Monthly Archives: June 2010

yoga in the news: enlightened athletes

In the midst of the endless excitement of World Cup mania, a quaint little tennis tournament we call Wimbledon is on right now. While admiring the stamina, determination and passion of the world’s finest futbol stars, one can’t help but divert one’s attention to the unbelievable record-breaking, three-day match between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut. Isner eventually topped his French opponent, but what really caught the yoga community’s (and my) attention was his interview in which he reveals his true yogic self in both mind and body. Truly inspiring. This man deserves an ice bath and a sandwich.

John Isner in victory! (Or Utkatasana?)

In other news of athletic feats: Scott Jurek, ultra-marathoner, peace-loving vegan Seattle resident, and possibly one of the best athletes alive, gives us yet another reason to consider a plant-based diet in this interview. I first read about Jurek in Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run, in which he participates in a 50-mile race with the Tarahumara tribe in Mexico. (Add it to your summer reading list). He is also an inspiration, in superhuman form.

easy, light, smooth, fast: an ultra-marathoner's mantra (Tarahumara Arnulfo Quimare with American Scott Jurek)

What do Isner and Jurek have in common? Seems to me they’re both masters of creating their best effort, staying present in the moment, and surrendering the results.

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yoga in the news: the serenity saboteurs!

From the NY Times a few weeks ago, a few helpful pointers on the etiquette of coming to and taking yoga class. This list of “don’ts” should be common sense, right? Right?

Ogden, the Inappropriate Yoga Guy: mind your drishti, buddy.

BARGING OUT Hearing a fellow student leave class noisily, as you soak in those final minutes of well-earned relaxation, is akin to being awakened midsleep by an air horn (well, almost). It is too sudden, too soon.

“You are Zenned out,” said the blogger YogaDork, who asked to remain incognito, describing the splendor of Savasana, resting pose. “And people are fumbling for bags and rolling up the mats.”

BARGING IN The same goes for people who march into a class, whip open their mats and plunk down their belongings, sometimes while others are meditating.

“The thwapping of the mat — that is very jarring,” said Anya Porter, a teacher and teacher manager at Yoga Works in Midtown. “The class is quiet. Sometimes there is music playing. People can be really loud.”

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

Ralph De La Rosa, a manager at Go Yoga in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, who describes himself as mostly tolerant, also draws the line at the half-naked male practitioner. “I like it when guys keep their shirts on,” he said.

Worse still are the men who wear loose-fitting shorts for comfort, with nothing underneath, prompting discomfort in the ladies around them. “It’s wrong,” said an anonymous woman who posted on the Web site fitsugar.com, which recently riffed on what not to do in yoga class. During lunges, she said, “it was all hanging out.”

GOING SOLO Ms. Cunningham strongly objects to people who defy the chanting of “Om,” and instead belt out “Ah.” Again, the culprit is usually a guy.

“It’s a syllable,” Ms. Cunningham said, incredulously.

Yogis and yoginis who conduct their own session within the class, choosing poses that diverge from the instructor’s calls, can be a challenge for teachers. “It is certainly distracting,” Ms. Porter said. “It brings the attention and focus onto that person.”

SOUND EFFECTS Jennifer Ginsberg, a blogger who posts on angstmom.com, wrote recently about the day her teacher uncharacteristically played a pop song in class and the “unimaginable happened.”

“The woman doing yoga next to me began to sing along to the song,” she wrote. “Loudly and off key.”

Ms. Ginsberg refrained from yelling an obscenity-laden command for her neighbor to shut up. She thought about leaving the class. But her teacher came to the rescue and asked the woman to stop singing.

Broadway-caliber grunts are more common than singalongs and only slightly less exasperating. Grunts are, of course, acceptable since they are a natural reaction to exertion. But, as the YogaDork pointed out, it gets awkward if they sound “orgasmic.”

CELLPHONES It goes without saying: Cellphone chatter, unending ring tones and texting are roundly booed. One teacher whose list of grievances was posted on fitsugar.com remembered a woman who answered her cellphone and shouted, “I’m in (expletive) yoga. Why are you calling me?”

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

I would add to this: turn cell phones completely off. “Vibrate” is not off. “Silent” is (often) not off.

Just about anyone can go live in a cave in the Himalayas and find peace in the quiet of nature. It takes a massive amount of effort to find that same level of peace in a city that’s constantly exploding with energy and activity. Let’s not sabotage ourselves.

yoga on the great lawn

From last evening’s Flavorpill event in Central Park, where 10,000 yogis showed up to practice together despite the ominous weather. The world-record breaking class, led by Elena Brower, lasted about 10 minutes before the sky opened up in a summer storm.

one more from brooklyn…

june/july spotlight on: the chakras

I feel like there are a few words and phrases from the yoga/Eastern philosophical rhetoric that take a lot of abuse from us Westerners. Words like “aura,” “Zen,” “qi,” “prana,” and of course, “Chakra”. These words are often thrown around in a joking manner (i.e. “Boy are my Chakras off kilter today,” “Her aura is just so negative”), and not coincidentally, these words are all related to the energetic body and aren’t always acknowledged in Western science or medicine.

For the months of May and June, I’ve been teaching the seven main Chakras and sequencing the class around poses that help strengthen and open them. In the tradition of yoga and Ayurveda, the Chakras are considered to be circular centers, little wheels of energy spinning at the speed of light, that align along the length of the spine, from the tip of the tailbone to the crown of the head. We want to “open” these centers of energy to utilize the best qualities of each: from Muladhara (Root) Chakra, we seek to feel grounded, connected to the earth, strong, safe. When Anahata (Heart) Chakra is open, we access our ability to be compassionate and to give and receive love. Vishuddha (Throat) Chakra allows for our self-expression through truth. Each Chakra is associated with an element (earth, fire, water, etc.) and a healing color. At our best, when our Chakras are harmoniously aligned, we are able to see, hear, act, speak, and live as expressions of our highest Self.

know your chakras.

Certain asana (yoga poses) can be practiced to strengthen the Chakras that may be weaker or less developed. It’s an interesting practice to observe where your mind goes or how your energy changes while holding the pose, helping reveal some deeper truths about yourself. Practice the poses below and note what happens, physically, mentally and emotionally.

Muladhara (Root) Chakra: Vrksasana
Svadhishthana (Navel) Chakra: Eka Pada Rajakapotasana
Manipura (Solar Plexus) Chakra: Virabhadrasana II
Anahata (Heart) Chakra: Ustrasana
Vishuddha (Throat) Chakra: Matsyasana
Ajna (Third Eye) Chakra: Padmasana
Sahasrara (Crown) Chakra: Sirsasana A