This past weekend I had the pleasure of teaching a yoga workshop in New York City at The Shala in Greenwich Village, on Broadway between 11th and 12th. The girls and I stayed with our friend Zini, who has a lovely and spacious apartment two blocks from The Shala. We flew the red-eye on Thursday night and arrived at JFK at 5am on Friday morning, took a town car into Manhattan to Zini’s place and immediately crashed out for a few hours. When we awoke Zini had assembled her “minions” to clean and organize the apartment and hang some art. The girls and I went out to lunch and returned to find the apartment transformed into an art gallery. A few minutes before 4, I left Zini’s and took the short walk over to The Shala to teach a first series class billed as “The Physics of Asana”. My friends Barbara and Kristin, owners of The Shala, slightly oversold the class and a few people ended up in the lobby. With 55 people mat to mat the room became sauna-like and we all experienced the Great Melt Down. I haven’t been to New York for 7 or 8 years, so all my jokes seemed fresh and the students were polite enough to laugh in all the right places. At 6:30 we made a transition from the Physics of Asana to the Metaphysics of Asana when I broke out my Matrushka (Russian nestling dolls) to represent the Pancha Koshas and offered some reflections on my first experience of Ashtanga Yoga and the great Epiphany it produced. A lot of people showed up to listen to my theories about how the practice penetrates all the different Koshas--I added the disclaimer that my ideas shouldn’t necessarily be confused with Truth. Afterwards I fed my Annamaya Kosha New York style, thin crust pizza.
My wife Carol is a foodie, so she always looks forward to trips to New York as an opportunity to engage in fine dining. Saturday night our friend Giorgia made a reservation at an Italian place called Rana (right across the street from the Google building). The place was amazing—delicious, homemade pasta, garden fresh tricolore salad, polenta fries, chocolate ravioli--all washed down with a delicious Ligurian White. We tried our best to walk it off, but there was a little fog to cut through Sunday morning before I went to teach my last two yoga classes. Zini was gracious enough to host a dinner party on Sunday and allow us to invite some of our special friends. It was a great treat to visit with people we don’t get to see very often. Eddie Stern told me all about his recent trip to Mysore for Sharath’s house blessing ceremony. Kimberly Flynn reminded me of how she first hooked me up with Krishna Das 20 years ago, and how we turned out to be “cut from the same cloth.” KD and I looked down and noticed we were both wearing plaid shirts. Once again, KD and I talked about doing a retreat together. Leslie Kaminoff told stories of how Derek Ireland and his partner Radha used to drive from Lemon Grove to Los Angeles to take his yoga classes when he was running the Shivananda Yoga Center back in the 70’s, and then how Derek was introduced to ashtanga yoga in a shvitz by Norman Allen in the 80’s. The food, the people and the conversations were all great. Monday morning we took the subway to the upper eastside to see our old friends Elliot and Barbara Wagner. Elliot was a devoted yoga student 25 years ago and used to drive an hour each way from Newport Beach to see me when Orange County was still the “Dead Zone” of yoga. Elliot came to my second series class on Sunday and thanked me for reminding him how difficult it is. After our visit, we walked over to Central Park and paid our last homage to NYC. The weekend flew by and there were a lot of things we didn’t get around to doing—I guess we’ll have to go back.