Yoga in the City

I’m sitting on the Bolt Bus heading down to Philly after a totally fun weekend in NYC visiting a dear friend.  I’ve never been a big city kind of girl, but this trip sort of made me wish I lived in Manhattan.  I stayed at my friend’s apartment near NYU which is in the most perfect location, IMO.  Each day I walked and walked for hours just soaking up the city – window shopping, popping in for a juice somewhere or to browse in one of the many perfect boutiques of Soho, Nolita and beyond.  I also had some great playtime with my friend’s scrumptious kids at the Union Square Playground which is epic by the way.

The veg food in the city is outrageously awesome too.  So many great choices.  One of the culinary highlights of my visit was this all veg Korean restaurant called Hangawi.  It is a calm traditional-feeling Asian oasis in the middle of Murray Hill.  I would highly recommend it – Korean food is so light and delicious with subtle flavors and perfectly steamed vegetables. Yum.

Even though all of the food I consumed this weekend was superb (Gobo, Organic Alley juices, Spring Street Natural, Dean and Deluca, spring greens delivered from Fresh Direct, the Verdure bar at Eataly – omg so amazing), I am trying to write about yoga here.  This is a “yoga” blog, right?

Well, it’s been just over a month since I returned from India and 2 months since I finished the Mysore Intensive with DG.  In these 2 months I’ve been sick sick sick and then injured, therefore practice has been pretty much non-existent/uber-modifed/really irregular.  And that’s OK, for now.  But that said, even though I was trying to take a hiatus from the mat after the big bang in my left knee, I couldn’t be in NYC, land of all things yoga, and not go to at least one class (ok, make that 3 classes)!

I knew I had to play it safe since my knee injury prevents me from attempting virasana, half-lotus or anything too deep on the left side.  So that meant no Dharma Mittra class….sadness…will have to wait for the next trip…. also I didn’t want to try any intense Vinyasa classes where I wouldn’t really know what to expect next. So, what I ended up doing was a Saturday evening 90 minute class at the Jivamukti Center on Broadway and it was great!  The center itself is beautiful –  a number of separate studios each with a beautiful altar, a vegan cafe and shop and spacious common areas. Plus they gave me the class for free since it was the first time I practiced there – score!

I like Jivamukti classes.  I think it’s great how they emphasize yogic philosophy, meditation and chanting.  It’s much more holistic and balanced than the majority of popular yoga out there.  And unlike a lot of traditional Ashtangis, I actually really enjoy having music in a led class.  In terms of asana and sequence, Jivamukti kind of just rips off Ashtanga, but it’s the most enjoyable pseudo-Ashtanga class out there.  I like going to a Jivamukti class when I want to move and flow, but I don’t want to work, you know? There’ are not a lot of hard poses and not hundreds of vinyasas (like Primary Series) nor drop-backs or any back-breakers like kapo.

I have to say that in the beginning of this class and even before it started there was fair amount of gooey woo-woo yoga-talk, but this gives me a greater understanding about what people on EJ and other blogs are referring to when they talk about their yoga “kulas”.  In our little Ashtanga world, that kind of heart-gushy talk doesn’t really fly.  I guess we just don’t talk to each other that much…haha.  But, I don’t mind it, I enjoy witnessing other yoga scenes with the eye of an anthropologist, observing what there is to observe and then happily returning to my structured little world of Mysore practice.

And so, the next morning I walked a few blocks in the quiet cobbled Soho streets to the beautiful Broome Street Temple to practice with Eddie Stern. It’s an amazing place, a legitimate Hindu temple with Ganesha as the presiding deity, but with murtis of Radha-Krsna, Shiva and Durga as well.  This shala is full of amazing (and gorgeous) yoga practitioners.  I felt a bit pathetic with my gimpy modified practice, but even so it was such a pleasure just to be able to practice at all and especially in such a special sacred space!

This was my first time practicing with Eddie.  He’s simultaneously very serious and light-hearted, an attitude which I really admire and have noticed consistently in other longtime yoga practitioners.  He gave me some very nice adjustments and then helped with my dropbacks (which were sloppy and tight after that long hiatus).  I went back again this morning for practice.  I went in the mid-morning and it was quieter than on Sunday but also warmer from the hours of tapas-building that had preceded my arrival.  After a Marichi-A adjustment he looked at me and said, “Hmmn, Sanskrit on your neck and Bjork on your arm” (referring to my tattoos) and then chuckled and nodded.  It made me smile and feel very silly.

After these classes I was feeling quite sore and stiff (it’s always hard coming back to Ashtanga….beats me every time) so I went over to the East Village to a little Japanese bodywork place and had this strong little lady pound on me for an hour and a half.  It was divine.

Now I’m almost in Philly and will be reunited with my Fiance Yogi in moments!  Yippee!  We rarely ever travel separately and I really have missed him!  Tomorrow I will be practicing with DG – I’m psyched for that because I know he will be able to give me some good practice advice regarding my injury.

That’s all for now,

Love Frances

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