When I was 5ish, in the mid 70’s, my mother, Viva, took me to meet Swami Muktananda. According to her, she had been living in the Ashram for about a week and every time she tried to leave, to return home to me (I guess I was with my dad, the video artist, Michel Auder), a violent shock of Shakti Pat would prevent her from getting to the front door...like, just as she was about to walk out, she was thrown to all fours by an invisible force and began to roar like a lion. Muktananda finally freed her from the rapture and told her to bring me ti him. She did. You could say this was my “initiation” into yoga.
I say this now, in hindsight.
In the 80’s my mother hosted a couple of Kirtan nights in our apartment in the Chelsea Hotel and once in a while we’d go over to a community center and get popped on the head by Gurumayi’s peacock feather. We’d chant Jyota Se Jyota Jagavo around the house, following along with a Siddah Yoga cassette tape, but I never credited this exposure my own yoga practice.
My own practice started in 1989 when my friend, Lynn, brought me to a class at Jivamukti on 2nd ave between 9th and 10th streets. What a magical time in the East Village. Purple and Teal walls, Magical Sharon Gannon in black eyeliner and long braids with ribbons threaded through, Van Morrison playing, yoga mats on huge oriental rugs. Your yoga teacher didn't quit her corporate job to become a yoga teacher...she always was a yoga teacher. Teacher trainings didn't exist and China Gel was just China Gel, not “Jivamukti China Gel (Dye-Free!)”.
Oh, I know, everyone thinks their time was the best. But this period of time actually was the best. Where’d you get leggings? You just had some in a drawer and you threw them on with a t-shirt and a bra. You had hairy armpits and a bush but that didn't mean you were brave. After class you’d chant with KD and 5 other people and then go have a cigarette on your way to Dojo for a non-local-not-farm-to-table mushy veggie burger. The only dude taking pictures of himself doing asanas was Dharma Mitra. Back then, the word “ambassador” meant: an accredited diplomat sent by a country as its official representative to a foreign country. Fast forward 25 years and you can buy a branding Iron in Williamsburg to burn the LuluLemon icon on your ass if you decide to take up naked yoga.
I’ve been married for 20 years--a few years more than I’ve been teaching -- and I’ve got a couple of kids. I can’t help thinking: would the Dalai Lama be able to actualize the material if he were suddenly forced to birth & nurse children, raise those same children (no nanny allowed), take care of a partner (no third allowed in the “marriage” for distraction), keep house (no housekeeper), cook, and go to work?
More soon. Until then, reconsider branding yourself...and remember: it might not look so good when you are in your 90's.