YogaWorks SoHo closing on 9/27

September 9, 2019

YogaWorks has just announced its SoHo studio closure on Sept. 27th to students and teachers alike. While we have heard of a transfer to a much smaller location across the street, we are not yet sure how many teachers and classes will actually be accommodated there.

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Highly recommended book

August 31, 2019

“Utopia For Realists” by Dutch historian Rutger Bregman on basic universal income and more.

How I became a yoga teacher

August 31, 2019

Sometimes people ask me how long I have been practicing yoga for. I am finding this question difficult to answer.

I think the roots of my yoga practice go back to when I was a kid. I used to love climbing trees to be alone, listen to the birds, and have space to think. I used to turn our sofa into a cave that I could sit in and contemplate life. I used to lie awake at night, wondering why my mind couldn’t grasp the concepts of infinity and eternity. Which made me realize that the human mind is limited and that there are things that fall in the category of the unknown. And I was interested in the unknown.

When I was old enough to read, I snatched a book from my mom’s bookshelf that seemed interesting. It was a 70s yoga book by Kareen Zebroff called “The ABC of Yoga”. I looked at all the poses with great attention and read about their benefits. I tried them all out but felt very stiff. I decided that plow pose was my favorite pose, because it gave me an electric sensation in the spine, so I started doing it every day.

When I was a teenager, I felt somewhat disembodied. I had the sense that my essence was like a cloud, or water, always transforming and indefinable. Yet I was caught in this human body, which made me feel like beans in a can. I did not understand why I had to be limited to a body or why I had ended up in one. And I rather wanted to be like a cloud.

In my late teens I started to explore some very free forms of dance and movement, such as contact improvisation. I felt quite shy to express myself through movement, but it also made me feel good. It almost seemed as if through dancing I could find a way to embody myself. I suddenly had a vague dream of becoming a dancer, though I did not at all trust that I had any capacity or talent to do so.

After high school, I explored the visual arts but eventually drifted into a performance art and choreography school that had the objective to educate dance artists rather than just dancers. I completely immersed myself in the exploration of movement and creative physical play over the course of four years. I did not analyze or think much about what I did, but rather took a deep dive into embodied movement and sensations that helped me land in my own body in a way nothing had done before.

I had no interest in studying traditional dance techniques, shapes, or recognizable forms. Rather, I wanted to explore the unknown through movement. I wanted to create new and unconventional ways of moving through the world and find new ways of perceiving. I discovered that body and mind were not two different things, but that they were intimately linked. I was thinking through my body and let my entire body think.

As a dance artist and choreographer, I made art works from movement. I loved to do research on unconventional dance forms, and I loved the artistic process of working with people. I did not love having to operate in the world of art politics and economics where products were valued over process. I had no interest in selling art products. And therefore I started to doubt that I would last long in the world of professional art.

I am an introvert, so performing on stages or even in small intimate settings was never a natural desire for me. But what I came to love about performing was that it required 100% presence. I had to pay attention to every detail, sound, breath, every weight shift. Performing created a heightened state in which the invisible became perceptible. Performing also came with an element of unpredictability and the unknown.

What started to bother me over the years was the fact that while we the dancers were having a deeply embodied experience on stage, the audience would for the most part sit in chairs and look at that which wasn’t to be looked at from the outside but felt from within. And even though we all participated in an event that took place in the present moment, I had no idea how to overcome the gap between the visceral engagement of a body in motion and a spectating body sitting on a chair.

Working with mindful movement also called for more than that: I was fascinated by the world of breath and stillness, contemplation and meditation. I was fascinated by everything that didn’t need to show itself to the outside world.

My continued struggle with having to operate in a product-centered art market awakened my interest for other practices, such as martial arts and yoga. I became intrigued by movement practices with a long-lived tradition, opposed to the contemporary dance scene I was part of, which was always in the process of recreating itself moment to moment.

As I began to immerse myself in yoga, breath, and meditation, I realized that this is a means for people to come together in a participatory and self-empowering context, rather than as spectators. Yoga practice is a tool for creating embodied communities. Yoga practice is a platform for creating togetherness while allowing for introspective reflection of the individual. Yoga practice could also offer the opportunity of collectively holding space for the unknown to simply be. Yoga practice in its many expressions is a means to create the potential for directly experiencing interconnectedness in a fully embodied way.

The entire journey described here has been my personal yoga practice, and it has morphed and shape shifted many times. I deeply value the balancing effects of asana, breathing techniques, and meditation. And I deeply desire to collectively address the many ethical challenges and imbalances we face together on planet earth.

Wendell Berry

May 28, 2019