Whereas Sharon Gannon had prodded her students to go past what you think you can do, Charles emphasized the importance of stretching within ones limits. Dont strain, he repeated, beaming a permanent smile -- but not one of those hologram smiles you see on NY1 anchors. Relax. Find your strength through your breath. His approach, though lacking the electric exuberance of Jivamuktis, made me feel safe. I even managed to keep up with two thirds of the postures.
Afterward, Charles, a 26-year-old Jivamukti defector, told me hed grown up on an ashram in Iowa and learned yoga from his grandparents. Yoga is his life, yet at no point in the class did he attempt to make it mine -- or anyone elses, for that matter. No sanctimonious spiritualism, no philosophical grandstanding. I never push anybody to become spiritual, Finger says. Pushing a person into spirituality will push them into a cult and push them into an ism.
To the Jivamuktans, who pride themselves on their spiritual schooling even more than the physical experience, such Finger-pointing is for lightweights. The way Gannon sees it, until Jivamukti came along, teachers would just offer some exercises to do without saying anything about the history of those exercises or how they would benefit their students.
Thats withholding information and asking money for it, she adds. Now theyre all starting to copy us: Wed better start chanting oms and reading from the books.
Gannon and Life credit Jivamukti for the resurgence of yogas popularity in the spiritual wasteland of the nineties. Mark Becker, who closed his studio in 1988 but plans to reopen this year, sees something broader stirring. Whats happening now is that as baby-boomers are getting older theyre feeling their own mortality, says the holistic-health entrepreneur, who currently runs New Life Expo, a huge metaphysics symposium-cum-carnival. As for the younger generation, they realize theres a void. Its like the Dylan song: They know something is happening but they dont know what it is. So theyre apt to seek new things.
Willem Dafoe says he doesnt care why yoga is popular. Whats more interesting, he wonders, is whether it continues to grow or whether it will pass, as some superficial thing that once had cachet at a cocktail party.
Well, who knows?
It wasnt until I saw Sting walk out on stage and do this, says Life, closing his palms together in silent prayer, that I thought: If only we could get him to do that more often, it would be a really good thing for the whole world. By the time this issue hits the stands, Sting, Dafoe, and friends will have performed at the new Jivamukti centers strictly no-shoes party, for which Donna Karan donated socks -- an idea that was born when a publicist mused about whether le beau monde could seriously be expected to walk around in bare feet.