After only a year of being open, Yogamaya yoga studio in New York’s hip Chelsea district has gained a huge following of both serious yoga students and kirtan lovers. Owners Bryn Chrisman, Stacey Brass and Glen Riis have created a unique space that fuses serious Hatha-yoga with an equally generous dose of Bhakti-yoga, combined within a fresh context. Though the space is set up as a yoga studio, with skylights and open spaces, the feeling is that of an old temple. Antique carved doors and screens decorate the space, and framed vintage prints of Radha and Krishna hang on every wall.
Kirtan is held at least once a week there, with special events scheduled every month. The evening of July 26th was no different, as Radhanath Swami returned after eight months. Nearly 200 people crowded the space, braving the intense humidity to cram in ‘India style’. Yogamaya events attract a diverse cross section of New Yorkers, and everyone was represented in the group that night. He opened by singing a beautiful bhajan and then began to speak on the meaning of the word ‘Yogamaya’ – describing it as the energy of the Divine that helps us to see everything in connection with him. It is this, he said, that brings us the deep sense of fulfillment that we are always longing for, and that ‘Spiritual happiness has the depth of an ocean that has no bottom and no shores.’ He described how just as the same electricity can be used either to heat or cool, we can align ourselves with this energy to varying degrees according to our choice.
He then spoke on the power of this deep love for God – telling two stories from the Bhagavatam. First, that of Dhruva Maharaja, the five year old boy that earned an audience with Lord Vishnu after practicing intense yogic discipline, and that of Hanuman, whose determination to selflessly serve his Lord Rama awarded him the deepest satisfaction. He described how in both cases, they experienced severe obstacles, but demonstrated that real determination is ‘when we set our ideal with such a foundation, that whatever impediments come, they only help us to go deeper into that love…but if we seek an opportunity to be discouraged, that’s what we will find.’
Radhanath Swami closed by saying, ‘simply by taking shelter of the divine sound of God’s names, one can experience that love that raises us beyond the need to be hypocritical’. Naturally the evening wasn’t complete without one last wonderful kirtan that had everyone up and dancing, despite the oppressive heat.