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« Margi Young 1 | Main | Living in Another Era »

May 10, 2006

Margi Young 2

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Yesterday I introduced Margi Young, a wonderful yoga teacher who, before turning to yoga, was a dancer and a choreographer. In Part One of my interview with Margi, we talked about how Margi found her way from dance to choreography to yoga. Today, we talk about yoga and exercise.


2B: What would you say your own greatest physical challenges are?
MY: Every day is different. Naturally I'm weak and a little tight, but I've been working on it for so long.

2B: Are you naturally slim too?
MY: Yes.

2B: Do you have to work at being slim?
MY: I have a slim mother. People ask me if I'm so slim because I do yoga, and I have to answer, "No, it's because of my genes."

2B: Any special diet?
MY: Just born this way. I got heavy as a freshman in college from pizza and beer.

2B: You developed the freshman-girl waddle!
MY: I was shocked when I was dating this guy and he said, "I think you could lose five pounds." (gasps) I always thought I was thin!

2B: When you do athletics, how does the feeling compare to when you do yoga?
MY: It's miserable. (laughs) Really, I have a fight to do any exercise if it's not yoga. And yoga isn't exactly exercise. Yoga and exercise do not go hand in hand for me. The more yoga you do, the easier it gets. I'm good at relaxing in stressful times. I'm good at doing challenging yoga poses and staying relaxed. But I feel like I should do something more.

2B: Being in superb yoga shape isn't good enough for you?
MY: I feel like I should do something to get my heart rate up.

2B: I've lost interest in gym exercise since I started yoga.
MY: When I do yoga, my heart rate lowers. For me, yoga is the opposite of cardiovascular. When I practice yoga these days I'm really quite relaxed. I don't even get near sweating unless the weather is really hot. So I feel like it's necessary for me to do cardiovascular exercise. I just should. It keeps you healthy and helps you live longer.

2B: Yet a lot of yoga people seem to live forever.
MY: That's true. Maybe yoga's enough.

2B: Were you ever a gym-goer?
MY: No. I'm trying to be more of one.

2B: What are you doing these days?
MY: I go swimming. I swam for about ten minutes today. But I get tired and bored. I'm not inclined to do very repetitive action.

2B: Do you ever consider using weights and treadmills?
MY: I consider it almost daily.

2B: What's it like for you when you do manage to do some gym work?
MY: I try to get into a meditative state. But I'm just not very oriented that way.

2B: What does gym-going look like when you're a dancer?
MY: I was much less aware of gym life when I was a dancer.

2B: Why's that?
MY: I just didn't know anyone who went to the gym. Dancing was a lot more active and cardiovascular itself. So I wasn't around people who needed to go to the gym. But now almost all my friends spend some time in the gym.

2B: Part of what I like about yoga is that you don't have to get pumped-up to do it. You can just fall into it. And afterwards you don't feel revved or depressed, you feel refreshed and calmed.
MY: I'm so glad!

2B: It's all thanks to your good work.
MY: It's thanks to yoga's mastery.

2B: Going to the gym these days seems to me like something for blockheads. It's got no spirit, it's got no poetry --
MY: People don't go to the gym to get poetry.

2B: Is yoga exercise?
MY: How do you define exercise?

2B: How do you?
MY: My boss Cyndi Lee likes to say that with yoga you get both your workout and your work-in. I do think for beginners yoga is a huge workout. But as you progress and you get more and more advanced it becomes less strenuous.

2B: Do people come to yoga expecting exercise?
MY: People come to yoga expecting to feel better, to be relaxed, and to be stronger and more flexible. And they usually stay in yoga in the long-term for the poetry and the spirituality, and to be able to be with themselves.

2B: When you see someone new, can you tell if that person is going to stick around?
MY: I never know. Many people will go to one class of whatever activity and not go back again. Then once in a while you get someone who falls for it like you have, and who will come all the time, totally regular, and make a lifelong practice of it.

2B: How many people who show up in a beginning class stick around for the long term?
MY: I'd say one in ten, one in fifteen. Totally guessing. A lot of people like to come to Basics class and stick around in Basics with no drive to progress. And that's completely fine. I admire this in a world of forward-movers.

2B: Gym and cardio exercise seem to me to come from the outside in. While yoga -- at least as you present it -- is about getting inside the experience.
MY: The gym is trying to make you look a certain way. And yoga is trying to make you feel a certain way, from the inside. I think that's what makes people happy. Someone asked me last night if I get a lot of love and compliments as a teacher, and yeah I do. I think the reason is that I'm teaching students how to love themselves. Some students sometimes even think they've fallen in love with me. But I think they really have just started to love themselves.

2B: There is a nice glow in the room.
MY: Yeah. I think yoga really teaches people how to feel a little bit better about themselves.

