Friday, December 23, 2005

Cassandra Now @ Park Slope Yoga

Cassandra, the woman who taught the 6:30 AM Basic Vinyasa yoga class left Yoga People this week. While I haven't taken any of her classes, I've been listening in for several weeks. She's Jivamukti trained and pretty cool. (We'd both get to the studio around 6:00 AM and talk before the students arrived.)

She's now teaching at Park Slope Yoga, among other places, on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. All you Slopers, check it out.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

MTA Strike Is OVER!!!!

I was starting to feel like a kid sent to her room: trapped, bored, and pissed off. I gues the old cliche is true: you don't really appreciate the subway until it's gone.

Of course, I have to admit that my commute wasn't really affected. There was a brief bottleneck at the north end of the living room but by 7:47 things had cleared up and it was smooth sailing right on into the home office.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

To Shinnyo-En Or Not To Shinnyo-En

So I was planning on going to something called the Star Ritual (or Hoshi Matsuri) at the Shinnyo-En temple in White Plains tomorrow with my friend Karen Now's sister, Lori. Given the strike, though, I couldn't figure out how to get there without driving an extra two hours out of my way. So we cancelled.

I was really looking forward to finding out more about the group, especially since right now my knowledge of buddhism comes primarily from books and the Vipassana meditation study groups I've been going to. I figured it would be interesting to see how other traditions interpreted buddhism. (Would the differences be as subtle, as say, Methodism versus Lutheranism, or more dramatic like the Quaker/Catholic extreme?

I think I'd like to know.

Plus, well. A star ritual. Who wouldn't want to check that out?

Oh well. I'd like to say that if I don't achieve nirvana it's the fault of the MTA strikers, but I don't suppose that would be very skillful of me, would it?
Strike Woes

When will this end? and I gotta say, when they finally do return to their jobs, transit workers are going to face a suprising level of animosity from their customers...

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Yoga & Back Pain

I've been pushing my mother for years to try yoga for her back pain. I mean, she'd already become a fan of massage and acupuncture, so how far of a jump could yoga be? This past year she's finally gotten into it--I think she'd bringing her mat with her for the Christmas visit so we can practice together. I'm thinking about taking her downt o Integral Yoga with me.

Although, if she hadn't been convinced I'd have more amunition for my arugment: there's scientific evidence! (Well, kind of: 101 patients followed for 26 weeks. There could actually be a number of factors contributing--the kind of yoga taught; the fact that subjects were exercising at all; the critera established by evluating therapist.)

We'll obviously need more studies to find out what's really going on, but hey--it's a start.

And just think, next time you go to the doctor you may hear: take two half-moons and call me in the morning.
Joy & The Hulk!

So I went all the way (well, three blocks) to the yoga studio this morning at 6 to open up only to discover that the class had been cancelled because of the strike. Sigh. Plus, my parents--who are easily flustered by urban traffic--are on their way up from Charlottesville on Thursday. I anticipate disaster.

On the good side, I've completed my Christmas shopping and am trying to tie up some loose ends before I kick back for a few days.

To get everyone in the mood, here's a picture of my husband, Rod, when he was a kid. The occassion was technically his little sister Lara's birthday, not Hannukah, but the sentiment is the same. Joy at its most pure.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Chocolate Goddesses

I think they're all sold out, but next year I want a chocolate mother-goddess.

Sunday, December 18, 2005


Not sure what to make of this: a retreat for those fasting.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Personality a la "Friends"

Someone asked me the other day which Friends character I thought I most ressembled. Apparently this is a common party game that I missed out on in Charlottesville.

