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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

our paths were meant to cross

i have to confess that while i always make it a point to write about my yoga adventures, especially when i visit another city, i totally spaced after my trip to boston last year. at that time, i visited three excellent studios and took classes with three equally excellent teachers -- mimi loureiro at 02 yoga south end, david magone at exhale boston, and david vendetti at south boston yoga -- and not a peep about them was posted by me. mea culpa.

when i realized that i'd be visiting boston once again, i decided to visit those studios one more time, not only because i really enjoyed the classes i took, but because i needed to refresh my memory about the teachers and the studios themselves. after all, it's a bit hard to write about something you vaguely remember :(

i planned to be in boston during the boston marathon weekend (otherwise known as the patriot's day holiday weekend for those who choose to ignore the mass of runners who make their way from hopkinton to boston on marathon day... and they're definitely in the minority). i was going to fly in friday night and leave tuesday afternoon, timesharing my time between my daughter (on whose couch i was going to crash while there), my marathon-running friends (one of the rare times when i was in town for a race and was NOT signed up to run it), and my yoga pursuits (but of course!). it was going to be a very busy weekend!

knowing that there will always be kinks in even the most well-planned schedule, i printed out class schedules for those three yoga studios -- o2 yoga boston south end, exhale boston, and south boston yoga -- along with a few more -- 02 yoga somerville, north end yoga, and back bay yoga. i even checked the lululemon boston website to see what activities they had lined up for that weekend. and with it being marathon weekend (especially since the store was conveniently located right by the race expo and the marathon finish line), they had a whole slew of activities, including yoga classes, assisted stretching, massages, and snacks. the lulu at the pru was clearly the place to be... especially since there's no sales tax on clothing in massachusetts! woo hoo! :)

things were immediately thrown off-kilter when my noon flight to boston on american airlines was abruptly canceled right after i checked in. mechanical problems, i was told. since there was no other plane available, we all had to scramble to find seats on later flights. while standing in line at the AA customer service counter, i immediately called a reservations agent to rebook myself. the best she could get me was a seat on the red-eye that night. at that point, i happened to be standing right by the self-serve kiosk, so i printed my boarding pass then ran to the gate of the 3pm flight to see if i could add myself to the wait list. by that time, there were already 20 ahead of me. it wasn't looking good.

~~ saturday ~~

long story short, instead of arriving at 9:30 friday evening, i got into boston at 6:30 saturday morning. since i was already up and about -- barely -- i headed straight for the first class that caught my eye, a 9am class at north end yoga: vinyasa per tutti with studio owners alicia and alessandra...

North End Yoga
256 Hanover Street, 3rd Floor
Boston, MA 02113
(617) 227-YOGA
website: http://www.northendyoga.com/
closest T stop: Haymarket station on the Green and Orange Lines

As the North End unfolds into one of the most sought after neighborhoods in the North East, an ancient discipline has made its way to nurture the souls of this dynamic community.

Yoga is physical and mental practice that can be embraced at any age. Incorporating the practice of yoga into your lifestyle, will bring you relief from the fast paced urban tumult and lead you to a stronger body and quiet mind.

Owners Alicia Orr and Alessandra Miele have over ten years of combined experience as yoga students and teachers. Alicia received her certification with Mimi Loureiro, owner of O2 Yoga, and Alessandra received hers through the Yoga Works teacher training program with Natasha Rizopoulos. Both Alicia and Alessandra share the same passion for the practice of yoga, and the endless benefits it provides for the mind and body. As long-time residents of the North End, they are thankful to have the opportunity to provide a place for those in and around Little Italy to learn and practice this ancient tradition.

when i first found this studio through a google search, i was intrigued by its website; the page titles were in italian! Istruttori, Indirizzo e contatto, Classi, Eventi, Costo iscrizioni... so appropriate for a yoga studio located in little italy! wouldn't it would be even more fun if the classes themselves were taught in italian? come dite "down dog" in italiano?

despite my having spent time chatting with friends at the airport and taking more time than usual to drag my luggage through the boston subway system, i arrived at the studio doorstep almost an hour early. luckily, modern bakery (as in "who makes better cannolis - modern or mike's?") was right across the street, so i walked over, luggage still in hand, to get my morning sugar fix. while i stood in line dreaming of ricotta cheese being piped into crunchy cannoli shells, i realized that a belly full of richness was probably not a smart idea right before yoga class, especially right after a transcontinental flight. so when it was my time to order, i asked for a plain croissant. bah. i still regret that decision...

by the time i got back to the studio, two yoginis were just about to unlock the door to the building. i followed them upstairs -- which meant having to carry my luggage up two flights of stairs -- and went about finishing my roll as they set up the front desk.

