourself do things you don’t necessarily want to do.

JH: You’re helping people with their tapas.

MS: Exactly.


Radanath Swami: American in Mumbai: Book Review


In front of tens of thousands of people, the guru motioned. “Tell that young man to come.” But the young man sitting shyly at the very back of the enormous tent didn’t understand. After waving and gesturing to no effect, an assistant went to get him, parting the awed crowd. So Radanath Swami, formerly Richard Slavin of Chicago, met the man who ultimately became his teacher, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Or, some might say, this was how Srila Prabhupada chose him.

On a bitterly cold December night, Slavin, now 59, read from his recently published memoir, The Journey Home: Autobiography of an American Swami (Mandala, $24.95) at Eddie Stern’s Ashtanga Yoga Shala on Broome Street. A slight, unassuming man, he sat quietly in the audience next to one of his students, wrapped in the light orange robe of a monk (unbeknownst to me; I sat down right beside him, in one of the only open spaces in the room). As Slavin approached the stage, no flowers were thrown or gifts given, Rather, his New York-based students revered him quietly from their cross-legged seats, as Eddie gave him a warm introduction.

Radanath Swami explained how he got to India at age 19 from an impulsive summer jaunt to Europe with a childhood friend. While abroad, their god of the counter culture, Jimi Hendrix, overdosed and died, just after the two youths had seen him perform in England. Fame, money, and talent hadn’t saved him. Wasn’t there a better way? Driven by his hunger for knowledge and relief from suffering, Radanath traveled from England to Crete where, meditating in a cave, a voice told him to go to India. Parting from his friend, he traveled overland for six months and entered the country penniless.

Reaching the banks of the Ganges, Slavin tossed in his American jeans and turtleneck, and adopted the life of a sadhu, a spiritual seeker. For more than a year, he traveled to the heights of the Himalayas, to the lush forests of Vrindavan, to the city of Bombay and many places in between. Like many young Americans in the late 60s and early 70s, he was on a quest to make sense of life’s larger import, that until recently had included the Vietnam war and the ordinary middle-class life that awaited him back in Chicago. By the time he met his guru in 1971, he had already studied with many spiritual dignitaries such as S.N. Goenkaji, founder of Vipassana, Maharaji Mahesh Yogi, with whom the Beatles briefly studied, and Swami Muktanada, founder of Siddha Yoga. He had been invited to take diskha, initiation vows, with high babas and gurus unknown in the west.

It might seem ironic that Slavin had traveled to India, searching in poverty, physical danger, illness, and sometimes extreme discomfort to find the man who, in 1966 and 1967, had already established an International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)—otherwise known as the Hare Krishna Movement—in New York and San Francisco. Ironic, too, that once he found his teacher, he returned to the US and only once he was living in an American ashram did he at last cut his hair and take initiation vows in 1973.

But at the reading, Radanath made clear that his search overseas was an important part of his quest: it transformed him. It also tested him. His long silences worried his family back home, a burden he keenly felt. He wrote them ardent letters that instead of comforting them only served to heighten their concern. “I thought they would be so proud when I wrote that the forest animals spoke to me and the butterflies were chanting OM. But my father went straight to the consulate to demand that they find me.” Alas, the consulate could not help: no man living in the caves of the Himalayas could be tracked down.

After teaching in the US for many years, and taking vows as a swami, in 1983 he returned to India where he lives today. His ashram in Mumbai (formerly Bombay) feeds almost 200,000 school children daily, runs a busy urban hospital, and offers spiritual instruction for all who seek it. Everything is done in the spirit of service and devotion, or bhakti, the true spirit of vaishnavism, his lineage.

Radanath’s slim quiet form, his story of determination and love, bears little resemblance to the rowdy Hare Krishnas we typically encounter today, who chant and dance en masse in public parks or harass people with copies of the Bhagavad Gita on subway platforms.

His mother, who had to look up the word “vegetarian” in the dictionary before preparing her son’s long-awaited homecoming meal in 1972, came to accept and take pride in Slavin’s vocation as a Krishna priest. On her death in 2003, Radanath took her ashes to India, spreading them on the Ganges as 2,000 devotees chanted kirtan on the banks of that sacred river.

Radanath’s memoir not only describes the journey of one spiritual seeker but also a world of spiritual leaders and their mesmerizing feats. “The supernatural powers of extraordinary yogis had begun to seem ordinary,” he said. Readers are reminded that even though these leaders have siddhis—unusual abilities that defy time and space—they don’t always use them to good ends, something we would do well to remember in the West. The memoir also serves to remind us that a spiritual quest requires hard work, a desire to learn, and a true heart: it’s not mere fashion and certainly not for the meek.