2B: Yoga is full of little life lessons.
MY: It is. The main one, it seems to me is, especially these days, people are so hard on themselves, and they work so hard, and there's this aggression, especially in New York. Just to give people a chance to think, "You know, I don't have to be better than that person" is great. It's not about competition, it's not about achieving, it's not about getting-there, it's not about getting it and moving on. And it's not about shopping.

2B: Which means that I can stay in Basics class for the rest of my life if I want to.
MY: Exactly.


Many thanks once again to Margi Young. Margi teaches at New York City's Om Yoga center: Om Yoga's website is here. Margi's own website is here.

Come back tomorrow for Part Three. I'll be asking Margi about living the yoga life. And please feel free to ask questions in the Comments sections on these postings. Margi has promised to drop by and join in. When else will you get the chance to ask a top-flight yoga teacher whatever you care to ask?



posted by Michael at May 10, 2006


The gym is trying to make you look a certain way. And yoga is trying to make you feel a certain way, from the inside.

That's the reason I avoid yoga, as I avoid any indoctrination.

Posted by: Tatyana on May 11, 2006 12:42 PM

Yoga is about the least indoctrinating grop activity possible. You get back what you put into it and the results are completely individual. It's too bad a lot of people are turned off by the new-agey vibe, as I was initially. Give it another shot!

Posted by: the patriarchy on May 11, 2006 2:21 PM

I have some of the same reaction as T. I don't like all the shoulds: I should be more limber, I should be less uptight, etc., etc. Who needs that. Also, the idea of spending years in a never-ending process of "working on" this or that supposed personal deficiency does not appeal. People do OK with all kinds of health programs, including no program, so I doubt yoga or anything else has unique benefits. But if you like it, good for you.

Posted by: Jonathan on May 11, 2006 2:50 PM

hmmm...*grop[e] activity?
May be I SHOULD give it another try...

Posted by: Tatyana on May 11, 2006 3:25 PM

I am greatly enjoying this interview!

I started yoga about 3 months ago for health reasons (chronic back and neck pain often leading to headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome). The results have been amazing: for the first time in 10 years my neck does not hurt on a daily basis, I have not had a single headache since starting yoga, and the carpal tunnel syndrome is under control and getting better every day.

I have completely fallen in love with yoga and how it makes me feel! No other therapy has worked so well and so quickly.

Re: indoctrination - my experience has been the complete opposite. Never once has my yoga instructor said I should be or do anything, other than listen to my body and go at my own pace.

Posted by: RAE on May 11, 2006 4:05 PM

I don't want to listen to my body. If anything, I'm trying to supress what my body is nagging me with every day. If I would, I'd never go to yet another client meeting, or put earplugs in at the first sounds of my boss's voice.

You think concentrating on exhaling on the count of 8 will change that?

On the second thought, you may...there is always stable procentage of people in control groups whose asthma symptoms when they are taking placebo.

Posted by: Tatyana on May 11, 2006 4:14 PM

accidentally omitted:
..symtoms go away when they are taking placebo pills.

Posted by: Tatyana on May 11, 2006 4:16 PM

I love yoga because it's one of the few activities in which I can let go of "shoulds." Okay, I do compare myself to others in class who are thinner, more flexible, etc. but that impulse is fleeting and I rather enjoy watching it fleet, as it were. Tatyana is right about the idea that listening to your body isn't always appealing. When I go to yoga when I'm stressed or not feeling well, the first few minutes of sitting quietly are like torture: I want to get up and run screaming from the room.

I find yoga non-indoctrinating, but I think that's because I select for teachers who don't push a single method. I didn't like Bikram yoga because the teacher kept trying to force my body into the "correct" version of each pose when it was clear I couldn't do it, and I'm equally uncomfortable with forms of yoga, like Ashtanga, that are centered on a guru. I love the Ashtanga routine at times, but the idea of doing it every day and the idea of treating its creator (though he says he discovered thousand-year old documents the revealed the forms to him) as a figure of worship is beyond me.

Posted by: CyndiF on May 11, 2006 4:51 PM


Your tone sounds quite antagonistic to me. What is it about this topic that gets under your skin?

You seem to be implying that my success with yoga may be due to a placebo effect. You're welcome to that opinion, of course. For myself, I only wish a placebo had been able to help me. I have taken many medications and received many forms of therapy (physical, massage, chiro) over the years, and yoga has been the most successful by far.

I'm not saying it's for everybody, but I know it is for me.

Posted by: RAE on May 11, 2006 5:34 PM

"Listening to your body" is not to be confused with giving in to how you physically feel. In fact, most of the time my body is telling me to forget yoga class, crack open a beer and start channel surfing. "Listening to your body," as new-agey as it sounds, is really just being aware of your physical strengths and limitations and adjusting accordingly. Such an awareness is very resourceful and full of all that rugged individualism that people who get turned off by yoga seem to value.

