Day of Zen?

Typically, namaste out of anything having to do with yoga — it just isn’t for me. However, when I was asked to help a vendor at a yoga festival, a curiosity took over and my adversarial wall dropped. “I’ll expand my horizon. How bad could it be?” I thought.

“Hello, my name is Rick, from Earth,” someone introduced himself to me upon arrival. I immediately turned to my friend, since he was a vendor for the day, and asked “What company is Earth?”

“Earth, like Planet Earth. It’s not a company,” he said.

“So, you’re telling me that guy just . . .”

“Yes, he did.”

And so, my day began.

The classes and workshops ran from 9 AM until a torrential downpour kicked in, with a mobile meditation van ready at all times for those who needed it (to meditate, not escape from the rain). Offerings included Dharma Yoga Wheel with Dov Vargas and Raquel Vamos; Acro Yoga with Gene Feis, Nick Viscovich, AudreyRose Luciano, Donna Squires and Regina McGowan; SUP Yoga with Rita Marie Krepela; Yogability with Amanda Loevner; Pranayama Yoga with Angela Williams-Jones and, my personal favorite, Aerial Yoga with Kelly Hinshaw.

There were even art installations, sound baths, aromatherapy, essential oils, Green Living, and hula hooping!

At 10 AM, I was peacefully stretching, cocooning, flipping upside down, and eventually flying with Hinshaw in an aerial hammock. I’d done aerial fitness before and separate silks, but never the actual “aerial yoga.” This kind of class I could get behind, a bit more focused on upper body strength with the benefits of stretching, meditating, and, of course, feeling like part acrobat (emphasis on the “bat”). Best of all, Hinshaw amused with quirky comments all throughout the 45-minute session. If you’re driving up island, check her out at Emerge Yoga Wellness in Massapequa.

By 11 AM, to escape the heat, I was enjoying the magical inflatable unicorn spraying water. Eventually, dozens of festival-goers partook.

Headlining the debut event was NFL All-Pro athlete, Keith Mitchell. Although I wish he had a pigskin in hand for a casual game of touch football, Mitchell was there to guide guests through a two-hour, mid-day Unity Yoga to break up the session of “oms.” While I opted to stay by the vendor table, along with getting a new henna tattoo, the atmosphere was enlightening.

Observing a group class of roughly 75 people out of the 250 attendees partake in the same meditative experience in unity filled the air with a tangible sense of positivity and acceptance.

My observance as an outsider revealed the healing powers of yoga. I might not join a class, unless it’s in a hammock, but I believe in the good that the yoga community inspires.


A version of this article first appeared in The Independent Newspaper. Read more about #EverythingEastEnd here

Daily Fitness: Wine & Yoga

(This article first appeared in the August 16, 2017 issue of The Independent Newspaper)


For the fitness inclined, few things beat the feel of a refreshing workout to start the day. But exercising in the middle of a beautiful, outdoor setting on a crisp morning or during sunset? Well, that’s motivation for anyone. Here are three yoga classes amid an East End landscape to add to your summer bucket list before the season is over.

  1. WÖlffer Estate: Yoga in the Vines

Aside from a killer rosé-all-day mentality, WÖlffer Estate’s not-so-secret Yoga in the Vines is held every Wednesday through Sunday, morning and evening sessions, through October 1. Morning sessions take place at the Wine Stand on Montauk Highway and evening classes at the gazebo behind the main estate.

With several instructors and class times to choose from, this makes for an ideal outdoor yoga session throughout the week. Go with a mat in hand, leave craving Summer in a Bottle!

The Vineyard is located at 139 Sagg Road in Sagaponack, reachable at 631-537-5106.

The Wine Stand is located at 3312 Montauk Highway in Sagaponack, reachable at 631-537-4771.

2. Diliberto Winery: Vinyasa in the Vines

On Saturday, August 26, Diliberto Winery will host a morning session of Vinyasa in the Vines. Lead by Sheryl Oleksak from 10:15 to 11:30 AM, this yoga session is followed by tastings of three wines produced by the winery. Three cheers to that!

Diliberto Winery is located at 250 Manor Lane in Jamesport. Call Sheryl at 516-297-8455.

3. Sang Lee Farms: Yoga on the Farm

If you want to skip the wines and vines, head to Sang Lee Farms on Sunday for a walking meditation followed by a grounded slow flow. Instructor Rebekah Smith will guide you through the herbs, berries, and fields of Sang Lee from 8 to 9:30 AM in a relaxing morning yoga session followed by a 10-ounce certified organic fresh vegetable juice directly from the Sang Lee kitchen. Going green never felt so good.