The evening ended with hot tea, havala, a traditional sweet made of shaved carrot, sugar, and raisins, and a book signing. I left after 11pm, before Swami had patiently signed all the books and the kirtan band had begun to sing its praises to Krishna.


The Big Book: Yoga Studies Institute teaches the Bhagavad Gita


The main lobby of Pure Yoga is covered in backpacks and notebooks. Groups of people, some from as far away as Arizona, England, and India, sit together eating snacks and talking. It looks like a college common room around exam time. But these studious people, ranging from early 20s to late 40s, are not gathered to take a test. They are here to receive the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, an ancient Hindu text, as taught by Tibetan Buddhist monk Geshe Michael Roach and his co-teacher Lama Christie McNally.

For eight evenings in November, Roach and McNally explicated the Gita—which is 9th scripture course in their Yoga Studies Institute (YSI) series—discussing the text’s insights into karma and ethical living. The conversation between Arjuna, the warrior prince, and Krishna, the Hindu god (disguised as Arjuna’s trusted friend and charioteer) is a model of student-guru relationship, and a fitting tableau to explain some of yoga’s subtle concepts.

The excitement in the room was palpable. Roach and McNally only come to New York about twice a year and many students—including long-time ones—had not heard this particular teaching. As well, the duo will be traveling extensively in 2010, before they undertake another 3-year silent retreat later in the year. Both will make them inaccessible to their New York-based students.

Roach and McNally taught from a stage covered in roses and lilies. Each night, when they entered the room, students bowed, offering abundant flowers, fruit, chocolate, CDs of music, and even boxes of breakfast cereal. These entrances took quite a while as the teachers gathered the goods and chatted with students.

Then, Lama Christie, dressed in her signature white cotton, opened the formal teaching with a heart-centered meditation and visualization.

Rather than go chapter by chapter through the Gita, the two used particular stanzas to discuss key ideas of karma, the laws of action, and perception.

Present action, they said, does not lead to present results. That’s just our wish to control of our lives. Rather, present situations spring from “seeds” planted long ago. So, if you want something in your future life, give it away now. If you want a lot of money, give a lot of money away (Roach has written books on this). If you want a good boyfriend, help someone else meet their romantic partner. If you love churros (a fried Spanish donut, often sold on subway platforms), give all your churros away. Roach used the example of receiving a pizza box full of churros after sharing a bag with some students.

“In our life, we are trained to think we can’t get our goal or that we should have reasonable goals,” says Roach. “If you understand how to do an action, you don’t have to settle for anything less anymore.” We can—and should—dream big, but to get everything we want we need to stop thinking of ourselves. In helping others first, our own dreams will be fulfilled.

Also, they lectured, things in the material and emotional world are projections from within us. As subjective constructions, they don’t actually exist. It’s because form and reality are not fixed that enlightenment—a major shift in perspective—is possible.

Some attendees, like Edward Lafferty, assistant to a senior YSI teacher, felt that they were receiving spiritual nourishment just by being at the event. “It’s very clear that things are happening at a deeper level,” he said. “There’s some sort of transmission going on beyond the words.”

Others were curious. Piotr Bracichowicz, a lecturer in computer engineering at CUNY, had come along with his wife, a yoga teacher. “These are simple things they’re talking about,” he said, “but they are life changing. We cannot make an action expecting a certain result. But we are responsible for making good actions anyway. It’s a great practice.”

But for others, the event raised questions. Phebe Palin, psychotherapist and lecturer at Brooklyn College, found the ceremony around the teaching distracting.“I was surprised that it took them 45 minutes to get into the room every night,” says Palin who is currently training enrolled in the Conquering Lion yoga teacher training program. “I would have liked to have heard them teach more.”

The program, slated to end at 11pm each night, often ran past midnight.

As for why now is the time to teach the Bhagavad Gita, Lobsang Chukyi, Buddhist nun and assistant to Roach and McNally commented, “The story centers on someone who is confused in midst of battlefield—confused about what to do. The world is confused right now. People don’t know what to do in their lives. They want the knowledge.”

As attendees searched for their shoes and socks at the end of the night, many lovingly watched their teachers as they left the studio. The feeling of excitement hadn’t dimmed. It was a bit tired, but still burning bright.


