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February 2020
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Yoga for the Unemployed with Nalini Kuhnke
Integral Yoga
227 West 13th Street
New York, NY 10011

Wed, 2:30 PM To 3:30 PM

The New York City branch of Integral Yoga, founded by Sri Swami Satchidananda, has been housed in a West Village brownstone since 1970, and it feels very connected to its peaceful, hippy-dippy roots. So it's not terribly surprising that it's offering a free class for the unemployed.

C'mon starshine, time to get rid of your bad karma and center yourself.

You enter the premises through the tiny Integral Yoga Bookstore, and if you're early there's a wait to sign up for a class, so you can browse through a solid collection of yoga, meditation, and other related books and pamphlets. No advance registration is necessary and you don't have to sign any releases. One person in line joked that you have to show an unemployment check to get in, but in fact all that was required was signing a list, so the studio can keep track of attendance.

Next, you're given a card showing where the class will be, which in this case was the cozy Lavender Room (the other rooms are Lotus, Aqua, Rose, Gold and, on the top floor, Heaven). If you've brought a padlock, you can use one of the studio's lockers, otherwise you can stow your stuff at the edge of the room.

The day that Yoga Sleuth attended there were about 15 people, about half of whom had been there before. Nalini Kuhnke, a Hatha-certified teacher, began by having everyone new say their name—and then asked if anyone wanted to work on anything in particular. No one spoke up, so Nalini taught an all-around class with lots of support and positive feedback.

Several of the people in the class were yoga novices (YS was focusing on her own practice so couldn't peer around at the rest), so Nalini kept things straightforward. But it was still worthwhile for more advanced students. She opened with chanting, and the focus throughout was on relaxation, stress relief, and centering—all, of course, helpful to everyone, but especially the unemployed. The om series was followed by cat-cows and forward bends. There were locusts and cobras, followed by some core strengthening with balancing table poses. In each case, Nalini went around the room, gently helping students with their alignment or pushing them to work a little harder (YS was surprised to find herself sore the next day). An extended series of sun salutations was followed by a good long Savasana. It came as a bit of a shock to realize that the class had lasted 15 minutes longer than scheduled—how often does that happen in a free class?

Nalini made herself available to answer questions afterward in the hallway, while the next class, for prenatal moms, trooped in. Nalini is a warm, encouraging teacher, just the sort of person you want to be with if you're feeling a little bruised by your lack-of-work situation—and YS speaks with authority on this, having once had the opposite sort of yoga teacher when recently unemployed.

Which brings us to the name of the class, Yoga and Networking for the Unemployed. The only references to unemployment were in exhortations to release stress, and YS didn't detect any networking whatsoever. In fact, the only people YS even heard talking were chatting about their days—and falling asleep during Savasana. The class is free, low-key, and a good stress reliever which is exactly what the unemployed really need. (One student who was particularly agitated at the beginning had calmed down a lot by the end. With any luck, she stopped by the Integral Yoga Natural Foods Store or Integral Natural Apothecary, next door, and bought some nice relaxing tea before going home). YS plans to go back and check out more classes.

—Susan Jackson for Yoga Sleuth

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