Posts Tagged ‘New York’

Om is more than a word – it is an intonation, like music or vibration.  It is made up of three Sanskrit letters, essentially “A” – “U” – “M”.  It is often said that the sound of Om contains in it all other sounds. In the Upanishads Om is considered to be an all-encompassing mystical entity- the voice of God, or as I like to think of it, the sound of the universe. As sacred texts declare, the vibration of Om is supposed to penetrate one’s soul, transcend the past, present and future, and reveal the truth.

So the question remains: om or no om?

Having been a past practitioner at Jivamukti where they chant, A LOT, in their classes I have built up a tolerance to chanting in general.  I enjoy it- but on occasion and in the right place at the right time.  In fact, I have to admit I’m not one who enjoys chanting when I show up to a yoga class expecting to jump right into the physical aspect.

I do however, ALWAYS enjoy chanting om at the beginning and end of the class.  My favorite is actually chanting om in rounds.  Not exactly, Row Row Your Boat style but more or less just following the rise and fall of your own breath rather than the instructor/leader of the chant.  I like to imagine that there must be times when all the yogis around Manhattan (i.e. Union Square) are chanting om at once given that there are so many studios with similar class schedules.  You would think there must be a few hundred people chanting om come 7:30 on the weekdays across Manhattan.  Pretty cool, huh?

What I find odd, and actually awkward is some classes choose to chant om at the start of class and not at the end (Dana Strong does this at YogaWorks).  There’s something about closing with om that makes you feel full or satisfied.  Maybe it’s just me.  But as my teaching philosophy has developed I believe whole heartedly in om, and less so in chanting before class.  Truth is, I’m there to practice like everyone else and chanting (while nice) is sometimes hard to fit into the hour and a half you’re on the mat.  Oh and what’s up with instructors who pick obscure chants that no one can repeat – that’s just uncomfortable for everyone!


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Yoga Works is advertising two free classes in August. The first this Saturday, August 9 in their Eastside studio and the other on Saturday August 16 in their Westchester studio.  Also, if you’re new to the studio and sign up for their introductory rate of $30 for two weeks of unlimited yoga they are now throwing in a free one year subscription to Yoga Journal.


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Eliza & Britt

Miss Liza!  In our same visit to Prana Power this weekend, we did notice a permit for 2 showers!  But they still sell water bottles.  Shame shame.

As Liza continues her teacher training, I recommended that she seek out a kirtan (chanting).  My understanding of this, is that by chanting the sanskrit names of gods, you are evoking their presence and perhaps getting closer to them, a vital step to enlightenment.  Mostly chants are call and response, but many times if a mantra is repeated over and over and people know it, they just continue on singing.  I’ve been to several chants, all of which are always a little weird to start out, but end up being a lot of fun.  My first chant was in LA with Krishna Das (if you’ve ever stepped foot in a yoga studio, you’ve heard him- he’s the ultimate yoga rockstar).  There is always an interesting mix of people at these events, hippies, gentrified yogis, people who dance, people who sway, people who do absolutely nothing but observe.  The chants I’ve been to have always had great musicians and personally, I like a lot of the music they play!  Energy builds as the night goes on, and slowly people let go and more and more participate.  There is definitely a sense of freedom and child-like play that you feel when you’re in one of these.  Think about the last time that you sang out loud with a group of people.  Probably in grade school!  So, at least in my experience, its doesn’t matter what I’m chanting, shiva, shanti, krishna, om- its the ability to let go of adult conventions and share with people around you.  I’ve listed some New York kirtans, which you should absolutely try to make!

Yogaworks is doing one Saturday, August 16th from 7:30-9:30pm at their midtown studio.

Integral Yoga Institute does one every Friday at 8.

Jivamukti hold satsangs every Wednesday at 8:30pm, except the first Wednesday of the month, when the program begins at 8:00pm.

The Omega Institute is doing as Esctatic Chant Weekend from August 29-September 1st, which would really be jumping in full force!  Krishna Das with Carioca, Sheila Chandra, Krishna Das, Miten, Deva Premal, Jai Uttal, and Wah! are all expected to be there.


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Yesterday Liza likened her and I to “good cop, bad cop” on this site…guess which one I am.  My new annoyance of the day- yoga studios that call you to remind you to come back to the studio.  Like I need yoga telemarketers…  YogaWorks did it today at 4:30 while I was at work.  Unnecessary!  Enough said.

On a more positive note!

I have a weird thing for Irish music (which all started with my dad seeing Riverdance, a subsequent roadtrip through Ireland, and me, the little blond Jewish girl enrolling in Irish dance classes).  Isauro played some great Irish music in class this morning (Some Like it Hot), which I majorly dug.  2 points Isauro.


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Uh…I feel bad doing this, because I feel that I keep bashing yoga instructors, but- eh, I’m doing it.

This Saturday morning I went up to Some Like It Hot for their 11:45 vinyasa class that I usually go to. Isauro Fernandez, who usually teaches this class, was not there, and his substitute was the studio’s owner, Yola Romeo. I was a little bummed, because I was excited to just sweat and move, which is always guaranteed with Isauro, but went into class with an open mind.

