Yantra Yoga Lecture at the Rubin Museum of Art: Review
I absolutely love the Rubin Museum of Art here in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood. It is my new favorite place in New York City.
Recently, I went to go see the Bodies in Balance: The Art of Tibetan Medicine there. I read about the exhibit in the New York Times, and, being a Buddhist who is interested in yoga, Chinese medicine, martial arts, and Eastern philosophy in general, I went to the exhibit. Needless to say, it was astounding!
And so I signed up for the mailing list for the museum and learned about this summer’s series of workshops and lectures focused on Tibetan healing and medicine. I excitedly got tickets for the July 9th lecture on the Health Benefits of Yantra Yoga. I had never heard of Yantra yoga and I have been practicing yoga since the 1970s.
I got dressed up and went to the lecture. The space at the museum was beautifully set up — I enjoyed a classical Indian band playing on the floor level as I headed downstairs toward the lecture hall. I got my seat next to a bunch of professor types and yoga heads (I was probably the only person in the room who lifts weights).
We were greeted by the teacher — a Tibetan Lama (priest) — in full orange robes and a rust-colored skirt, and his beautiful Russian assistant wearing a super-cute Asian-style outfit.
One of the museum curators introduced the topic and then Lama Lobsang Palden, the teacher, rang a bell, and blew a horn and greeted us. He began his lecture by briefing us on his background: Like Yantra yoga, Lobsang was born in Tibet. During his lifetime, he had to flee to Nepal because of international turmoil. Yantra Yoga is a 500-year-old style of yoga, he explained. It was kept secret from the West for all of this time.
Next, it came time for a demonstration. As it turns out, one of the Lamas who teaches Yantra yoga did a mediation and came to the conclusion that it was OK to teach this style of yoga to the world. I suspect the reason may not be so spiritual, there is a ton of money in teaching yoga these days.
There is nothing wrong with this style of yoga as many people have asked my why it was kept secret. In Asia there are many cultural reasons for keep such things secret. Remember, Bruce Lee was one of the first Chinese immigrants to teach martial arts to Westerners, and many other Chinese hated him for it. He got into tons of trouble with his community of origin over bringing martial arts out of the East and into the West.
Yantra yoga involves a whole set of mental meditation. Lama Lobsang was very clear, too, about the mental process and mediation being the most important part of this yoga. “Do not just do this as exercise,” he warned.
This beautiful form of yoga combines martial arts-like moves, some movement mediation, pressure points, and lots of heavy, purposeful breathing. It was not an easy, gently yoga style like Hatha. Rather, it was a hard yoga style like Vinyasa. There were floor moves and standing moves and the practice of breathing through one side of the face that made it challenging. The standing moves included tree and triangle poses with circular arm movements that evoked Tai Chi.
Each move came with a mental process, one move got rid of jealousy, one anger, one brought in positive energy.
It seemed like you would feel great after taking a whole class.
Lama Lobsang also told us about herbs and diet in Tibetan medicine and offered a story about how he conquered ear infections with herbs and meditation. He also gave a good small talk on spirituality.
There is not a lot of information about Yantra yoga out there yet but Lama Lobsang is working on a book and DVD. I signed up to get notified as soon as they are produced.
Lama Lobsang greeted everyone at the lecture afterward and was just an amazingly kind, wonderful, and warm-spirited man.
You can find out more about Lama Lobsang on his website http://www.lamalobsang.com
This was an amazingly informative lecture in a beautiful space and a good time as well. I think I will benefit from attending this lecture for years to come.
The “Bodies in Balance” workshop series events will be going all summer. I highly recommend them to anyone. You can find out more about the Rubin Museum’s Bodies in Balance programs at rubinmuseum.org.