In-person workshops/pranayama course

After 18 months of only teaching online, I held my first in-person workshop in my home studio this past weekend. The three-dimensional space is very different. It was exciting to see people working ‘together’ again, although I feel a sincere connection is happening in my online classes. People do inspire and support each other on many levels in person. I plan to hold these regularly. In fact, the next scheduled workshops are October 23 and 30 at 3pm. If you are in the area, vaccinated, and have a year or two at least of Iyengar Yoga experience, you should come. Contact me for more information.

In other news, I am hosting an online series that focuses on Pranayama – specifically Light on Pranayama. We will cover a range of material over six weeks, on Tuesdays at 9am, beginning on 10/19. Those enrolled in the series will also receive links to recordings.

My other online classes continue as usual for the rest of the fall.

FALL NEWS

Fall is almost here. I keep postponing making grand fall announcements, and I comfort myself by saying, “It’s not _really_ fall yet” – of course, I’m the only one in on the conversation. I mean that literally. My wife tells me she hears me talking to myself a lot.

The Iyengar Institute of New York was on track to reopen in one way, but now it is on track (with much more certainty) to open in a slightly different one. Originally, we were scheduled to go back in the Brooklyn space in August at full capacity, the caveat being that the classes will be hybrid. I have not yet taught hybrid, meaning, in this case, that the class is both for live students in the room and students online simultaneously. I am not excited about the idea, but originally planned to do it because, well, it gives some people a chance to take class in person. I don’t think it’s ideal. The people in the room are likely to receive less or no adjustments or prop-specific setups that the people watching online cannot accommodate. But more to the point: the people at home are likely to get a lot less attention. More recently, concern over variants lead the Institute to revise the reopening plan to be strictly masked (including teachers) with a limit of 12 students in person per class. Given that many of the students who take class with me on my regular Friday class through IYAGNY are from out of state, or live far enough away that they wouldn’t likely make the trip, it didn’t seem worth it at this time to change formats. That said, I am teaching a Beginners Series for students new to Iyengar Yoga at the Iyengar Institute of Brooklyn. The class is the first three Saturdays in November. Capacity is limited to 12 in-person, or you can take it online. I agreed to this one because I think that brand new students will feel more confident with some in-person classes to get them going. These classes have to be booked through the Institute’s website, but it hasn’t been listed at the time I am writing this.

My online schedule is staying pretty much the same for now, though I may add one early morning class or one early evening class later this fall. I am also hosting (planning to, anyway) a couple of in-person workshops in my own space. These workshops have a maximum capacity of five students and are, as of now, completely booked. I plan to host them monthly, if possible. If this interests you, and you’d like to be waitlisted or apprised of future such gatherings, please contact me. My home studio is close to the Church Ave B/Q station in Brooklyn. I am also teaching vaccinated students privately in person, as well as online.

In short, yoga continues boldly and consistently as we move into what appears to be more uncertainty. I’m blessed by the continued support of my students. Thanks for visiting.

Archived Classes for Rent

I’ve got a rapidly-growing, easily-accessed archive of classes going back for several months. There are some really nice sequences there, in case you are looking for some specific things to practice.

If you sign up for a live class, and can’t make it, I can usually give you access to the recording shortly afterward, for a few days. Just let me know.

Next Steps

Early in the pandemic, the Iyengar Institute of New York moved classes online. Like everyone else, the roughly 40-person faculty assumed it would be a few weeks without teaching in person. Maybe a month. But you know what happened.

I bought equipment. Classes took on more cohesion. We found a way to make it work. That is to say: online classes do work, and far better than expected. My Friday night class roster included new friends abroad in places like Singapore, Japan, and the Philippines, as well as locals who I had met in person before then pandemic.

Now, well over a year into this new reality, online teaching and studying has become central in my life. Iyengar Yoga classes are expressly designed to foster an independent home practice, and studying with a teacher of your choice in your home is a fantastic place to start. I’ve seen my own students thrive, take risks, and really customize the work for their own unique situations. I feel that my own studies have flourished, with access to teachers outside of my local area.

