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Duncan Wong waxes poetic: yoga in New York has changed—and changed the city

Duncan Wong Yogic Arts
Duncan Wong, ready for takeoff, in Central Park (photo: Ben Spell)

Duncan Wong, the creator of Yogic Arts, was in New York City for a whirlwind tour earlier this month. His short stay included leading a meditation cruise, teaching Jumping Principles at Kula Yoga Project, and headlining workshops at Jivamukti and YogaWorks. Wong, whose practice is a fusion blend of Ashtanga, Korean martial arts, and Buddhism, now lives in Asia. But he called himself a New Yorker from the mid-90s until 2005. So we asked Wong for his perspective on the NYC yoga scene and how it’s evolved:

“During my decade or so in NYC, I studied with Sri Eddie Stern and at the Jivamukti Yoga Center on Lafayette—before it became the Jivamukti Yoga School and Vegan Cafe on Broadway. I trained and taught under the auspices of my spiritual parents and system co-creator’s, Sri Sharon Gannon and Sri David Life. And I started to observe the expansion and, sometimes contraction, of mom-and-pop yoga shalas (studios) across every neighborhood and borough of city.

“Of course, the corporate yoga brands followed suit, right behind the Pottery Barns, Chase banks, and Rite Aids, replacing old family establishments, and pressing the gifted young and old farther out of the circle. Yet, nonetheless, each space, vast and fortified or inventive and soulful, provided a way onto the path of consciousness and compassion.

“Each yogi was balancing their athletic inclinations, their passionate profession, and perhaps a desire to access the radiant glow and sunshine attitude embodied by Madonna, Sting, and Christy Turlington, who were setting the stage to make this long wave a lifestyle. The result was a collective shift in awareness, transforming the face of New York and the world.”