Continuing Education: Yoga Philosophy


Look down any yoga class schedule and usually you won’t find many offerings for yoga philosophy. Mostly reserved for teacher training programs—and then crammed into a weekend or two—philosophy is usually dwarfed by the popularity of asana, which is just one of yoga’s eight “limbs.” I went on a search to find who is offering philosophy classes in New York this year and was pleasantly surprised. It’s not just reserved for the hard-core student practicing svadyiya—self study—anymore. Yes, it can seem mysterious, but yoga’s deeper ideas offer inspiration for teaching and practicing, and – perhaps most importantly – for life.

More and more students are finding that foundational texts such as the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Samkhya Karika are best studied with an experienced teacher who can explain the nuances of Eastern ideas and the trickiness of the translations. Self-study, of course, is a good habit to develop, but it also means persevering without help of a guide or the the morale of a discussion group. Since it’s worthwile to find a sangha to study with, we’ve put together a list of great classes. Considering how ambitious and cerebral New Yorkers generally are, it’s not surprising that this gap in our continued yoga education is starting to close.

Ongoing Groups and Classes
The Iyengar Yoga Institute of New York, Manhattan
212 691 YOGA
The Iyengar Institute offers a free weekly sutra study group taught by their faculty on Fridays from 1:30-2:45pm. This might just be the best deal in town.

Also, February 26 – 28, 2010, Edwin Bryant, professor of Ph.D. in Indic languages and cultures at Rutgers University, will offer a weekend workshop on first chapter of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Full weekend or drop in (prices vary).

Jaya Yoga Center, Brooklyn
718 788 8788
The Jaya Book Club / Study Group will begin Saturday January 16 at 5:45 pm with an in-depth look at the Bhagavad Gita. From the web site, “Our guide will be Eknath Easwaran’s three volume set The Bhagavad Gita for Daily Living: The End of Sorrow Vol. 1. Chapters 1–3.”

Jivamukti Yoga School, Manhattan
212 353 0214
Beginning Tuesday January 26th 8 – 9:30 pm and running through June 8th, Joshua M. Greene, Professor of Religion at Hofstra University, will offer readings, analysis, and verse recitations of the Bhagavad Gita. $18 drop-in, $290 for series

The Shala, Manhattan
212 979 9988
The Shala near Union Square offers a weekly Bhagavad Gita study group at 6:15pm on Thursdays led by Kaustubha Das, ashtanga yoga teacher and director of the Bhakti Collective. Free.

Sivanada Yoga Vedanta Center, Manhattan
212 255 4560
The Sivananda Center on W24th Street, one of New York’s oldest yoga centers, offers ongoing workshops in Vedanta philosophy and its practical application, as well as the laws of karma, and the Bhagavad Gita.

Vira Yoga, Manhattan
212 334 9960
“Kali in the Twelve Processions of Light and Darkness: A Tantric Practice of Body, Heart, and Voice.” Dr. Douglas Brooks of Rajanaka Yoga will discuss aspects of Kali as a powerful force in Tantric teaching. With chanting. Saturday and Sunday, February 13-14th, 2010.

Yoga Sutra, Manhattan
212 490 1443
Yoga Sutra offers regular ongoing classes in yoga studies so check their calendar. Last fall they offered “Chanting the Yoga Sutras” with Kimberly Flynn, a student of Sanskrit recitation with Dr. M.A. Jayashree in Mysore, India, since 1998.

Wandering Sages
Manorma, founder the School of Sanskrit Studies, holds courses on Sanskrit, chanting, and yoga philosophy at various locations around the country, but often in New York City.
At Vira Yoga January 26, 2- 3:30, February 23, March 23, May 25; at Jivamukti every 3rd Wednesday of the month beginning January 20th. Check her schedule for updates at

Yoga Studies Institute, teaches yoga texts and traditions also at various locations around the country and often in New York City. The Classics of Yoga are interpreted by Geshe Michael Roach, Christie McNally, and YSI staff.

For classes in Sanskrit, try Columbia University or NYU’s continuing education programs.

If you really want a solid grounding in all the yoga texts, and are willing to travel, Loyola Marymount University in LA offers a comprehensive certificate program in Yoga Philosophy through their extension program. But you have to go to the left coast.


