Tuesday night, after the New York premiere of The Namesake, filmmaker Mira Nair — who was born in India and today divides her time between Manhattan and Uganda, her husband’s home country — will join pal Donna Karan to host a benefit for Nair’s Maisha Film Lab, which trains East African and South Asian filmmakers, and also Chelsea’s Iyengar Yoga Center which both women swear by. (Karan does
Iyengar every morning; Nair goes three times a week on her own and on Sunday with her husband and son.) We talked to them about yoga, relaxation, and competition.
So this press release says you both “find surrender” doing Iyengar.
Karan: People say to me, “Donna, do you ever stop?” And I say, “When I hit the [yoga] mat.” I really go into myself.
Nair: I find the push and pull of resistance and surrender a very important part of my creative work.
Karan: For me, it’s sort of inward and outward at the same time, the availability of being quiet and aware at the same time. There’s so much chaos we live with in our lives.
Are you really able to forget all your phone calls and e-mails when you do yoga?
Karan: That’s why I do it every morning when I get up. People’s heads are down on a computer all day, and we’ve lost our alignment.
So since you two have never actually practiced together, you can’t tell me who’s better.
Nair: You never watch other people do yoga, really.
Isn’t there just a little bit of competitive edge?
Karan: Well, I might look, but I don’t think it’s a comparison.
What’s a serene place for you in New York other than the yoga mat?
Nair: I walk in Riverside Park as many times a week as I can.
Karan: Nature, nature, nature, nature, nature, nature! I live on the park, I live on the water. I need air, I need space! Somebody once told me, “Donna, look at the buildings outside and make believe they’re mountains and you’re skiing down them.”
Donna, what’s your favorite movie of Mira’s?
I just saw The Namesake, and I love it. I love to take the journeys I’ve taken with Mira.
And Mira, have you gotten any fashion tips from Donna?
Nair: One day, Donna, you’re gonna come up and put all your clothes on me.
Karan: I wish I could learn to wrap those saris! —Tim Murphy