“Integral Yoga teaches a complete blueprint for life with simple practices that are profound,” said Jo Sgammato, who goes by the yoga name Chandra and has been with the organization since 1992. The institute, which shares the yoga philosophy imparted by Swami Satchidananda, has a straightforward calling. “We try to bring more peace and health to the world. It’s simpler than most people think.”
Integral’s beginnings trace back to the 1960s when German-American artist Peter Max was asked to be an artistic director in Paris for a film on influential spiritual leaders. It was there that he met Swami Satchidananda, and in the short week they spent together, Peter was deeply impacted by the swami’s yoga and meditation practices. To his surprise, he had found “a natural way to feel wonderful in body, mind, and spirit” without relying on recreational substances. He invited the swami to convey his philosophy to Peter’s gang of young artists and musicians in the U.S.
For months, the group gathered in Peter’s apartment to immerse themselves in the swami’s humble teachings. Upon the yoga master’s departure, they pooled their resources together to find a larger space and incorporate Integral Yoga Institute as a non-profit. The name was chosen to illustrate the organization’s focus on “all aspects of yoga and all aspects of life — service, meditation, nutrition, regular practice, and more.”
Those who spent the most time learning from Swami Satchidananda went on to become teachers themselves and offer classes “anywhere anyone would have them.” This culminated in a sold-out event at Carnegie Hall in 1969 that demonstrated yoga practices to the general public. That same summer, Swami Satchidananda was asked to give an opening address at the Woodstock fes-tival and became known as the Woodstock Guru. With this new exposure, “interest grew exponentially,” and people from across the country gravitated to Integral Yoga and their periodic retreats to gain more spiritual knowledge
Since then, Integral has been a pioneer in the field, bringing its programs to schools, businesses, and hospitals. Visitors can attend Integral’s classes in the large, open space on the upper floor of its 13th Street location and then venture downstairs to its shop brimming with everything one might need to do yoga or learn about the discipline. It stocks a vast collection of books, mats, candles, and clothing, with an entire section devoted to pregnant women. “We are dedicated to making yoga accessible for everyone, not an esoteric practice,” Chandra explained. Its teachers have developed specific therapeutic yoga practices for a variety of illnesses, including cancer, arthritis, and heart disease.
To Chandra, it is easy to understand the institute’s appeal. “Nothing makes you feel as good. Yoga revitalizes the body and calms the nervous system.” There is also a grander, more spiritual dimension to Integral’s teachings. “You go deep into yourself and discover that everything is perfect inside. Our true nature is peace, but we don’t know that because we allow the stresses of life to get in the way.” Tuning into this inner peace is meant to help people cope with their everyday troubles.
Our senses all perked up as we experienced the exotic scents in this Mediterranean café where the Arabic name translates to welcome and peace. Bassam Omary came to New York thirty-five years ago as a student and worked at his cousin’s Greenwich Avenue Syrian restaurant. With his wife Joan, he bought and moved the restaurant to 13th street, where they have been cooking traditional Middle Eastern dishes and satisfying culinary cravings for fifteen years. The food is superb. After a long day of interviews, we stopped back at Salam for a late lunch. We were served a platter with an array of food: hummus with a lemon flair, babaganouj with fresh pita, grape leaves stuffed with cheese, crispy falafel, a filo dough spinach pie, and a cup of sweet Arabic coffee to perk us up. Bassam, Joan explained, has a stake in the restaurant both as owner and chef. He is constantly experimenting, returning to the traditional dishes his mother taught him how to cook, and using the freedom he has as owner to explore the spices, ingredients, and flavors he is passionate about. Thank you, Joan and Bassam, for genuinely welcoming us into this lovely restaurant.
When we first visited the Walker Hotel, it was known as the Jade. The 1920's speakeasy theme became obvious to us immediately as we entered the hotel and walked through the lobby, but it was quite fun to see that it was carried through to the guest rooms with their antique-looking rotary telephones by the side of the bed. The comment from the young people with me that day was that it immediately reminded them of "Boardwalk Empire." This pleased the woman showing us around tremendously. Built from the ground up - the land was a vacant lot when Gemini Hospitality bought it in the early 2010s - the goal for the hotel is for guests to feel welcomed from the moment they step inside. There is a warm and embracing atmosphere with a fireplace and library as the focal points. We appreciated that the collection of books on the shelves will be by well-known favorite authors who once lived in the vicinity. This boutique hotel has 113 rooms on eighteen floors. We had the pleasure of previewing some of them all the way up. Besides the standard queen being perfectly lovely with all of the amenities one would need, it also sports an amazing view - with no obstructions. From the north, we could see the Empire State Building, and from the South we looked downtown to the Freedom Towers. Just spectacular.We certainly applaud the concept of the hotel, which is to introduce guests to the wonderful places, people and atmosphere that surrounds 13th Street. Rather than encouraging visitors to leave the area to explore the popular tourist spots around the city, they are providing guests with lists of things to do right in Greenwich Village and Union Square. A philosophy that matches ours completely. In 2016, the Jade became the Walker Hotel Greenwich Village. We were happy to hear that it is still spearheaded by the same management.
Originally, an offshoot of David Chang’s award-winning restaurant group Momofuku, 13th is one of the fortunate streets to have one of his well-loved milk bars open. Today, acclaimed pastry chef Christina Tosi takes the combination of baked goods and milk to a whole new level at each of her locations – yes, I have had many a treat. Soft serve “cereal milk” or jugs of this tasty milk to go, the infamous crack pie, cornflake or compost cookies...and then there are the packages of cake truffles – these are slices of cake that are condensed into supremely dense balls of sugary goodness. Definitely worth a bite or two...or three. Milk Bar also donates a portion of every dairy sale to various independent and family dairy farmers in need. All in all, Milk Bar is a dessert lover’s heaven.
Peridance Capezio Center is a mecca for dance in NYC, fostering the arts in the local and international dance communities, for over 30 years. Peridance offers multiple platforms for dancers and non-dancers alike, including more than 250 weekly open classes, a Professional Training Programs, an F-1 Visa Program for International Students, and The School at Peridance - a comprehensive children and teen program. Their adult open classes are offered in all styles and levels, from Absolute Beginner to Advanced. Peridance Capezio Center is also home to the professional dance company, Peridance Contemporary Dance Company and its affiliated Peridance Youth Ensemble. In conjunction with their renowned faculty and partners (Capezio, Djoniba Dance Centre, Limón Dance Company, Baila Society, and Dance Informa), Peridance has gained an international reputation for the programs it offers. The Center is housed in a beautiful landmark building featuring six spacious studios, The Salvatore Capezio Theater, the Peridance Coffee Shop, and the Capezio dance-wear Boutique.One afternoon, I had the privilege of stopping by the Peridance Capezio Center to observe their students training. I witnessed the explosive athleticism and technical discipline at play in Shannon Gillen’s Advanced Contemporary class, as students tested the strength of their bodies in an array of conditioning and floor exercises. Later, in the large upstairs Studio 1, bathed in the sun’s rays from the skylights above, I watched as dancers chasséd and pirouetted across the room in Breton Tyner-Bryan’s Advanced-Intermediate Ballet class. I would not be surprised to find any one of these talented performers on stage someday.