By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
"Free your mind," said Funkadelic's George Clinton, "and your ass will follow." But anthropologist Felicitas D. Goodman and German visual artist Nana Nauwald prefer it the other way around. Their Ecstatic Trance: New Ritual Body Postures(Havelte, Holland; Binkey Kok Publications, 178 pp., $16.95, redwheelweiser.com), recently reissued in English, argues that ecstasy, a thrill so intense it moves you beyond reason, is rooted in the body. Strike a posethe right oneand you can channel healing energies, ease pain, talk with spirits, visit the distant past, or explore other worlds. Based in the authors' studies of ancient figurative cave art and statues from nearly every continentthe earliest piece approximately 32,000 years oldthis fascinating workbook describes and illustrates dozens of shamanic body postures that will take you there. (Think of these as asanas from the universal yoga.) I tried the deceptively simple Bird Person of Veracruz pose (Mexico, A.D. 100-900), each time feeling like a huge raptor perched on a swaying branch, ready to soar into the night. EVA YAA ASANTEWAA
Imagine a combination of kabbalah and kundalini. You can't? Luckily the UNIVERSAL FORCE HEALING CENTER (76 West 24th Street, 917-606-1730, universalforceyoga. com) has it all figured out. Curious, I spring for their noontime kundalini class.
An oversized skylight dominates the yoga studio, flooding it with sunshine. The teacher is Kamaljit, a willowy former dancer. She's carrying a timer. I soon realize why: We hold each position for minutes, lots of minutes. Agony . . . or is it? "Keep up," says Kamaljit, "and the universe will keep you up." I find myself surrendering to what is. I chant Sat-Nam ("I am truth"). I pant in the explosive rhythm of Breath of Fire. I'm thinking, what a great sound system, and then I see it's a guy playing tablas and a gong. Nice.
After tightening up your asanas, a little soul repair may be just the ticket. The weekly Kundalini-Kabbalah Healing Circle, led by the center's founder, Gurunam, and others, uses prana, sound, and esoteric self-healing techniques to clear problems away. "It builds enormous energy," reports one regular Circle member, adding that it's helping his shoulder pain, his career, and his relationship. Now that's some yoga! MARY CHAFFEE
If you like eclectic, you'll love Ishta: Yoga master Alan Finger created it from more than a dozen yoga styles. The name is both an acronym (Integrated Sciences of Hatha, Tantra, and Ayurveda) and a clever pun on the Sanskrit word for "personalized."
Ishta practice at BE YOGA (Downtown Studio, 138 Fifth Avenue, fourth floor, 212-647-9642, beyoga.com) focuses strongly on the individual. There's plenty of hands-on attention at the open class I take, and it helps. Contorted in Eagle Pose, my hunched shoulders melt when the teacher gently touches them. When we move from Mountain Pose to Tree, she invites me to imagine I am rooted on a mountaintop, with branches moving in a gentle breeze. Miraculously, I transition to Dancer without toppling over like a felled oak.
We picture the seven chakras, ascending through the body in rainbow color-coded wheels of energy. My heart chakra glows green as I practice compassion, empathy, and (hardest of all) self-acceptance. We end the class with a meditation: May I (and you and my enemy, too) be safe and healthy and happy and free. Namaste.M.C.
Other Be Yoga studios are located in Manhattan and Westchester.
Souls in Motion
Remember learning to pray with head bowed, voice meekly whispering? That was then. This is now: a bright, uncluttered room near Times Square. A dozen women in a yowling gauntlet, each taking her proud turn boogying down the carpet. Supporters pumping their arms, their high-pitched hoots approving each wiggle, spin, and thrust. Sweat beading on foreheads, trickling down necks. A prayer session that makes you run for your water bottle.
Reverend Susan Turchinwhose résumé spans corporate life and addictions counselingleads poetic, soulful, sometimes giddy celebrants in movement at ONE SPIRIT LEARNING ALLIANCE (330 West 38th Street, suite 1500, onespiritinterfaith.org, 212-931-6480). Certified in Kripalu Danskinetics, Turchin assumes that people simply need safe space where innate creativity can thrive. Each workshop, driven by its attendees, is unique. Dress in loose clothing and expect the unexpected . . . from yourself. If you're lucky, you may find that the spiral of people tightening around you like a snake is a hilarious, far more benign version of rush hour on the No. 1. E.Y.A.
Turchin's Movement as Prayer series continues March 29 and April 21, 6 to 7:30, $20 each.
According to The Complete Idiot's Guide to Dating, Third Edition (Alpha, 370 pp., $18.95), I am already not a complete idiot. Author Judy Kuriansky, the "Dr. Judy" of Z100's '90s call-in show Love Phones, champions the Barbara Walters approach, my favorite as well, to getting to know one's date, offering a veritable buffet of quirky exercises for the aerobic pumping of hearts, as well as grounded advice on everything from overcoming shyness to spotting a narcissist. Her "Mirror Law of Attraction" explains that we're attracted to those who reflect something about ourselves. Kuriansky's metaphors for the mating process come from worlds as diverse as tantra and red-blooded American sales technique. While such co-opting of cultures may be a turnoff to some, I found it validating. I began my last first date with journalistic inquiry into the chap's favorite animal. If I could only have gotten him to stare meaningfully into my third eye, I might have made it work with the wombat-lover. Ah, well. I'll have to buy The Complete Idiot's Guide to Tantric Sex, also by the good doc, before my next sales pitch . . . er,date. ALEXIS SOTTILE