The Jivamukti Yoga studio in NYC closes its doors on December 22. Here, dedicated students share their stories of the iconic studio that changed the face of yoga.
As long as there has been a New York City, there has been a Jivamukti, at least for me. When I first stepped off the plane in 1997 from California, hoping to penetrate the New York theater world, my dancer friend Kelly told me I had to go to a class. “It’s this amazing yoga studio,” she told me, “All the teachers are great, but you have to take class with David or Sharon.” David Life and Sharon Gannon, I soon learned, were the studio’s founders. But what did Jivamukti mean? “Liberation in this lifetime,” Kelly responded.
The Second Avenue studio was inconspicuous on the outside, perched beside a Thai restaurant and jazz club called Purple Basil, but once you climbed the rickety steps to the second floor, you were hit by a waft of Nag Champa incense and the glow from Christmas lights bedecking images of saints, sadhus, and deities. A picture of Gandhi floated over a picture of Paramahansa Yogananda, whose image shared space with images of John Lennon, Mother Teresa, and Bob Dylan, and assorted Indian mystics, all wreathed in garlands atop a massive altar. This festive atmosphere was laden with a deeper meaning; the collective energy of devotion and meditation practically dripped off the fixtures.
The first time I visited, Kelly and I nudged through the throng of sweaty hipsters at the front desk, passing Willem Defoe as we purchased our classes and rented our mats, then made our way into the packed main studio. I felt like …