All Together Now: A Practice Space Opens to New Ideas


Like many good things, the “open practice” time at Sangha Yoga Shala hatched out of a conversation between friends. Alana Kessler, owner and director of the 6-month old studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and fellow-instructor Elise Espat both practiced Mysore-style ashtanga but at different studios. They thought it would be fun to practice together.

But when talk turned to action in early October, they decided—with the input from the rest of the studio’s staff—to do something quite untraditional. They decided not to limit the “open practice” to ashtangis, as is customary in Mysore style. Instead they made it inclusive of the other styles offered at Sangha Yoga Shala, including Iyengar.

The idea was that students would help each other, no matter what tradition they came from—a groundbreaking notion given how passionate Iyengar and ashtanga practioners are about their individual styles.

Kessler says the bottom line is cultivating the teacher within.

“In Mysore ashtanga the teacher doesn’t speak. It’s self practice. Everything is adjustments and is experiential. We believe that the body does what it’s ready to do. The foundation of Iyengar is to meet with teacher once a week and the rest is experiential. In both traditions, you’re trying to take the ego out of practice, and let the real teacher manifest in the space.”

Questions arise, however, about the practicalities of this arrangement. How might someone trained in movement and breath-based ashtanga tradition know how to adjust someone from the extremely precise, alignment-based Iyengar practice—and vice versa?

Kessler says it’s a conversation. Practitioners are primarily teachers, and they’re interested in the exchange. Although their knowledge is coming from different modalities, it refers back to the same source, the Krishnamacharya lineage.

“Recently, somebody was having a problem with a trocanter thing on her right hip. She asked Cory, the Iyengar teacher, why. I knew it was a sacrum imbalance because I’d been through that pose and been injured there. Cory gave the exact same answer that I did –we just came to it from a different place.”

Just a few weeks into this new offering, attendance is still growing. The two morning sessions (T/Th 9:30-11:30) and one afternoon (Friday 3:30-5:30) are not times everyone can make. As well, the studio is also still building its Iyengar program, with one certified teacher and another currently seeking certification.

The morning I visited, four Mysore-style ashtangis and two vinyasa practitioners were well into their morning practice. The steady, rhythmic sound of the breath filled the room, interrupted only by the occasional click of the heaters. When it was time for one woman to attempt the deep twist of marichyasana D, another woman got up from yoganidrasana, a supine pose in which the feet cross behind the neck, to adjust her.

It was peaceful in the room, a harmonious balance of effort, grace, and community, unruffled by one student stopping to help another. Providing space to practice and be influenced by each other might help to break down barriers between traditions, but on the most immediate level, it helps foster community.

And as Sangha Yoga Shala—which means “community yoga house”—says in its mission statement, “Only in community can we transcend and truly make a positive impact on the world.”


Cabbage Love (and 3 Recipes)


Cabbage is a vegetable for hard times.

Think of bubble and squeak, the quick Welsh dish of fried cabbage and potato; Cabbage Patch Kids with their patched up clothes; or famous famines and their winters of boiled cabbages.

But there’s no need to be ashamed: ancient Greeks and Romans ate cabbage. Why shouldn’t we?

Cabbage is a glamorously international vegetable, grown prodigiously in China, India, Russia, and Indonesia (as well as Poland and the Ukraine, as you would expect).

For frugal types — or those new to frugal living — cabbage is a gold mine: good for you and cheap. Red cabbage is 69 cents a pound (99 for organic) versus radicchio (its cousin in looks) at $3.99 a pound, and vitamin-packed kale at a minimum of $2.99 a pound.

Cabbage has a lot of vitamin C and glutamine, making it a great anti-inflammatory. It also has some folate and a little bit of protein.

I decided to spend some weeks cooking with cabbage and see how I liked it. I ate the green raw, cooked the red, sampled it pickled and in soup. The following recipes are the result of my experiments. One word of caution: raw cabbage can be verychallenging on the digestion. Not recommended for sensitive guts.

One last word about the humble cabbage: while a slow-witted person might be a cabbagehead, a special someone could be a petit chou.

Green Cabbage Salad with Blue Cheese and Olives (serves 4)
Crunchy and lively with the salty blue cheese and the piquant lime, this is an easy-to-make salad, appetizer, or dinner accompaniment. Serve with trout and white wine for a larger meal. Vegan variation: omit the cheese add salt and pecans (apple optional).