it turns out that one of them, sarah sturges, was substituting that morning. i told her about how i had just flown in from LA, and before we knew it, i was talking about my fire alarm episode at exhale boston during david magone's class the last time i was in boston (which you never heard about because i never got around to posting it!), and how sarah knows exhale venice's cristi christensen from their days together at exhale boston, and how gorgeous cristi was in her video with dave romanelli, and how sarah's looking forward to meeting dave romanelli while he's in boston for his yoga+chocolate+wine workshop in june, and how she loved his new book, yeah dave's guide to livin' the moment, so much that she bought FIVE copies and gave them out to her friends, and how i've been promising dave that i'd write a review about his book as soon as i could... as sarah put it, our paths were meant to cross. and i totally believe it!

the classroom quickly filled up with students of varying levels of experience. it took some extra work for me to get through her demanding flow class, given my stiff back and lack of energy (not to mention the croissant that was slowly making its way down my digestive tract) and i even had to stop a few times for water to try to rehydrate my jetlagged body. but when it was over, i felt a hundred times better than when i walked in the door! it never fails -- every time i've gone straight to a yoga class after a red-eye flight, be it to new york, philadelphia, washington DC, or boston, i've ended up refreshed, relaxed, and ready to hit the city running :)

i asked sarah to look me up if she ever finds herself in LA. i hope she finds the chance to do so soon... and maybe we can even get cristi and dave to join us. wouldn't that be a blast!

from the north end, i hopped on the T and stopped at central square to meet up with katy downey, owner of lotuspad yoga mats, to pick up a yoga mat and matching carrying strap. you see, a couple of years ago, she'd sent me a sample of her kid-sized mat. ever since then, it's been my ever-faithful air travel companion because it's been the lightest and sturdiest mat i've ever owned! so it seemed like it was time for me to upgrade to the longer and thicker adult version... and meet katy, too. my visit to her home was a treat; not only did i land myself a bright pink yoga mat with a cute striped strap to match, but i also met her entire family, including her adorable daughter! thank goodness the larger adult mat wasn't much heavier than the kids version, because now i had to carry it along with everything else that i had brought along with me back on the subway to my daughter's place...

i spent the rest of saturday with my daughter, including a shopping trip down newbury street and a stop at the lulu store. naturally, i couldn't resist the urge to buy some luluwear sans sales tax; by the time we walked out of the store, i was the proud owner of a striped athletic deep V tank and some cropped wonderunder tights :)

we ended the evening with a late night dinner at a greek restaurant with my daughter's boyfriend and their two close friends. on our way home, on a whim, we all decided to drive down to the north end for, you guessed it, cannolis! the overwhelming consensus was that mike's had the best chocolate chip cannolis, so that's where we ended up. needless to say, i inhaled mine before my belly had a chance to figure out what had just happened!

~~ sunday ~~

South Boston Yoga
141 Dorchester Avenue
Boston, MA 02127
(617) 548-2964
website: http://www.southbostonyoga.net/
closest T stop: Broadway station on the Red Line

South Boston Yoga is a beautiful safe space with compassionate and dedicated teachers and an inclusive environment to help each individual unravel, experiment and evolve in the practice of yoga. David Vendetti and Todd Skoglund opened the doors to SBY in January of 2008.

We do not specialize in any one "style" of yoga, instead the yoga that we teach comes from the fullness and richness of our personal experiences and love of the practice. Practitioners of all styles and levels will find treasures here to comfort, challenge and inspire the yogic path. Beginning, intermediate and advanced students and teachers are all warmly welcome.

We have created the center to be green and eco friendly with cork flooring, hand dryers, water filtration, environmentally safe yoga mats, props, fresh filtered air cycling, non-toxic cleaning products and more. We are also blessed to be located steps from public transportation in Boston's first fully Gold LEED certified building, the Macallen.

after all the craziness of the previous day, i'm surprised i was able to wake up in time for the fundraiser at south boston yoga sunday morning at 9:15am. the class was going to be taught by david vendetti -- on my boston re-do list -- and the proceeds were going to yogaHOPE -- Healing Ourselves through Personal Empowerment:

yogaHOPE is a non-profit yoga outreach program dedicated to bringing the practice of yoga to underserved women in recovery or life transition. – the incarcerated, those in drug and alcohol treatment, those living on the streets, battered women, and women transitioning from hospital treatment for disordered eating issues.

getting to south boston yoga was a breeze from my daughter's apartment in cambridge. after a quick ride on the red line, the studio was literally across the street from the subway station. it turns out that there were at least three other students on the train with me; this was clearly a popular class that morning!

there were some students who weren't even aware that their class fees were going to charity; as far as they knew, they were there to take david vendetti's regularly-scheduled all levels class. the last time i took his class, i immediately knew that his was the class i wanted to take every time i visited boston. it was fun. he was entertaining. it was tough. he was inspiring. in my mind, he was what an anusara/vinyasa flow hybrid would be like if one existed. so, of course, i made it a point to be there, not only for him, but for the cause.

the class was everything i'd expected it to be. it was wonderfully challenging (i think i had to get my head behind my leg at one point) and i was in awe of david's graceful bendiness (i believe he was a dancer in his previous life, which explains everything). i would have wanted to squeeze in another class with him before i left boston, but with other studios still on my list, it would just have to wait until my next trip. oh well.

