Famous for a Reason


I have practiced yoga for a long time. Still, certain asanas (poses) make me feel like an amoeba; others trigger my fear of death. I see my mat as a classroom.

I also see my mat as my space, which is why one of the greatest challenges to my yogic bliss is the inevitable yogini who races in to a packed classroom at the last minute and, instead of quietly taking an open spot on the fringes of the room, smacks her screen-printed Lotus flower mat in the sliver of open space dead center in the room, then, as fifty (on time) yogis readjust, she slaps her props behind her mat... on mine. I move them to hers. She moves them back. I move them again. She moves them back. I -- well, I can do this all day long. I win, of course. But I know how anti-yogic my thoughts are, so do I win, really?

(Yes.)

I have been taking Rodney Yee's class at Yoga Shanti in NYC. Uh-huh. That Rodney Yee. Famous yoga guru and full-on brand.

The first time I went, I was filled with doubts about the celebri-yogi thing. How much Hollywood would there be? How many thousands of push ups would make me feel inadequate (Baron Baptiste) or guru worship (Bikram) would pervade the sweaty, stinky, speedo-sporting room? [An aside, but I once heard a bitchy Bikram teacher adoringly quote Bikdick wisdom as I slid around my mat -- only she was quoting Gandhi and had no idea.] But moving on.

Here's the thing about Rodney Yee. The dude deserves the fame. His sequences are one of a kind, but make perfect physical sense. His cues are clear and just enough. He finds ideal moments to connect the experience on the mat, or with the breath, to your life. He makes it okay to fail, but important to try -- and he NEVER coddles. It's a kumbaya free zone. Once class begins, there is so much physical, mental, and breath involvement, that the other students fade away. (Except the late arriving Lotus flower in front of me who keeps falling over and -- ah fuck, I mean -- om shanti]

The guy is simply the best yoga teacher with whom I've ever had the privilege of studying. [Except the late Pattabhi Jois, but that is a whole other thing.] Damn. I was so ready to bitch about the commercialization of yoga and then, boom, I find true yoga.

The only way I can really explain is this: yesterday, I went to Rodney's class. He incorporated breath in a different way - way more than the old in and out. After an hour of flow, I walked onto the street and realized that my body and breath were in perfect balance. Nothing was overstretched or strained. Nothing. This never happens. I had worked to my maximum, but, apparently, I'd worked correctly, thanks to the hundreds of tiny cues Rodney gave. Again I say, that is the first time in my life I have ever had that sensation after class. Or... ever. It was like a floatation tank without the tank.

Then I went down in the subway and the Sixth Avenue line was running on the Eighth and the train didn't come for 47 minutes and then I had to switch at 34th Street and I could have walked home twice in that time.

But I had a moment.

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