But here goes: I'm a Phoebe/Ross hybrid.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Fear & Yoga

So for over a year now I've been doing the preparatory but never full asana
Salamba Sirsasana, or Headstand. Why? Fear, plain and simple. I've been afraid that I'd fall over and break my spine or crash into my neighbor. I've been afraid that I wasn't strong enough, hadn't been practicing long enough or wasn't centered enough. And then today during a vinyasa class we partnered up to do a headstand variation. With a tinge of shame in my voice, I told my partner that I'd never done one before. Luckily she herself was a yoga teacher (FYI: Renata's vinyasa classes @ Yoga People are chock full of experienced practitioners). She guided me through the pose and one-two-three there I was, perfectly balanced on my head. I hinged at the hips and not so gracefully came down onto my mat. So it _is_ about balance I said in awe.

But it got me thinking: how many other things have I avoided doing out of fear, out of some intense self-imposed anxiety that I just wasn't ready yet?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Goddess @ The Met

I love this piece.. It's from the Sumerian Collection.

Over the holidays I'm going to make an extended visit to the exhibit.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Yoga Energy: Studio versus Gym, Large versus Small

So I’ve had two interesting yoga experiences this week.

Friday night I went to my first class at Yoga People. Danika, a lithe dark-haired woman, teaches the evening Vinyasa session. There were only three people there and soon after we started the Karma Yogi on duty, Denise, left so that we were the only four souls in the studio. (I heard the faint zip of a jacket closing, the muffled closing of the front door.) The main room has several windows to the left and right of the altar so that as I stretched high and swooped low during my sun salutations I gazed out into the darkness. Danika dimmed the lights halfway through and the aroma of incense lingered in the air. The practice was intense but subtly paced. I felt a sort of camaraderie with the other practitioners—we were practicing together, you see. Not just in the same class. I found myself synching my movements with the woman next to me, breathing and exhaling perfectly in time with Danika’s cues. I left feeling—well, wrung out, but in a gentle, soothing way. I smiled to myself (which, if you know me, doesn’t really happen that often… my face tends to remain a mask of impassivity) as I skidded down Clinton St toward Atlantic Ave., toward the rush of Friday night activities.

On Sunday I went to Reyna’s Vinyasa class at the NYSC Cobble Hill. I’ve actually taken this class several times and think Reyna is an excellent instructor. She’s gentle, her sequences are smooth, and she’s got an offbeat sense of humor that helps with the often-exasperating conditions. First off, the room is always cold. Not sure what’s going on at Cobble Hill but after the Thursday night Club Yoga my feet were so cold I couldn’t feel my toes. By Sunday the temperature was a little better, but still nowhere near the warm, cocoon-like atmosphere of Yoga People. Second, the outer wall is all glass so that there’s no partition between the group exercise room and the free weights: as you pull up into Warrior 1 you find yourself locking eyes with some burly guy doing his hundredth bicep curl. Further, I counted about 30 people in the class. Now, sometimes there’s a kind of collective energy that arises from such a crowd, especially during the initial sun salutation series, and when that happens there’s really nothing like it, but this group was too mismatched to have much of an energy at all. Some were seasoned practitioners and others were clearly unfamiliar with Down Dog. After several initial postures I closed my eyes briefly, focuses as best as I could, and threw myself into the practice. By the end of the hour I felt as cleansed, as relaxed as I had friday night.

So what am I getting at? That yoga studios do a better job at atmosphere than gyms? Seems like a no-brainer, right. And I thought about that all day yesterday and again this morning when I opened for the Basic Vinyasa at Yoga People. I finally decided that it's good practice—and I use the word deliberately—to try a variety of classes in a variety of traditions at a variety of locations. In the same way that we can’t always control the things that happen to us in our lives, we can’t always control the external factors that influence our practice. But if we can learn to quiet our minds and focus our bodies regardless of what’s going on around us, to practice to the best of our abilities despite cold temperatures and ogling athletes, than we’ll be that much stronger. And if you're anything like me, its a lesson we all need to learn again and again and again.

Friday, December 09, 2005

"Recharge Your Winter Battery" Yoga Workshop

I thought I'd let you all know about a workshop a friend of mine's doing in January at Manhattan's Movements Afoot.