4 cups raw green cabbage (about 1/2 a med head)
8 Tblsp black olives, sliced
4 oz blue cheese, cubed
French dressing

French Dressing. Put all ingredients in a glass bottle and shake well.
4 oz fresh lime juice (about 4 limes)
2 oz olive oil
salt & pepper

How to assemble:
Slice cabbage into fine ribbons and place in a colander in the sink. Pour a kettle of boiling water over it to make it easier to digest. (Alternately, you could sautee the cabbage for 4 minutes to break it down further.) In 4 soup plates, place 1 cup of the cabbage, top with cheese, olives, and dress. Toss with pepper. Voila!

Sweet & Sour Red Cabbage (serves 6 – 8)
Hearty, tangy, pungent, a good accompaniment for eggs, fish, or meat, this is a classic braised cabbage. It is simple, but has a long cooking time. Adapted from an English cookbook I found in California years ago, The Home Book of Vegetarian Cookery by N.B. and R.B. Highton, 1964.

1 red cabbage (about 1 lb)
1 oz butter
1 small chopped white onion
1 Tblsp brown sugar
1 cooking apple
2 Tblsp apple vinegar
1 grated raw potato
1/4 – 1/2 pint stock
1/2 tsp cayenne (or to taste)
1/2 tsp ground clove (or to taste)

How to assemble
Shred cabbage finely and wash. In a large saucepan, heat the butter. Add the onion and brown sugar and until brown. Add the cabbage, apple, potato, salt and spices. Stir well. Add the stock. Simmer until tender, about 2 hours. Check periodically and add more liquid if necessary to prevent burning. Taste–it should be sweet and sour. Adjust the seasonings (try adding a little more vinegar to make it sweeter). Serve hot.

Kim Chee or Kimchi (lasts almost a lifetime, feeds everyone)
Delicious, potent, great for digestive health, kim chee is Korea’s national treasure. Said to cure lab animals infected with avian flu virus, this stuff will keep your mouth and belly breathing fire. Perfect for surviving any recession! Enjoy at work but expect to clear the room. To the uninitiated, it can smell as putrid as garbage rotting in the summer sun. To the initiated it is heaven in a pickled form. Yum! Recipe adapated from Fabulous

3 Tblsp plus 1 tsp pickling salt 6 cups water
2 pounds Napa cabbage, cut into 2-inch squares
6 scallions, cut into 2-inch lengths, then slivered
1 1/2 Tblsp minced fresh ginger
2 Tblsp Korean ground dried hot pepper (or other mildly hot ground red pepper)
1 tsp sugar

How to assemble
1. Create a brine by dissolving 3 tablespoons salt in water. Put the cabbage into a large bowl (not plastic or other reactive material) and pour the brine over it. Weight the cabbage down with a plate. Let stand 12 hours.

2. Drain the cabbage and reserve the brine. Mix the cabbage with the remaining ingredients, including the 1 tsp salt. Pack the mixture into a 2-quart jar. Pour enough of the reserved brine over the cabbage to cover it. Push a freezer bag into the mouth of the jar, and pour the remaining brine into the bag. Seal the jar. Let the kimchi ferment in a cool place, at a temperature no higher than 68° F, for 3 to 6 days, until the kimchi is as sour as you like.

3. Remove the brine bag, and cap the jar tightly. Store the kimchi in the refrigerator, where it will keep for months.

Off the Couch and Onto the Mat


At the Intersection of Yoga and Psychology

IN EARLY August 2008, Margot Andersen’s newly-married, 29-year-old son was hit and killed by a car while crossing a busy highway in Chicago. For Margot, a social worker in Chicago schools for more than 13 years, the pain of the sudden, tragic loss was overwhelming. Enrolled in a yoga teacher-training program, and recently trained in LifeForce Yoga, a type of yoga focused on mood management, Andersen turned to methods she knew would have an immediate affect on her emotional stamina — yogic breathing, visualizations and mantras.

“It’s what’s gotten me through this past month,” says Andersen, 56. “Otherwise I’d be in bed, I’d be horrible.”

When she felt too exhausted to complete daily tasks, Margot used LifeForce’s breath of joy to access untapped energy. To calm down enough to sleep she practiced nadi shodahna (alternate nostril breathing); San kalpas (intentions) and mantras (chants) gave her the strength to leave the house.

“When I had no energy, and could feel myself sinking, I used the breath,” says Andersen.

Andersen also underwent a phone session with Amy Weintraub, the Arizona-based founder of LifeForce Yoga and an international leader in the field of yoga and mental health. Weintraub designed LifeForce to train psychotherapists, social workers and yoga teachers to use classical Hatha yoga methods with their clients. She says the methods work because, “The sense of separation, which is the literal source of depression, is diminished and the sense of connection to oneself and others is enhanced.”