We started in frog pose (for those of you who have been wondering, I nixed the 30 day frog pose challenge- I decided pain sucks). I must mention 2 things a) I’m a runner and b) I have this mysterious hip/back injury that acts up from time to time and makes me writhe in excruciating pain. To start a class in frog is my hell and to hold it for 5+ minutes is essentially the worse layer of Dante’s Inferno multiplied by 347 gajillion. But- open mind, I threw my ass up in the air and sank into my iron-clad, locked hips. Yola, noticing my hips were no where near touching the ground, came over to me and told me to move my hips wider. “They don’t go wider,” I gasped through my tears of pain. “I’m looking at your body and they do go wider, ” she told me. Oh sage and all-knowing Yola…thank you for your words or wisdom. Believe me, they didn’t go wider. She brought us through a series of poses (no flow) and corrected us, which was actually nice. I don’t love pain-stakingly long explanation of poses, but every once in a while (even if it isn’t by choice), its a good thing to do. And don’t get me wrong- this was hard and I felt it the next day. As much as I like to move in yoga, I realize that holding postures longer can be great and strength building. So all was well. Until lizard pose.

As you can see, this is a difficult pose for people with tight hips. I for one, cannot put my arms down flat like this nice lady above- my arms are straight in this pose. Yola would not have this. I told her I had a hip injury. My injury is somewhat complicated, no one really knows what it is and I’ve had the problem for years. But I didn’t feel the need to explain the logistics in front of the entire class- I know what is right for my body. But she continued to press me about it and came to her own conclusion about what my problem was in 20 seconds after years of doctors checking me out. For the rest of class, she kept on me constantly, telling me to lift my shirt in front of the mirror, that I was doing postures incorrectly, etc, etc. And with this majorly, self-righteous attitutude. Just what I wanted on a hot Saturday morning.

There was 1 guy in class, who Yola yoga-molested for the entire hour and a half. She laid on top of him, held his pelvis, and caressed his legs non-stop. At one point, while she was “adjusting” him, a woman in the back of class yelled out, “can we switch poses yet?” Yola had left us in some pose for an inordinate amount of time while she got her freak on.

Her speech at the end of class bordered on insanity…she talked about one thing, then another, none of which had any relation about it each other. She even mentioned at one point that there were a lot of people who came to her studio that had a lot of money and they were certainly not happy people. As if that is necessarily related… Though my mind may have not been all that open, hers was most definitely not and made for a VERY unpleasant class.


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Photo by Maverick Zack

They may not be tech savvy enough to call them podcasts, but these “downloadable audio sessions” are exactly that. Who knew Jivamukti had gone so high-tech! Most of the podcasts are recordings of actual classes and workshops so the content isn’t as engaging as it could be given that it was meant for a live audience.

If you’re fans of the Jiva duo though, I suggest giving them a try.  A perfect to kick-start to your home practice!

On that note, an obvious pointer-> not exactly the kind of content to jazz you up on your commute to work…

Try them here: Jivamukti Audio Sessions


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photo uploaded by Paulito

“Ego rules the world. People are helpless victims of their ego. Sensitive people endowed with compassionate hearts are hard to find…Consider everyone, because that is the doorway to God and to your own Self.”

From the book “From Amma’s Heart”
Translated & Written by Swami Amritaswarupananda

Last week Amma was in New York City dishing out free hugs and love to all. For those of you who do not know of Amma, she is Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi otherwise known as Mother (Amma literally means “mother”).  Amma is an internationally recognized humanitarian and spirtual leader- the catalyst behind countless humanitarian activities worldwide (from disaster relief to sponsored weddings for the poor). Amma does not subscribe to a particular religion but says her religion is Love.  She asks not for you to believe in God, but in themselves.On her tours Amma’s darshan takes the form on an embrace…a hug as we know it.

Its said that Amma’s embrace “allows [people] to experience true, unconditional love.  Wehn Amma holds somone it can help to awaken the dormant spirtual energy within them, which will eventually take them to the ultimate goal of self-realization

In the past 36 years, Amma has physically hugged more than 26 million people.  As many as 200,000 people are known to flock at once to just catch a glimpse of Amma in person!

Simply put, she’s kind of a big deal.  And here I was, only feet from her feet right here in Manhattan!

The program included lecture, chanting and meditation. Oh, and by the way, unbelievable homemade Indian food. I had a heavy plate and I ate over conversation with a Hare Krishna devotee (who splits his time between India and New Jersey!!).

The whole event was moving because her devotion to people and the people’s devotion to her felt so strong. It was all around me.

Okay, and now the hug.

It went like this: Everyone received a token upon arrival and we were called by category to line up. You were ushered down an aisle a la musical chairs, moving one chair ahead each time a person was hugged. There was a team of maybe six people around Amma the whole time. It looked as if one woman was solely in charge of massaging Amma while she hugged. This part did not come as a surprise as I understand Amma hugs for upwards of 12 hours straight with one solitary break! The other members of her pit crew were responsible for taking your bag and/or your glasses, they helped you wipe down your face, and they positioned you on your knees with your arms outspread ready for your turn. As soon as the man ahead of me hugged Amma he was tossed out of the ring and I was hurried into place– thrust into her arms!

To get my hug and experience all that is Amma I showed up at the Manhattan Center at 5:30 PM on Wednesday. By the time I received my hug and hit the subway it was 1 AM.  It was a wonderful and awe inspiring experience just to be in the presence of her devotees.  Everyone’s experience with her is unique and personal. Amma is at once a spirtual leader, a humanitarian and a brand (think Newman’s Own on steroids). She’s a one of a kind do-gooder, and she smells amazing!  If you’ve ever hugged her, you’d understand!

If you want to learn more about Amma watch this short from ABC’s 20/20 – still not enough? A simple “Amma” search on YouTube is guaranteed to provide countless Amma related video.

Learn more straight from the source. www.amma.org.

Other beautiful Amma photos by Jennifer Esperanza


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