"Recharge Your Winter Battery" workshop
2:30-5:30 pm on Saturday January 7
Cost: $60

Movements Afoot
151 West 30th St, 2nd Floor
between 6th and 7th

Call 212 904 1399

S-T-R-E-T-C-H away post-holiday stress at an afternoon yoga workshop for all levels the first Saturday of January. Greet the new year refreshed and focused! Indulge in a makeover from the inside out.

This workshop combines deep relaxation with postures to refresh the mind and the body and increase awareness and insight. The studio is comfortable and easy-going, so students can feel at home as they immerse themselves in yoga.

Practices include:

guided deep relaxation
balancing postures
3rd eye meditation
insight meditation
breath work (a.k.a. undercover yoga)

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

My Interview With Richard Eagan

A few weeks ago I met with Park Slope-based artist Richard Eagan to talk about his sculptures, his Red Hook karaoke show and his bee-keeping operation.

I first met him at the Gowanus Artists Open Studio Tour... I have to admit the meeting wasn't exactly accidental. I saw this picture on the Gowanus website and decided I wanted to meet him and maybe interview him for FRINGEunderground. I found a kind, friendly man in a carefully coiffed wig and full make-up. He showed me a jar of his own home-made organic honey, Kay Sera, named after his karaoke alter-ego.

We arranged to meet several weeks later at 440 Gallery, the Park Slope co-op gallery of which he's a member. This time he was wearing neither a wig nor make-up. I actually didn't recognize him at first. But there he was: a down-right fatherly figure sitting there with his dog. (I think the dog's name was Sparky, but don't quote me on that.) We spent a few minutes together at the gallery and then went back to his Park Slope brownstone and chatted for several hours. You can read the interview that resulted at FringeUnderground.

But there was something he said that day that I didn't include in the interview--something that I've been thinking about off and on since. He was speaking about coming out as a cross-dresser and said something along the lines of, "Well, you know you spend your life being terrified of becoming this person [meaning, of course, a cross-dresser]. And when you finally let go and just become who you were always afraid of becoming, you find that... it's actually not bad. It's a beautiful thing. A really beautiful thing. All those years you just didn't know it. You were afraid for no reason."

So there you go. Just let yourself be. No fear. Because you never know--maybe that monster inside isn't really all that horrific after all. Right?

Monday, December 05, 2005

Hatha @ Brooklyn Heights NYSC

I went to Ephen’s 7:30 Hatha yoga class at the Brooklyn Heights NYSC tonight. It was really intense—its actually an intermediate Hatha class--but invigorating. I left feeling fully stretched, strengthened and centered. Ephen’s a fantastic instructor: his directions are clear, his voice calming and his mastery of the poses enviable. (I have to admit there was a moment, when he demonstrated the full headstand that I was in complete awe.) The flow of the class was seamless and seemed almost vinayasa-like. You have to reserve a place, since the class is so popular, which you can do by calling 718.246.0600.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Hatha I @ Integral Yoga

I went to their Hatha I class yesterday at the West 13th location.

The class at Integral Yoga was unlike any yoga class I’ve taken before. Now, I have to admit, I was already familiar with Integral Yoga. As I mentioned in my previous post, they’ve got an ashram just outside Charlottesville. I’d been to their grocery store on Preston Ave. in Downtown Charlottesville several times—they had great produce, but my only real encounter with any of the practitioners was at a Female Power workshop I went to at the town’s public library. Led by a member of the Divine Life Renewal Center, this workshop was basically just an hour long rambling by an almost incoherent albeit daintily beautiful woman. At several points she “channeled” Mary and Kuan Yi, but really it just sounded like the same stuff she’d been saying minutes earlier with a slightly different accent. Three of four of the other audience members were residents of Yogaville, IY’s Virginia center. They all wore white robes and seemed a little out of it. They talked a little afterward about the center and when I went home that night I did a quick google search to learn more. The first site that comes up is a diatribe against the cult-like practices of the group.

So I was a little skeptical, I’ll admit. I imagined a large indoctrination center right in the heart of the Village.