At a time when the practice of physical yoga poses, or asanas, is at an all-time-high (with 15.8 million practitioners nationally, according to Yoga Journal’s most recent survey), psychotherapists and yoga teachers are discovering — or rediscovering — how yogic tools might apply to therapeutic settings. At the same time, many yoga teachers, wanting to be of more service to their students, are borrowing methods from traditional Western psychotherapy. For both sides the goal is the same: integrate these practices to help people help themselves.

Teach Them To Fish

“We’re giving people tools they can use for the rest of their lives,” says Bo Forbes, founder and director of the Center for Integrative Yoga Therapeutics (CIYT) in Boston. “It’s a modality of healing that comes from within the client themselves — it’s not therapist based.”

Lauren, a high school teacher in Queens, NY, entered into “yoga psychotherapy” five months ago, because she felt she needed to talk to someone about the stresses of her job and life. “I was getting weighed down with negativity,” says Lauren.

Working with Joan Stenzler, a licensed social worker and Kripalu-trained yoga teacher, Lauren has tamed her anxiety using meditation, visualization and precepts from yoga philosophy.

“We spend a lot of time talking about the universe and how people react to you and you react to them,” Lauren explains, adding she prefers this process to the traditional talk therapy she had experienced in the past. “These are things my yoga teachers also talk about in regular classes.”

Lauren often applies her newfound coping skills on the job at school. “One of the biggest things to remember in dealing with teenagers is don’t take it personally. Deflecting what’s aimed at me allows me not to carry it through the rest of my day.”

For example, when a tardy child makes a scene about having to sign a late card, Lauren imagines surrounding herself in a white light that bounces back negativity. “It sounds corny, but even if it doesn’t completely work, it definitely puts you in the mindset of analyzing what’s going on and why they are reacting to you that way.”

In-Body Experience

Dr. Kelly McGonigal, Editor in Chief of the International Journal of Yoga Therapy, has noted a recent shift in psychotherapy as therapists, such as Stenzler, turn to yoga for more effective ways to treat clients, especially those with long-standing issues. “What psychotherapists are beginning to realize is that the body has been left out,” says McGonigal.

Opening the way for yoga-based therapeutics are the mindfulness practices of the Buddhist traditions that, over the past 10 years, have been increasingly accepted into clinical settings and taught in American medical schools. According to Paul Fulton, president of the Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy based in Newton, Massachusetts, empirical trials such as those conducted by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program (MBSR) at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center have helped establish mindfulness as a viable treatment in the eyes of the medical establishment. In September 2008, Fulton’s own organization launched a new 9-month certificate program in mindfulness and psychotherapy for mental health care providers.

No Touching, Please

However, integrating yoga-based methods into psychotherapeutic work presents inherent challenges. More than just watching the thoughts or the breath, clients and therapists may also be working with the body. Strict licensing standards today protect clients against physical abuses from their psychotherapists, which unfortunately were all too common in the past. The body is taboo.

Ann Friedenheim, a psychotherapist, drug and alcohol counselor and yoga teacher in Allentown, Pennsylvania, gets around this restriction by using very simple yoga-based techniques with her clients, ones that don’t involve touching.

One woman who had a long history of abuse both as a child and as a spouse, came to Friedenheim in physical and psychological pain, barely able to cope with daily tasks. Friedenheim used breath and hands-off bodywork to ease her client’s emotional paralysis. “Every session began with just breathing for five or ten minutes. She always refers back to it. She says, ‘Remember when we started breathing?’ It had a big impact.”

Other practitioners have kept their yoga therapy distinct from their clinical practices, sometimes having separate offices or studios for the two techniques. Boston-based Bo Forbes — who has nearly 20 years experience as a psychotherapist and over 10 years as a yoga teacher — has found yoga-based techniques so effective, she has closed her private practice in order to teach integrative yoga therapeutics, and to supervise the Center for Integrative Yoga Therapeutics in Boston.

“Talking can almost activate and rehearse issues that you’re trying to work through,” says Forbes, whose Elemental Yoga Mind-Body Teacher Training Program has been approved by the American Psychological Association and the National Association of Social Workers as ongoing training for psychotherapists and social workers. “Some people have done 15-20 years of therapy, are motivated and insightful, but they can’t change because their nervous system is holding and retaining its pattern.”

