Archive for the ‘The Big Apple’ Category

Last week, The New York Times featured an article profiling Andrew Vollo, a professional taxi driver in New York City who has quietly been teaching yoga to other cab drivers at LaGuardia Community College in Queens.  Mr. Vollo’s class, which he promotes by papering the city with his fliers, is popular in part because he is one of them.  A lifelong New Yorker, his “‘dese’ and ‘dem’ lexicon is part of his skill set as the de facto guru for some unlikely disciples. The son of a welder, the veteran of years behind a taxi’s wheel, Mr. Vollo embodies the spread of yoga across traditional barriers of gender and class.”

Mr. Vollo’s goal, he says, is to manage the “physical and psychic toll of their jobs”:

“I really think I’m chipping away,” Mr. Vollo, 56, said of the blue-collar aversion to yoga as stuff for hipsters, yuppies and space cadets. “If I get nine people in a class, that’s fantastic. They’ll learn enough exercises to loosen their back and legs. I’ll tell them how to eat better, give them breathing exercises. Because if you’re driving in pain, you’re going to be a nasty person.”

Mr. Vollo also described how he came to yoga and eventually brought yoga to cab drivers:

Mr. Vollo discovered that resistance firsthand over the course of his career. He had begun studying yoga, as well as tai chi, when he was driving a cab as a college student in the 1970s. In the process he moved from the Roman Catholic observance of his youth to considering himself a Taoist, albeit one who still attends Mass with his wife and son.

Intermittently over the decades, he tried to evangelize for yoga among drivers, sometimes persuading three or four to study together for a few sessions, then having years pass without any interest. In 2004, as the director of LaGuardia Community College’s educational program for taxi drivers, he gave another push.

He passed out fliers to dispatchers and brokers and at driving schools. People laughed. People ignored him. One office manager kicked him out. But somehow he got his first four students to enroll.

Mr. Vollo has been pretty vocal about spreading his message.  He has been profiled in the New York Daily News, and People Magazine.  For more information, you can read the full article at the NYT, and you can visit Mr. Vollo’s website.


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Last year, the U.S. Federal Marshalls held an auction selling off Ponzi-schemer Bernie Madoff’s glitzy, glamourous, and ill-gotten goods. Last week, the feds held another auction, this time selling off Bernie’s more mundane items.  Prior to last week’s auction, the media was offered a glimpse of the items, and The Wallstreet Journal was there to chronicle what have become intimate glimpses into a man very few people understand.  According to reporter Juliet Chung, among the items are Bernie’s underchunders, CDs (Jimmy Buffett or Rod Stewart, anyone?), black velveteen slippers monogrammed with “BLM”, books including one penned by yogi-doc Dean Ornish called Eat More, Weigh Less, and…

…Bernie’s yoga mat…

In March 2009, Bernie Madoff pled guilty to 11 counts of federal crimes including securities fraud, money laundering, and perjury. Yesterday, The New York Times reported that last week’s auction netted a cool $2 million dollars, which seems like a drop in the bucket considering the $10-20 billion dollar Ponzi scheme he ran.  However, it most certainly means something to the beneficiaries of the auction.  That’s right, Bernie’s goods – undies and all – were auctioned off to benefit his victims, who included public school teachers to small town pension funds, many of whom lost their life savings. Bernie Madoff is currently serving 150 years in federal prison.

This story always makes me so sad.

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