~~ monday ~~

marathon day! i met my friend rose at the boston common shuttle pick-up point at 6am. she had just kissed her husband ken goodbye as he boarded the bus bound for the start line in hopkinton when i got there. according to her, another group of friends were already making their way to the shuttle line, so we chatted while waiting for them to arrive. we eventually found them in the long line that snaked through the park and stayed with them until they, too, boarded the buses.

of the entire group of LA leggers in boston that weekend, it seemed like rose and i were the only ones who weren't running it. while the speed demons managed to train hard and beat their qualifying times to get there, rose and i had to contend with injuries... and the fact that we just couldn't run as fast as them. besides, i had already run boston almost 10 years ago; back in 1999, i raised funds for the children's hospital in boston, earning myself the chance to run in this prestigious athletic competition. it was an accomplish i'll never forget, so i was happy for all my friends who were running it for the first time, as well as those running it for their second, or third, or... god, they're fast!

rose and i dropped by the starbucks for a morning caffeine fix before staking out a viewing spot at hereford and boylston, close to the finish of the marathon route. by then, it was 8am, with the elites scheduled to start at 9:30am and the rest of the pack -- in other words, our friends -- starting at 10am. that meant that nothing would be happening in our neck of the woods until around 11am. so we moseyed down to the apple store on boylston and commandeered a large flat screen so we could watch the start of the race. there were the usual speedsters from kenya and ethiopia standing at the front of the pack, but our hearts were with kara goucher and ryan hall, the runners from the USA who both had excellent chances of winning their divisions.

once the race was clearly on its way, rose and i parted ways; rose headed back to our agreed-upon location along the route and i headed down to a deli on newbury to pick up sub sandwiches for lunch, knowing that it would be next to impossible to leave our spot once the crowds starting filing in.

we heard the cheering as the elites made their way closer to where we were standing. the women approached. kara was in 3rd place. the men approached. ryan was in 3rd place. so close! sometime later, we started spotting our friends. adam. andrew. deo. ken. but we somehow missed david. and mike. and jeannie. at that point, rose took off to meet up with ken. i chose to stay behind to wait for dave, debbie, dan, and the others. eventually, the cold caught up with me and i decided to head for a warmer place to sit and thaw out. the prudential center was right across the street from where i was standing, so i made my way towards the shopping mall...

... little did i know that because of street closures and the throngs of people on and around boylston, it would take me almost an hour to get to the other side of the street!!

i eventually found myself at the lulu store, where i was able to enjoy sit, get something to drink, and enjoy a relaxing mini-massage. aaaaaaahhhh...

once i had a chance to regain my sanity, i checked my yoga class options. there were two yoga studios just down the street from where i was: exhale boston and back bay yoga. there was a 6pm class with david magone at exhale; this was on my boston re-do list. there were also classes at back bay yoga -- a 4pm vinyasa community class with gabriel feld, a 5:40pm forrest class with caroline harvey, a 7:30pm vinyasa with nicoline valkenberg, and a 7:30pm yin class with josh summers. so many choices!

i checked my watch. i had just 15 minutes to get to back bay yoga for the 4pm community class; could i get there in time? after all, it was only 5 blocks away. i made a mad dash down boylston street. not only would i be able to get out of the cold and back to my daughter's place before dinner, but the 4pm community class would only cost me a $5 bill.

it was such a deal that the discounted class was mentioned in a boston globe article:

Consumers Exercise Control By Sarah Schweitzer
Globe Staff / January 3, 2009

...Back Bay Yoga Studio has expanded its number of $5 classes, which are about $10 less than other classes. The club is advertising the classes widely, to members and nonmembers.

"Times are tough and one of the first things to go is yoga because it's not gas, it's not rent, it's not food," said Gabriel Feld, a yoga instructor at Back Bay Yoga. "We want everyone to be able to access yoga. We don't want money to get in the way."

thanks to the maze of street closures, my 5-block walk turned into a 10-block trek. by the time i reached the yoga studio, i was 15 minutes late for class. and by the time i'd registered for class and changed my clothes, i was 30 minutes late. argh.