Sang Lee Farms is located on 25180 County Road 48 in Peconic. Call 631-734-7001.


Daily Fitness: Ruschmeyer’s Waves and Wellness

(This article first appeared in the May 31, 2017 issue of The Independent Newspaper)


While many in Montauk likely awoke Saturday morning with a hangover, Ruschmeyer’s kicked off the first official day of Memorial Day Weekend with their #CampRusch #WavesandWellness program.

Located outside on their Great Lawn, the commencement class was a Manhattan based BOX+FLOW. The mats were laid out and tired souls were still sleeping in their cabins, as a small group of ladies and gentleman prepared for an unconventional wake up call.

I walked over with coffee in one hand and water bottle in the other, then laced up my sneakers and braced for the next 55 minutes.

BOX+FLOW was led by Caitlin Delaney, an instructor ready to rev up her morning victims, I mean students. The first 40-minutes consisted of warmups and “shadow boxing.” Without any weights, though they are typically used in an in-studio class, there were several “rumbles.”

A rumble focused on 30 seconds of speed and power intervals primarily consisting of squats and air punches. Grooving to the beat of the music, Delaney called out students’ individual names to keep the motivation going.

As a former kickboxing student, the “box” portion of this class was familiar. Next was the “flow” portion. Described as the calm after the storm, the remaining 15-minutes included a quickened vinyasa flow of deep breathing and stretching. To some, and when I say “some” I mean myself, this was the bigger struggle of the class.

In a surprising twist of events, I was both relaxed and energized simultaneously. Even without using weights, my arms and shoulders were sore. The combination of badass self-defense movements and yogi flow resulted in a total mind, body and soul trifecta workout.

Finishing the class I grabbed a delicious Peanut Butter Berry protein shake, compliments of Indie Fresh.

As the summer season welcomes newcomers to Montauk, Ruschmeyer’s is providing a wellness program for locals and visitors alike. By including instructors from studios that are both on the East End and in Manhattan, fitness enthusiasts from all over can partake in programs during the week and on their weekend escapes.

Daily Fitness: A Practice For Everyone

(This article first appeared in the April 12, 2017 issue of The Independent Newspaper)


My typical response to participating in a yoga class is “Namaste out of it.” However, it’s hard to argue yoga’s multitude of benefits, such as increased flexibility, muscle strength, circulatory health, and injury protection (among many others) that come with the practice.

Introducing a ground-breaking program on the East End that offers yoga classes to those battling cancer.

Yoga, unlike some other physical activities, can be for everyone including cancer patients. Yoga geared for those touched by cancer aims to increase lymphatic flow in order to optimize the immune system.

A primary difference between the practice for those with the ailment and those of healthier bodies is that many breast cancer patients practicing yoga have undergone a mastectomy or biopsy. This causes scarring of the breast tissue, which can cause stress when doing yoga poses such as downward facing dog or headstands.

As bone density could be lower in cancer patients, these classes alleviate pressure on the neck by keeping the head up.

Eric Pettigrew has been teaching yoga for 20 years and is a master trainer for Y4C (yoga 4 cancer), a program created by Tari Prinster. In addition, Pettigrew participates in the integrative therapy program Urban Zen and collaborates with the non-profit, Fighting Chance.

Through The Ellen Hermanson Foundation he also holds yoga at Southampton Hospital free of charge every Wednesday at 10:15 AM in the wellness center.

“We gain a sense of self of the body, to reconnect with balance . . . the benefit is to be joined, to be in a group. To know that you’re not alone . . . that there’s other people like you. You can go out of your house, to move and to feel good about yourself,” Pettigrew affirmed.

The groups maintain a compassionate dynamic through the essential core commonality of the disease.

Yoga Shanti in Sag Harbor offers a complimentary Therapeutic Yoga for Cancer class described as “yoga for hope, health, and healing.” Pettigrew and fellow instructor Hilary Chasin teach a class on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2:30 to 3:45 PM. All classes average 10 to 15 people during off-season with more during the warmer months. Through the energized movement of these yoga classes, the form is gentle but works to increase blood flow, with a restorative cool down.

On Sundays at 2:30 PM a class is offered at Ananda Wellness Yoga in Southampton. The class is sponsored by Fighting Chance and is with intructor Karen Meyer.

As with any fitness routine, and with any individual body, strength is achieved through practice. Being healthy is about mentality as well as capability, and through that we all have the ability to achieve goals.

Who knows, maybe the next time someone asks me to take a yoga class I’ll remember all of the inspiring patients taking the step to better their lives and roll out the mat.

To learn more about Eric Pettigrew visit or