Yoga Shanti

Bookends and Bandstands

Yoga Shanti is a gloriously beautiful yoga studio in Flatiron — located in a masonic lodge as a matter of fact. This is exactly the sort of whimsical coincidence that compounds my pleasure. The idea that yoga which is the most open and basic of all exercise forms can be embroiled in this bastion of secretive privilege is quite the chuckleworthy scenario. What I love the most is the walls are gold, orange and light teal done by an artist Denise Regan and the ceiling is gold-leaf with gorgeous chandeliers — that are colourful crystals punctuated with hand-blown glass (Chihuly-esque but not quite) — then they have these ceiling fans that remind me of old houses in India — that look like hand-fans. There are details like the Barnes Foundation’s brackets on even the lockers. What a sensational design insight to decorate the yoga studio ceilings so vividly — I mean it makes you want to look up and stretch more — put some heft into the stretches.

I first went there for Urban Zen and then Kundalini yoga with Aaron Teich when we went into the corpse pose I started to see mobile shapes and colours I’d never seen before — I have a retentive visual memory and this was entirely novel — the shapes were oddly shaped — cellular — organic — hairy paramecia — but it was the blues that interrupted my composure — they were pearly but also phosphorescent — trippy in total. All this from breathing and chanting! All highly interesting but I can’t rationalise so many hours on exercise that doesn’t deliver physical outcomes.

Rodney Yee and Colleen Saidman Yee are remarkable teachers — meticulous about process and intent rather than the big winning moves — after class last night I finally decided my new physical goals are to master the backbend and the handstand because what I’m doing now is hopping about at best and barely managing to avoid crumbling into a heap. C&R are so detailed in their description of the body — Colleen’s favourite word is sacrum and Rodney’s favourite word is perineum — these maybe anatomically precise but when one is bent in twisty torment it’s hard to remember what exactly they are and they are kind enough to adjust one.

Last year I decided to get strong and I am pleased with the state of my strength training but I have realised that it has come at the cost of some flexibility and that requires at least as much attention and I can’t be turning to yoga merely as a break from the high-intensity workouts but rather with goals of its own and mine will be to be able to do with ease — backbends and handstands.

These are both exercises that let the body’s blood rush into one’s face — especially the headstand — this increases circulation in the face and pumps nutrients into the skin — I can feel the difference merely when I toss my head down to brush my hair using the Morocco method so I can only imagine this effect is compounded in the headstand.

The backbend I want to do for my shoulders — I have no problem holding a plank or in a bridge pose but have such tight shoulders that I feel will snap when I begin to do a back bend — it maybe an issue of confidence rather than ability for this pose and I feel I should be able to get there sooner.

I know these are worthy goals because when I left the studio last night I felt taller and more open in an effable even-keeled way and noticed the glow while brushing my teeth at night. This is what makes Yoga such a blissy big deal in my welltanschaunng.

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