Back Bay Yoga Studio
364 Boylston Street, 2nd Floor
Boston, MA 02116
(617) 375-YOGA (9642)
website: http://www.backbayyoga.com/
closest T stop: Arlington station on the Green Line

Our mission is to provide a space completely dedicated to yoga where we offer a wide variety of classes, workshops and healing therapies including Ashtanga (led and Mysore-style), Forrest, Vinyasa, Restorative, Yin, Gentle/Beginners, Meditation, Acupuncture and Massage. We believe that by providing a variety of yoga styles, that every body can find a style(s) that suits them. Our belief is that yoga is not one size fits all!

gabriel feld's class was clearly deep into the heart of their practice by then, so i carefully made my way to the first open spot in the back of the room. i realized that i couldn't see gabriel, but i could hear him. and given the circumstances, that was as good as i could get. he walked up to me and told me to take my time getting settled in. that was so nice of him.

the poses were relatively gentle, which is exactly what i needed to recenter my mind -- and body -- after the craziness of the day. as gabriel walked around the large classroom to keep a close eye on the students, he kept reminding us to work at our own pace. straighten your legs only if you can easily do so. bend back only as far back as comfortable. stay in child pose if you feel you need it. and while the competitive side of me wanted to go all out and do everything perfectly, the tired traveler in me realized that my trying to push a cold and sleep-deprived body past where it needed to be was just asking for trouble. so i heeded gabriel's advice and took it easy.

before i knew it, the class was over. i rolled up my yoga mat and walked over to gabriel. i thanked him for allowing me to join his class despite my extreme tardiness. it turned out that he, too, got caught in the maze of road closures on his way there. we chatted briefly, i gave him a hug goodbye, and left.

as it turned out, that was my last yoga class during my stay in boston. i opted to sleep in the next day, tuesday. by the time i got myself up and dressed, my daughter and i barely had enough time to stop by the shepard fairey exhibit (the creator of the now-famous obama HOPE poster) at the institute of contemporary art, grab a quick lunch, then hop back on the silver line for the quick ride to the airport.

so it was a great shock to me when i received this update from back bay yoga a few days later:

It is with a heavy heart that I write to tell you that a cherished member of the BBY family, Gabriel Feld, has passed away. Gabe started at BBY as a student and went on to receive his teacher training at Kripalu. Many of you know and love Gabe as a kind, loving teacher of Vinyasa, Restorative and Gentle/Beginners. He assisted David Vendetti's Teacher Training and Breathwork and more recently has held his own breathwork workshops at BBY.

Funeral Services will be held for Gabriel on Tuesday April 28th 1:45 pm at the Sharon Memorial Park in Sharon, MA. If you need a ride, please let us know as we will be arranging transportation as needed to and from BBY.

Donations can be made in Gabriel's honor to Kripalu. Please send to:
Kripalu Development Office
Attention: Gabriel Feld Memorial Fund
P.O. Box 309 Stockbridge, MA 01262
(checks made payable to Kripalu)


his mentor, david vendetti, posted this on the south boston site:

It is with great sadness that we mourn the passing of our dear friend, fellow yogi and former teacher, Gabriel Feld. At this time our hearts go out to all his friends and family as we all acknowledge a brilliant light has gone from our lives. We've posted a few photos of Gabe as we lovingly remember him.

Gabriel Feld Open Practice Gathering Thursday April 30th
Open practice and meditation are free and open to all on 4/30 to gather and practice, talk and share in Gabriel's life and passing. Come anytime between 6:30am and 10am for as long as you would like.

even the lululemon store posted a tribute to gabriel along with his photo on their home page:

In loving memory of a great yogi, teacher and friend in our lululemon community, Gabriel Feld.

while i had only met him briefly, i'm glad that our paths crossed; in a small way, i was able to experience the shining light that everyone else in the boston yoga community is grieving the loss of.

i suppose the only way i can end this is to share with you his bio posted on the back bay yoga website:

Gabriel Feld

I was drawn to Yoga because it gets you connected to the teacher within yourself, you learn by doing and exploring, feeling and breathing. I love to teach because there is nothing more wonderful than watching someone surprise themselves as doors open and freedom emerges.

Yoga gives me the opportunity to breathe deeply, feel fully and connect with the innate wisdom of my body. There are times for grace and ease, strength and grounding, times for ecstatic rapture and expressive movement as well as times for restoration and stillness. I create space for all of this, by drawing upon the steady strength of Forrest, the fluidity of Vinyasa, the explosive movement of Budokon, the insight of Yin and the healing of Restorative practices. My classes are a dynamic flow between postures, breath, and meditation infused with music, movement and playfulness. Using anatomical alignment, visual and auditory cues as well as hands on adjustments, I create Yoga flows that foster healing while cultivating strength and flexibility. Come join me on a journey, an exploration of your strengths, your weaknesses, your heart and life; get connected, turn on your breath and tune into your body.

earlier today, gabriel's body was laid to rest. may he never be forgotten...