Michael and I were deeply thankful to open our wedding day with an Ashtanga Yoga practice.
I knew yoga would be a part of our wedding weekend since we began planning the celebrations almost a year before, but it wasn’t clear how exactly it would fit in – would I teach? Would I do my own solitary practice? Or offer a guided yoga class for guests taught by someone else? Eventually we decided that, like everything else in our wedding, we wanted the yoga practice to be about relaxing and joining together.
I asked my dear friend and colleague Shanna White to teach an open level class for anyone who wanted to practice together with us. So, next to family and friends, we rolled out our mats just after sunrise on the deck to move, breathe, chant and sweat along with the sounds of crashing waves.
Shanna’s guidance set the perfect tone for a day of love, union, reflection and relaxation. The class is such a special memory from an absolutely fabulous wedding! I highly recommend taking the time for your yoga practice on any big day, a wedding, holiday or special event – those days when you might think you’re too busy with planning or too excited from the anticipation to stop and breathe for a second are the days you need it most.
Photos by the immensely talentedChristine Hewitt. (I met both Shanna and Christine in Mysore, India, and having them there to teach and take photos was a special and wonderful treat!)
Before yoga, before India, before New York City, I was a dancing, singing, show-tune-loving student and although it seems like a lifetime ago (actual time, about 10 years), I did actually used to be a performer. The first time I brought my boyfriend home to Florida I showed him my theatre photo albums. He’s an international stage performer and musician and we’d always bonded over our mutual love for the arts. He took a few minutes to calculate up and decided that I’d performed in over 400 performances in my “day.”
This is photo was taken in front of that beautiful historic theatrewhere I became who I am. This is the stage where I sang my first solo, performed my first leading lady role, learned to dance, and really, learned to live. I spent nights and weekends here. I worked my first real paying job in the box office. It was just down the street in a small studio where I took my very first yoga class. (And in fact, I taught some of my first yoga classes in the dance studio annex during my first teacher training!) I sweat, I studied and I grew up in this place.
Twelve years ago I performed the role of Chava, one of the sisters, in Fiddler on the Roof for 31 sold out performances (performing for over 15,000 people) and last week I was in Florida to see the magnificent revival of that show. I feel more like an alumna of this theatre than my high school or even my college and know that my experiences there paved the way for my path of yoga to begin and evolve.
By far one of my favorite jobs ever has been assisting Christine Hewitt of Yogic Photos during her asana portrait sessions. She was kind enough to share some of the shots she took while I was at work:
Assisting the beautiful Ainia into Supta Kurmasana.
A crisp, clean shot is all about the little details. Acting as wardrobe for the lovely Elena in Natarajasana.
We drop back with a little help from our friends: helping in urdhva dhanurasana.
Location scouting, lighting and composition testing and bovine monitoring.
Sometimes we decide it’s a good idea for Laila to try bakasana on a cannon. In these cases I’ll be there, just out of frame, to make sure the she doesn’t tumble down (she didn’t and it was a gorgeous shot).
Studio owner Lara of Land Yoga has been chosen to be lululemon Lincoln Square’s newest ambassador and to celebrate we’re featured as the studio of the month! Every Sunday in March you can catch either Lara or I teaching a FREE Sunday Salutations class at the 1928 Broadway location (near 64th street). Class starts at 9:30am sharp – and they fill up so get there early! Last week there were over 35 yogis in the store for my class.
I was also asked by the nice folks down there to be a ‘new product model’ for their February 26th newsletter (which also happens to be my birthday, fun surprise:)) which went out to over 19,000 people on their mailing list. Check out the newsletter, visit the store for some new yoga gear, and come join me for one of my FREE classes, schedule is on my Teaching Schedule page!
It takes me roughy a month to decompress from life in India and settle back in to the peculiar comforts of western life. I love these post-India days. I remember my time in Mysore vividly through my jet lag. It was truly inspiring. As I grocery shop in Harlem at 6am because I can’t sleep, the days seem to swirl together, peppered with the smooth, polished sounds of Sanskrit chanting and the peculiar rhythms of the Indian tabla drums. They burn bright in my memory with Indian sunshine. They were fueled by the crispy masala dosa, and buzzed with the caffeine from sweet chai.
My physical asana practice felt steady, challenging, but surprisingly pain-free.