I would hesitate to say something like "yoga isn't for everybody." Physically, it absolutely is for everybody. I challenge anyone to come away from a month of yoga classes, just 1 or 2 a week, and tell me they actually feel worse. Aesthetically, I can see how people get turned off. Personally, I can't stand lifting weights or running on a treadmill, even though physically those things are probably good for me.

Posted by: the patriarch on May 11, 2006 5:49 PM

What are the different types of yoga and how do their practices differ? What makes a yoga teacher good/what should one look for in a class as a beginner?

Posted by: claire on May 11, 2006 7:24 PM

RAE, you're entitled to any help you can think of to improve your chronic condition.
And I'm entitled to my negative opinion of various sellers of the snake oil.

This is precisely this unasked for familiarity of the question "What is it about this topic that gets under your skin"? that I don't like about yoga teachers, self-motivation lecturers and "help yourself" manual-writers. Do I know you that you permit yourself this tone?

Posted by: Tat on May 11, 2006 7:54 PM

I apologize Tatyana. I was under the impression that we were engaged in a discussion, and therefore I was permitted to ask you questions relevant to the discussion. I'll refrain from doing so in the future.

Posted by: RAE on May 11, 2006 8:18 PM

Questions per se don't bother me. And my the answer was self-evident from what I wrote above. It's this tone of false acquaintance, using expressions I rarily hear even from my close relatives: "gets under your skin" that make conversation undesirable.
Russians have this old adage, "you talk to me as if we tended to pigs together"; exactly that.

I am under no obligations to like something you adore. And I don't have to be "nice"; I'll leave the niceties to the yoga -people. After all, they are the ones who is relaxed, in peace with the world, well-coordinated and in control of their bodies.

Posted by: Tat on May 11, 2006 8:32 PM

You forgot flexible. We are quite flexible. In fact, I'm typing this with my left leg wrapped around my head. Beat that!

Posted by: the patriarch on May 12, 2006 9:41 AM

"In control of their bodies" includes "flexible".

Personally, I'd rather admire somebody with flexible brains than with flexible feet (or toes....I remember at the yoga session I wandered in, out of curiosity, the instructor directed the audience to "wave" their toes, individually, while standing on the heels and having their torso bended down as low as possible. Or something of the sort. "Don't forget to exhale!" Now, really, have you ever met anybody who would forget to exhale?)

Posted by: Tatyana on May 12, 2006 9:53 AM

I think the only possible resolution to this is for a group of yoga fundamentalists to kidnap Tatyana, haul her off to Kripalu, and there force her to spend a week eating vegetarian, doing Bikram twice a day, chanting, and wiggling her toes. And exhaling, of course. That'll bring her face-to-face with the Goddess-within!

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on May 12, 2006 10:33 AM

Mind/body connection, maaan. Flexible body AND flexible mind. Feel it.

Seriously though, my dad is a Physical Therapist who is extremely adverse to anything with even a hint of hippie vibe to it, and he has been recommending yoga to his patients for 20 years. It is empirically good for your body, and as the Greeks knew, a healthy body is as equally important as a healthy mind.

...and exhale...

Posted by: the patriarch on May 12, 2006 10:45 AM

MB, you want me to die of laughter?

May I suggest the date of the kidnapping to be closer to July 23-28, right in time for my birthday, for a programme named "Womanspirit Rising: A Maiden's Retreat and Renewal" (for 13-18 yo)? They promise "Come to Kripalu and experience an unforgettable honoring of your sacred feminine in these programs with some of the leading voices in the field"

Would you consider it an effect of yoga when you write sentences with structure like "experience...feminine..with...voices"?

Posted by: Tatyana on May 12, 2006 11:36 AM

Hi people-
I am new to the whole blogging/chatting phenomena, but understand how you can get sucked in and all consumed responding to the likes of Tatyana (which is yogic, by the way to be focused and thoughtful) I have so many comments to all of you, but am going to just simply suggest that before your ideas about anything get rigid and hard (stiff/in-flexible, if you will!) explore deeply.
I am just as creeped out by new-agey-ness than the next bloke.
Which leads me to the one question i do want to respond to. Claire, there are so many types of yoga and I cannot tell you which you will like. I could give you a list of studios and/or classes to try and you would have to do a little research project. What I feel very strongly about is that there is a style/teacher for you, and you should trust your instincts. Chemistry is what we are looking for in a teacher/student relationship. With thousands of teachers in the city (are you in NYC?) search around, have fun doing it, and if you don't connect to a teacher, keep searching. Trust yourself. (is it new-agey to say trust yourself?!)

Posted by: margi on May 12, 2006 11:45 PM

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