I first started teaching in 2008 and immediately threw myself into the New York yoga scene. I came out of my 200-hour certification with that same kind of overconfidence you see in anyone young enough to have energy and ambition, without the tempering wisdom that only comes from experience.
I knew anatomy and had the muscles and bones and their functions and planes of movement memorized. I knew all the poses and their Sanskrit names and how to modify them with props. I knew how to sequence a smart class and could recite the Sutras, the 8 Limbs and a handful of verses from the Gita.
And yet: I knew nothing about yoga.
I didn’t know shit about anything. And then: I found Yoga High. (Mel and Liz: sorry, maybe you didn’t realize this when you hired me. Or maybe you did? Immense gratitude, regardless.)
I walked past Yoga High daily in its old heyday on Clinton Street, barely three blocks from my apartment. Its co-owners were two women who worked in this beautifully balanced way: the strength and conviction of Mel was impressive, the quiet flexibility and gentleness of Liz was inspiring.
The space they created drew together a mishmash of New Yorkers: artists, entrepreneurs, college students, hedge funders, designers, performers, doctors and bartenders. A true cross-section of this weird, wild city, and for an hour or so we were all equals, quietly working on our breathing and our neuroses and our hamstrings.
As a student, it was a place where I could show up in any state of despair or joy, to cry or laugh, and drag myself through a practice that always seemed to give me exactly what I needed. It saw me through my best and worst moments.
As a teacher, the gift was in seeing the faces of students and friends, watching the unfolding of practices as this collective ebbed and flowed and grew and changed with each season.
It was a place where Kanye and Beck lived in miraculous harmony on my playlists, alongside Thom Yorke and Karen O. and Lana and Thurston and all the dudes from The National.
It was a place where you could show up, do the practice (“Or: don’t do it! I don’t care!”) and leave with a fullness of heart and head and maybe be just a teeny tiny bit more patience for all the weirdos awaiting us out in the world.
Because yoga is only kind of about poses and breathing. It’s mainly about community.
Yoga High held its final classes last month in the LES. But it’s taking on new life in other places where community is wanted and needed.
Here’s to the next reincarnation.