My boyfriend was able to join me there for the last half of the journey and we bonded over our deep love for the country, zooming through town on a rented scooter, marveling at the perfect chaos of each intersection we somehow survived.
And I started to study the Yoga Sutras with a wonderful teacher. After the talks I’d ride home on the back of Michael’s motorcycle, grateful for the helmet on my head, which seemed to be guarding not only my actual skull, but also my thoughts from spilling out of my ears as they ran wild with philosophical questions, realizations, revelations.
I tried, as my teacher Sharath says he does, to practice yoga 24 hours a day. I’m sure I failed, but I’m sure that doesn’t matter.
I started to examine what it means to “have a practice.” I’ve been bending my body for nearly ten years now. I’ve been dedicated to a spiritual practice for about five. I’ve been trying to seriously apply the principles of a yogic life to my life for about three years.
And I feel small.
I feel like I’m a total beginner.
I feel I know nothing of the depths of practice.
And it’s thrilling.
So I dive deeper.
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali describes Practice as ‘Any effort entered in the direction of restraining the tendencies of the mind,’ and says that practice should be ‘long-termed, continuous and done with dedication (love and respect) to be fruitful.’
In that way the physical asanas start to change the patterning of our outer material body. The yamas and niyamas shape or reshape the way we interact with the world and treat ourselves. As we withdraw our minds from the chatter, we’re practicing feeling the stillness.
And in that way, in anything and everything, in each moment of our day, we can practice.
How do you practice? How do you still the fluctuating tendencies of your mind? Do you do it with love and respect?
I’m just returning to New York from San Francisco where for the past two weeks I’ve been running the first Yogi in Residence yoga class program at the Hotel California. It’s been an amazing and inspiring experience exploring a new city and teaching a new batch of yoga students from all over the world!
I flew in on a Saturday evening and took a cab to the hotel. Although I’d been warned about San Francisco’s unusual summer weather, the foggy, cool city surprised me! I bundled up and met my yoga student from New York, Paula. She was there to share a late dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, which happens to be one of the best vegetarian restaurants in the country, Millennium. Besides being vegetarian, which automatically gets a restaurant points in my book, Millennium has an absolutely delicious, creative menu. I had sweet corn cake, eggplant bruchetta, pistachio-stuffed dates and a glass of wine from their extensive organic selection. Needless to say I slept well that night!
I woke up the next morning in a cozy yellow Hotel California room. After breakfast I went up to the mezzanine level to see my yoga room! The hotel is a beautiful, older building with mahogany details, gilded mirrors and leather club chairs. My yoga room was to be one of the two open rooms on the mezzanine level. The first is a cheery yellow with windows along one wall and an open doorway and then second is red with golden mirrors and a smaller window. After a little experimenting, we decided to use the red room, which was a bit more private with a very warm, strong energy.
Classes started that morning and ran every day for the next two weeks. I welcomed yoga students into the warm, red, mirrored room who ranged from hotel employees to guests, locals to backpackers, college students and expats visiting San Francisco from around the world.
Most of my time was spent on the beginner’s level class, teaching foundations for a focused, meditative asana practice.
One night before class I was in the studio room getting ready when an Indian woman popped her head in to chat. She was visiting from Mumbi and was so happy to see yoga classes offered at her hotel! It really warmed my heart when she told me that even after severe flight delays, jetlag and trying to figure out a strange country, seeing yoga made her feel as if she were right at home. It’s little moments like this that make me long for another visit to India…
About halfway through the two weeks, we headed over to the local Grant Ave lululemon where I’d been invited to do a demonstration in their window to help promote classes. I got set up in some of their new fall gear, hopped on a mat and flowed through an Ashtanga demonstration. I always love doing lululemon demos. The store employees are just some of the most positive, enthusiastic people I’ve ever met! I know I can walk into any store and get a smile.
The most exciting thing for me as my time as yogi in residence was to be in such a yoga-friendly hotel, and how quickly a positive community can start to build. This world is full of lovely, inspiring, warm people if you open your life to them.
I’m very excited to share the August Issue of Yoga Journal magazine with you, which features one of my favorite yoga shots by the incomparable, Christine Hewitt of Yogic Photos. Check me out on page 22 of the issue, which is full of traveling yogi pictures!