When anyone talks about the roots of their yoga practice in New York City, there's a good chance it traces back to yoga icon, Cyndi Lee. Cyndi founded Om Yoga center in 1998 and has arguably had more influence on yoga in New York than anyone.
What's even more interesting about Cyndi is her journey from dance to yoga. Cyndi is a fixture in NYC's dance scene and has choreographed over 20 music videos for Rick James, Simple Minds, the Dirty Dancing soundtrack, and many more, including Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” which won the 1983 MTV Best Female Video of the Year award.
She's also a prolific writer and author, and we could go on and on... but we'll let the interview take it from here.
MBG: How did you first come to yoga?
CL: The first year I went to college -- 1971! -- I took a yoga class. It was nice and mellow. I don't remember having a moment of great inspiration and knowing that I had found my path, but somehow I just kept doing yoga and meditation and I've been practicing steadily almost my whole life now.
You started out in dance - how are dance and yoga related?
Yoga and dance are both in-depth studies of the integration of body, breath and heart. But they are very opposite, too. As a performing dancer, the goal is to offer a visceral experience to the audience through the creative expression of movement in space. It is a way of playing with mirror neurons through an art form. But yoga is a personal practice always. The effect of the practice -- awareness, friendliness, compassion -- leak out into your life and create templates for all your relationships, but it always starts with your own body, breath and mind. It is about creating imprints, readjusting neurological patterning, creating positive habits.
These days, though, I do find that vinyasa fulfills my dancing jones. The vinyasa style that I practice called OM yoga is a dynamic, rhythm-based movement system; there is a sense of carving space, of feeling wind and water on your skin; of an earthy downward connection and an uplifted sense of goodness. Yes, I really do feel all of that in the very first Surya Namaskar! Yummy.
Who has inspired your practice? Teachers? Books?
My guru, Gelek Rimpoche. Isadora Duncan. Autobiography of a Yogi by Yogananda. HHDL. Mr. Iyengar and all his work -- thank you, thank you, thank you. I've loved learning from Rodney Yee, Sharon Gannon, Judith Lasater, Richard Freeman, Sharon Salzberg, Mark Epstein, my husband, David Nichtern, Chogyam Trunpga and my very ill, elderly mother.