The Latest Devolution of Yoga in America: Wine and Yoga
- As if Yoga in America was not already extremely distorted, here is
the latest devolution: Wine and Yoga, as described in a current New
York Times article.
See also the article:
MODERN VERSUS TRADITIONAL YOGA
By Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati
DAYS OF WINE AND YOGA
By Cindy Price
New York Times
December 15, 2006
On the one hand, there is Angela Gargano, a yoga instructor in
Madison, Wis., who doesn't quite see what the big deal is.
"Yoga can be very serious, sure, but why not have it be really fun?"
she said, shrugging off concerns that yoga purists might raise an
eyebrow at her latest venture yoga-and-wine retreats.
On the other hand, there are those like Nancy Elkes, a New York-based
yoga trainer and instructor who doesn't necessarily condemn drinking
she just isn't so sure it goes with yoga.
"After a yoga class," she said, "the last thing you're thinking about
getting is a drink."
Nonetheless, when Ms. Gargano, who owns Bliss Flow Yoga in Madison,
teamed up with David Romanelli, Yahoo's Mind/Body columnist, last
August to stage a weekend-long yoga-and-wine retreat at the Fairmont
Mission Inn and Spa in Sonoma, Calif., it was successful enough for
Mr. Romanelli to schedule a lineup of seminars across the country for
2007. Tomorrow, Ms. Gargano will take the idea international with a
retreat in Barcelona. And next year DeLoach Vineyards, in Sonoma
County, will hold its own series of yoga-and-wine retreats.
For Ms. Gargano, the idea was sparked when Mr. Romanelli held one of
his popular yoga-and-chocolate seminars at her Madison studio. Ms.
Gargano loved pairing yoga with something unconventional and was
eager to try a spinoff. When she told Mr. Romanelli about her
background in wine, the two decided to team up.
"I was struck by the similarities between the two," said Ms. Gargano,
who was helping her Sicilian father choose wines for the family's
restaurant by the age of 16. "Which sounds kind of funny, but both
yoga and wine can be very intimidating to people. I noticed yoga
students coming in and saying, `I'm not quite sure where to get
started with this.' " It was a concern she'd heard before, while
working as a wine buyer and sommelier in San Francisco.
But while the notion of combining yoga with another facet of American
pop culture is nothing new Mr. Romanelli, in fact, is currently
creating a "Yoga + ___" concept series with Yahoo.com serious yogis
may draw the line at wine.
"Yogis tend to think the drug is the problem," Ms. Elkes said. "But
then what about Tylenol? Refined sugar? Caffeine? At some point, one
has to say, O.K., if you want a glass of wine, but I don't think it
should necessarily go in conjunction with yoga."
Especially, she pointed out, if you're doing something like Kundalini
yoga, an intensely meditative form of stretching that many Americans
closely associate with the Sikh religion though, for the record,
many Sikhs would argue that their religion and yoga are not as
closely intertwined as Westerners believe. Nevertheless, Sikhs who
have undergone the Amrit ceremony are instructed against using
tobacco, alcohol or any other form of intoxicants.
"Kundalini does things to balance your nervous system," Ms. Elkes
said. "And then for you to go do something that changes that? It's
going to affect your nervous system after you've done all this work
to balance yourself. You'll soon find out that drinking and Kundalini
don't go well together."
That sentiment is shared by the popular Web site Holistic Online,
which states in no uncertain terms: "Yogis do not touch alcohol,
since they consider it to lower the vibrations of their subtle body
(astral body). This defeats the purpose of yoga, which is to increase
the vibrational level so they can gradually unfold their Higher Self."
But for Rachel Cimino, a Californian who has practiced with Sikh
instructors at Los Angeles's star-studded yoga empire, Golden Bridge
Yoga, the deviation from ritual isn't a deal-breaker.
"Yoga has become so American, and we have this cafeteria attitude of
picking and choosing what we like," Ms. Cimino said. "If you were
very serious, it would definitely interfere with being a yogi. The
best time to do yoga is at twilight, from 3 to 5:30 in the morning,
when your energy is most powerful. And if you're hung over, you're
altering your chemistry."
But, she added, "if you are doing yoga a few times a week, you can
probably throw down a few glasses of wine. I guarantee that 80
percent of the people that do this also go tear it up."
For Ravi Hari Kaur Khalsa, a 20-year Kundalini veteran who teaches at
the New York Open Center, the key to pairing wine and yoga is
moderation. "I don't think we can be rigid and across-the-board about
these things. I'm hoping that the instructors running these places
are responsible, and I trust that they are," she said.
"Now, will I condone drinking and doing yoga?" she said. "Absolutely
not. I would never want to teach someone drunk; that's just
dangerous. But what is wrong with people sitting out in the vineyard
and enjoying themselves? There's a lot of suffering in the world, and
people have a right to live their life. It's a tough world."
For her part, Rosemary Garrison, the San Francisco-based instructor
who will lead the DeLoach retreats, thinks moderation is the key as
well. The retreats will feature vegetarian meals from the 18,000-
square-foot organic garden, cooking classes and twice-daily yoga
sessions. The wine poured for dinner will come from DeLoach's own
vineyard, in the Russian River Valley.
"You could get five yogis in a room, and every one would have an
opinion on everything," she said. And though she plans to tailor her
classes to the skill level of the participants, she intends to focus
on her area of training, vinyasa yoga a fairly vigorous form of
yoga that she maintains does not prohibit alcohol.
"I certainly would not want to say that vinyasa yogis are all
lushes," Ms. Garrison said. "But in the traditions I've practiced,
alcohol is not off-limits.
"Still," she added, "I don't imagine it's going to be the kind of
thing where people are drinking to get drunk, but more about enjoying
the beauty of the wine and the setting, and having a weekend of
healthy indulgence. Have a glass of wine, enjoy your night, get a
good night's sleep and come to a really cleansing, vigorous practice
the next morning. I mean, that's what a lot of my students here in
San Francisco do anyways that's their weekend."
AT Mr. Romanelli and Ms. Gargano's retreat last summer, guests didn't
shy away from indulgence when they kicked off the weekend with a five-
course dinner, with wine, at a local restaurant.
"Yoga's something that is spiritual to me whether I play Bob Marley
when I'm doing it or not," Ms. Gargano said. "I feel like we've lost
the spiritual connection to the land that food and wine grows on, and
I think anything that can bring us closer to that is good. If someone
thinks that's unorthodox, that's fine and there's room for a lot of
different things within the world of yoga.
"We've gotten really far away from our food sources," she said. "And
that was what was nice about the retreat getting people to really
connect to the wine. If you go to a wine bar, that's one thing. But
if you stand there in the vineyard with the people laboring to make
this wine, it just really resonates a lot more."
With that in mind, Mr. Romanelli and Ms. Gargano's goal was to
integrate their two subjects fluidly rather than have them coexist in
the same weekend. For instance, her grounding-down class was followed
with a vineyard tour, where they talked about how the vine growing in
the earth affects the taste of the wine.
"We tried to bring it all together," Ms. Gargano said, "so that
practicing yoga completely brings you into the moment so that you can
appreciate one of life's great pleasures, which is wine."
But will American yogis buy it? "Let me put it this way," Ms. Cimino
said, when told about the coming retreats. "If they do have a wine
retreat somewhere in Northern California, sign me up. I want to go."