That’s certainly been true for Maria Ray, a Chicago-based flight attendant. When she got out of rehab for alcohol abuse, she knew she didn’t want to go back to traditional therapy. “All of the therapists suggested taking medications or talking about stuff that happened in the past but they could never really solve it,” says Ray.

That was until she stumbled on a Kundalini yoga center whose director, Shabad Kaur Khalsa, was also a licensed counselor. They began their sessions talking through what was happening in the moment and spent the second half doing breathing and meditation exercises, and a few simple poses. “Talking helps with the release, and the meditation brings me full circle,” says Ray. “The relaxation therapy helps to integrate it.”

Ray says friends and colleagues have observed the change. “My friends noticed that my face has gotten more relaxed and there’s a sense of calmness to me from how I used to be.”

“Shabad taught me how to be in control of my own mood,” says Ray, who is now off medications altogether. “It’s been a miracle.”

Down Dog Processing

On the other end of the spectrum, a growing number of yoga teachers who are not licensed to diagnose or prescribe treatments are bringing more traditional Western psychological insights — and training — to bear on their clients’ practices and issues. Ashley Turner of Los Angeles, who recently completed her MA in Counseling Psychology at the Pacifica Graduate Institute, uses tools from her academic work, techniques from her yoga teaching, as well as images, sounds and insights drawn from yoga’s built-in psychology to guide her clients to greater self-awareness.

Stephen Lewis in New York also brings a psychological orientation into individual yoga sessions. Trained in Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy, a form of yoga therapy that incorporates witnessing, dialoguing and reflecting in client-centered sessions, Lewis has also enrolled in an MA program in Counseling for Mental Health and Wellness at NYU’s Steinhart School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. For his clinical internship, he is providing yoga therapy to the psychiatry inpatient unit of New York’s Bellevue hospital. “There’s so much demand, they are hungry for it. I just go where I’m needed,” says Lewis, 31. In a separate project at Bronx Psychiatric Center, Lewis is collaborating with psychiatrist and yoga-practitioner Dr. Elizabeth Visceglia on a two-month trial assessing how yoga helps people with severe mental illness such as schizophrenia.

For some, “yoga psychotherapy” could become a one-stop shop for addressing physical and emotional issues in the same session. Leah Metzger, a client working with Ashley Turner, likes the integrative nature of the sessions. “I can see Ashley for everything,” says the LA-native. “For other things I’m going through like relationships, career, health things. It’s a well-rounded way to grow myself.”


Mala Yoga: Small is Beautiful


Mala Yoga sits on the second floor above a corner real estate office in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, at arguably one of the cutest intersections in the neighborhood. With coffee shops, restaurants, a Montessori school and a small independent bookstore nearby, this could be Main Street, USA. The church spire rising in the distance completes the picture.

But it’s Court Street, a bustling, residential part of Brooklyn. Run by three yoginis, two who left white-collar careers for yoga, Mala has only a sandwich board outside to mark its presence. It gets most of its students from walk-ins and word of mouth.

Opened in November 2007, Mala bucks current trends of expansion and franchising as one of the smallest studios in the city, at just 700 square feet–including the bathroom. Space is used efficiently: students’ bags and shoes go in one small closet, props in the other. Subs for the week are posted on the bathroom door, and the sign-in desk is tucked up next to the wall inside the practice space.

Such a vibrant place doesn’t feel small. In fact, there’s a bit of a love-fest going on at Mala. Students praise the smart, down-to-earth teachers, and teachers adore their students.

“We have really fantastic students here,” says Angela Clark, of of Mala’s co-founders. “They’re really into practicing, really into knowing who they are.”

Mala’s warm community of professionals, freelancers, and new parents is also remarkable.

“People are gregarious here, we all talk to everyone,” says Robyn Sklarson, VP of Library Content and Development for Sony Pictures Television who assists classes as a part of Mala’s new-teacher apprenticeship program. “If it’s a really packed class, everyone gets cozy and squishes up next to each other.”

Popular classes sell out at 26 – 30 people—when there’s an inch or less between mats—and so students get to know each other. Teachers walk through the class before it begins, learning names and discussing injuries or issues.

“You never have to worry about not getting an adjustment or getting lost in the shuffle,” says Sklarson.

Mala has done exceptionally well in its first year of business thanks to its location and handpicked staff, but also to the founders’ pre-existing popularity at other studios. One Mala fan, Rick Jakobson, a professional cook, had practiced with all three founders at Area Yoga just a few blocks up Court Street. “I’m teacher-centric–I like to hear the same voices,” says Jakobson.

