This past weekend I taught a workshop in Las Vegas. It seems like an unlikely place for a yoga event, but I thought it might be fun to combine some work with a little family vacation. I was last there for a Grateful Dead show in 1994 when my old buddy Larry Schultz was teaching yoga to the group and arranged backstage passes for a friend and me. We got a chance to ride in the van to the show with some of the band members, and talked to Mickey Hart about yoga—according to Larry, he liked talking about it more than doing it. It was a big venue—UNLV stadium-- and there were close to 40,000 people there for the show, which included Stevie Winwood and Traffic. The Dead had played the same venue a couple of years before with Sting, who encouraged them to try yoga. My most vivid memory is the strange juxtaposition of 40,000 long haired, tie-dyed, stoned Dead Heads against the backdrop of the neon jungle that is the Las Vegas Strip.
In recent years, “Sin City” has become a more “family friendly” place so I decided to take my family with me. My wife, Carol, did a lot of research about the various hotel options and all the different shows we could see. We settled on the Venetian, a four star hotel built in the style of renaissance Venice, complete with beautiful domed ceilings covered with art, a grand canal with gondoliers, and a replica of St. Mark’s Square—where it is perpetual dusk due to the painted sky and clouds which are tinted with hints of pink and orange. There are many fine restaurants to choose from, including one inspired by the famous Italian chef, Mario Batali and another by Thomas Keller, of French Laundry fame. As we were checking into our room we were offered an upgrade to a suite with many amenities at the adjacent Palazzo Hotel, for just a pittance more per night. We decided to go for it. It was a lovely room on the 25th floor, overlooking the Treasure Island Pirate Show across the street. Friday night, while I was teaching, the girls went to see the Blue Man Group at the Venetian—Leela loved it. Saturday morning we had breakfast at Bouchon—the Thomas Keller place. It was pricey, but good (I had the quiche). After a three-hour break from eating to teach a yoga class, I rejoined the girls for another gourmet meal at Mario Batali’s place—B & B. We tried to keep it light because after dinner we had tickets for Mystere—the Cirque de Soleil show at Treasure Island—their typical blend of amazing costumes and sets, stunning acrobatics and contortionism, great music and comedy. On Sunday we tried the Grande Lux Café at the Palazzo for breakfast, a beautiful setting and great food. Afterwards, to meet my ride to yoga class in front of the Palazzo, I had to walk through the casino. I felt a little out of place carrying my yoga mat through the smoky maze of gambling venues. After yoga class it was time for more food and entertainment. Sunday night we dined at Sushi Samba, a great Japanese/Peruvian/Brazilian restaurant and then went to see an inspired hip-hop dance troupe called Jabbawockeez at the Monte Carlo. We concluded the evening with gelato in St. Mark’s Square.
Overall, the weekend in Vegas was a study in contrasts. The yoga classes took place on the west side of the city, which seems very normal. I talked to the yoga students about the “looking bird” that lives within us, and the virtues of a simple, disciplined life. Meanwhile, on the other side of town, it was all about the “eating bird.” This morning in practice I felt like a stuffed turkey.
A Valentine from Leonard Cohen, “O troubled dust concealing an undivided love, the Heart beneath is teaching to the broken Heart above.”