With in-person classes returning as a choice, I intend to begin by offering some in-person workshops in my own space in the South Prospect Park area of Brooklyn. I would say my target would be September at the latest, but I hope to have something sooner.

low and slow

Cooking many meals per week is a cornerstone of our household since my wife and I began living together. During this pandemic, we cook most meals we eat. Cook enough and you start to see your patterns. Now many months into this new routine, I observed a tendency to treat vegetables the same ways. Onions always cooked on the hotter side with a lot of color. Brussels sprouts? Roasted and charred. A lot of heat can be great, but I was surprised the other day when I did the onions at a more medium-low heat with little color. The chopped garlic was fragrant and danced around in the pan just for a while before the brussels sprouts went in. I used a generous amount of broth and simmered them for about 12 minutes. The result was a different taste. There were sweet tones from cooking longer and with a more gentle intensity.

My postural practice went through a similar revision this fall. When that lump below my ear turned out to be a tumor in my parotid gland, I had to get a somewhat invasive surgery with a recovery period. My movements, particularly for the first two weeks, were very limited. But with props and creativity, I was able to do a lot. Forward extensions with my head resting became a source of comfort. Because I was very nervous leading up to the surgery, there was a lot to let go of. Suffice it to say, now 6 weeks or so out of surgery, I’m aware of the balance that I need to strike as I add more ‘heat’ to the practice. Strong poses, like for instance parsvakonasana, can still be cooked low and slow. Reflective action and breath awareness make the work actually yoga for me – at the risk of sounding very cliche.

If you are stuck at home with some time and wondering what to practice, try practicing few poses with a careful attention to your feelings in each pose. The restorative poses, such as supta baddha konasana, are certainly the easiest ones to do this with. But then I’m confident you can take that into whatever you do, and whatever you want to work on. Try it. Otherwise, in my experience, we can do active postures with too rigorous a mindset and just get stuck in measuring physical progress (“can I touch my toes/ bind/ come up with straight legs”). Those things have their place; it’s hard to be ‘quiet’ in head balance if you cannot execute it. But if you can see the refinements we make as a way in which to go deeper ‘inside’ and more effectively reflect, the experience is very different.

Back from Pune

I had an excellent month studying at the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute in Pune. My schedule included classes with Abhijata, Raya, Rajlaxmi, and many other fine instructors.

Confusing and Amazing

A discipline like yoga humbles the earnest practitioner to such a degree that the idea of mastery is a distant dream – a point B to keep us going. In one sense, this is just perfect, as we should always see ourself as at point A. And yet. During a recent class at the Iyengar Institute of New York, teacher Kevin Gardiner said, “This work is intermediate/advanced – it isn’t how you teach a beginner, nor is it how a beginner should practice.” He then went on to discuss how Iyengar himself practiced differently than his students. I don’t think Mr. Gardiner meant that as a lofty, divisive statement. I took it to mean that there was a depth Iyengar was practicing toward that required he treat his movements and actions in a more refined manner, and that it was the natural result of all his prior work.
In my teaching, I’m often working with students to create a clear framework. In one sense, the idea of mastery is akin to fine motor skills developing in a child – i.e. they have ‘mastered’ the use of their hands when they can pick things up, open doors, etc. When a beginner struggles with the physical movement of Trikonasana, that period of wrestling with the shape is essential to learning. Once we are established in the idea of Trikonasana, it makes room for another level of observation and experience. It doesn’t in any way say that the pose is finished or perfected, it just allows the work to occur on another level – because it can and, I think Mr. Gardiner, and Mr Iyengar, in fact, would say because it must.

Suffice it to say, one struggles to find accurate or effective wording to convey this. Mr. Gardiner lead us through familiar postures, such as Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose), imbued with a distinct depth of detail in the abdomen, frontal pelvis and various parts of the hand. The work of the hand made a familiar movement, that I had done literally thousands of times, feel completely different. We tell a beginner to stretch their arms, but this approach made the arms feel alert yet more relaxed. It was confusing and amazing.

And so I left the room both confused and amazed, ever more aware of the work needed to be done. Mastery on a very superficial level might mean having a big picture idea of what a posture is. It makes room for another point A, and an ever more wonderfully distant point B.