First off, the entrance to the yoga studio is through the bustling bookstore on West 13th St. (At first I mistakenly went into the grocery store; I sampled a shot of a wheat grass & soy drink before heading back out. Really sweet.) You go into the IY bookstore and pay for your yoga class at the front desk and they give you a colored card—yellow for one class; pink for another—with the room name on it. There’s a doorway opposite the front desk that leads upstairs to the institute’s studios.

The women’s locker room is on the second floor. It’s actually really nice. Carpeted. Warm. There are several boxes of tissues and some kind-hearted signs warning women who are menstruating not to perform vigorous asanas until their cycle has ended.

There are many lockers--so you don’t need to worry about finding one. But they’re abnormally narrow. (You should have seen me trying to shove my bulky backpack into the opening. I actually knocked into the elderly woman next to me. She was very gracious about it.)

Then you wait in the silent hallway until the class begins. Pictures of the guru line the walls.

The studio itself is unusual. Most classes I’ve attended have been in bright studios with gleaming wood floors. But the IY Main Studio has wall-to-wall beige carpeting. On one wall—ostensibly the front—is a large brilliantly colored version of the IY Mantra, pictured at left. The logos around the edges of the lotus leafs are symbols of all religious faiths. On the opposite wall are two life-size portraits of the Integral Yoga guru, Sri Swami Satchidananda. There are about five or six windows on the far wall, but they’re partially shuttered so that the only light is muted and soft.

No one speaks. We all just get out our thin, soft purple yoga mats and line up in two facing rows. (At first I spread out in the center, between the two columns, but was gently told to move by the instructor.)

We chant a round of OMs and some Sanskrit sayings I wasn’t really familiar with. Everybody else in the room seemed to know all the words, though. (I mumbled along, supplementing OM and Shanti whenever I couldn’t figure out what they were saying.)

The class itself was really easy and gentle. There was more of an emphasis on meditation and pranayana (breathing exercises) than the vigorous asanas I’m accustomed to. (Honestly, it was more like stretching than an actual workout and I even went to the NYSC a few blocks down 7th to get an extra hour of cardio before going home.) Usually I take vinyasa or ashtanga classes, so it was a real surprise to me. During the final part of the practice, the instructor shutters the windows and dims the lights. The sounds of the hissing radiator echoed in the silent room. I felt good—relaxed and comfortable. There was some more chanting at the end but I just kind of hummed along as best I could.

But for anyone just starting out in yoga, this class is a good option. They’ll slowly introduce you to the basic postures in a relaxing and supportive environment. You can take part in the spiritual aspect or not.

The only real indication I had of any of the cult-like atmosphere I anticipated was the loose fitting white garments that the teachers and many of the more advanced students wore. The other students wore sweatpants and T-shirts.

I’ll go back to take a Hatha II class, their intermediate level option.

Friday, December 02, 2005

New Yoga Class Tomorrow!

Tomorrow I'm going to try a hatha yoga class at Integral Yoga Institute of NY in the West Village with my husband, Rod, and his sister Lara. I haven't been to this center before. It should be interesting. Apparently they combine meditation with hatha. One of Integral Yoga's centers is located just outside Charlottesville, Virginia, which is where Rod and I were living before we moved to NY this past July. I never made it out to Yogaville but heard a lot about it. They had a great organic grocery store in town.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Karma Yoga @ Yoga People

This morning I worked my first shift at Yoga People in Brooklyn Heights. I’ll be opening the studio on Tuesdays and Thursdays for Cassandra’s 6:30 Vinyasa Class. Rod, my husband, thought I was crazy for signing up for the shift, but I had my reasons. Namely the free yoga class I get in exchange for working, but also there’s something exhilarating about walking down the city street, steaming cup of tea in hand, before even the corner deli opens. On my way to work. Plus, the studio is so quiet and clean at that time. I straighten up, start the tea, burn some incense and wait for the blear-eyed practitioners to traipse through the door. Feels a little like reverence.