Co-founder Stephanie Creaturo explains the vision that infuses the studio. “Practice is a thread — the beads on the mala are your life.” All three founders wear mala beads that have been blessed by Amma, the hugging saint.

“You come to the practice in your 20s, keep practicing into your 30s, as you go through family life, and get older,” says Creaturo. “Yoga can be with you through the stages of your life. That’s how we approach it.”

Mala Yoga 162 Court Street, Brooklyn, NY, 11201 718 237 9642


Studio Spotlight: Om Factory NYC


AcroYoga Finds a Home in New York

It’s surprising to get off on the 17th floor of a pre-war factory building, high above the crowded, semi-seedy streets between the Port Authority bus terminal and Penn Station, and walk into the bright colors and clean lines of Om Factory NYC. With a garment factory staffed by Cantonese-speaking women across the hall, Om Factory is an oasis of positive vibes, smiling faces, and good old-fashioned hard work.

The Friday night of my first AcroYoga class at Om Factory, I was exhausted. The staff at reception, and the space itself, was immediately soothing. From the glittering sliver clothes hooks, to the marigold-orange and avocado-green walls, to the gold-edged sun yantra in the Yantra studio, Om Factory was clearly constructed with love and enthusiasm (and maybe a little bit of obsessive planning).

Faramarz, a Swiss-trained architect originally from Iran, is responsible for the riotous color and warm welcome. An extreme-sports aficionado, and a yogi since 1996, he dreamed of opening a wellness center in New York, his adopted home. In 2004, he took a yoga teacher training at Laughing Lotus, and in 2006, Faramarz opened Om Factory in New York’s garment district, 11 floors above his architectural office, with Harvard-trained psychologist and yogi, Allyson Pimentel.

“I wanted to open a yoga place that was really not judgemental, not guru-oriented, where people could feel at home, where people could feel free,” says Faramarz, who uses Om Factory after hours as his apartment. Neighborhood people, such as fashion designers, garment workers and staff from not-for-profits, fill the daytime classes.

Originally conceived as a vinyasa studio that would offer nutritional counselling, psychotherapy, fundraisers, and kirtans, Om Factory has included AcroYoga since it opened. A July 2008 AcroYoga retreat to Fire Island drew almost 40 students, and monthly AcroYoga jams are filled to capacity.

Instructor Kathryn Ulrich, 33, says Om Factory has been the first studio in New York to adopt AcroYoga and support its development. Director Emily Conradson adds that Om Factory is also the only studio in the city with Ana Forrest-trained instructors. “It’s a hub. Other forms of yoga not represented in New York come through Om Factory.”

Julie Royall, 25, of Queens, NY, who came to her first AcroYoga class the same night I did, was enthusiastic. “You come into a room where you don’t know people and you have to create trust with them. Then you’re flying. It’s awesome.”

Joaquin Cruz, 31, a fiber optics technician with Verizon in New Jersey, agrees. “It’s infectious, this place. Once the AroYoga class starts you relax and enjoy yourself, sweat and get a good workout.”

“But my favorite part is the dynamic here,” he added. “It’s a tight-knit community.”

Om Factory NYC, 265 W37th Street, 17h floor, NY NY 10018 212 616 8662


Yogi, Take Me to a Higher Place


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

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 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

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

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 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


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, 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


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


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,


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, 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 (, 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, 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,, 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, 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, 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, works with Broadway performers, while Suzanne Jackson of Yogasing (610-444-4135, 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,, 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, 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?

Lady Matters: The Power of Women in Yoga: Book Review


A yoga class in which only men can chant “om” seems silly today, but that restriction was once one of many imposed on female practitioners. Janice Gates, founding director of Yoga Garden Studio in San Anselmo, California, illuminates the yogic role of the fairer sex in her new book, Yogini: The Power of Women in Yoga (Mandala Press, $20). Gates begins with a compelling overview—including the story of how women’s role in the practice diminished once the Brahmin culture took hold in India in 1500 B.C.E.—before profiling 17 contemporary yogini pioneers, including Sharon Gannon, the director of megastudio Jivamukti, and Gurumayi, Siddha Yoga’s beloved leader. With handsome reproductions of yoginis in Indian art, the book uncovers a story that’s rarely told: Women were once valuable teachers and spiritual guides in yoga—and now finally are again.