By Susan Van Dongen,
Deborah Metzger, founder and director of the Princeton Center for Yoga and Health, has a special connection to a certain line from J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Fellowship of the Ring” — the first book in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.
”Not all those who wander are lost,” is part of the poem in a letter from Gandalf the wizard to Frodo the hobbit, which goes on to have layers of meaning within the book and trilogy.
Ms. Metzger has taken this particular line to heart, because the idea of “wandering with meaning” not only resonates with her journey watching PCYH evolve over the last two decades, but connects beautifully with the new labyrinth that was built on the center’s grounds this summer.
”The labyrinth is part of that same idea,” Ms. Metzger says. “In the labyrinth, you’re wandering around and there’s no ‘right’ place to go, there are just circuits.”
Because the labyrinth had its inaugural event in late August as the sun was going down, the participating walkers had to trust in the carefully laid paths to find their way.
”I myself had a tiny moment of panic,” Ms. Metzger says. “Sometimes you think you’re getting close to the center, and then you’re on the outer rim again — but you can’t get lost. The labyrinth is a wonderful metaphor for living, because sometimes you’re also meandering around in your life.”
All those years ago, Ms. Metzger’s idea behind PCYH was that it would be a place for mindful experimentation, where you could “try things on for size” — like labyrinth walking, meditation, drumming and dancing, and any number of yoga styles and practices — and ultimately see what fit your personal journey, your heart’s desire.
Even if something was not a perfect fit, however, at least coming to PCYH and discovering all there was to offer might point you in the direction of balance, healing and mindfulness.
”I believe everybody has the knowledge inside themselves, and all we need is a quiet place where we can access our intuition and get the answers,” Ms. Metzger says. “I wanted to create a space where people would do that, would join me in this experiment.”
On Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016 PCYH — located on Orchard Road in Skillman since 2012 — will celebrate 20 years in the Princeton area with an afternoon and evening of yoga, dance, drumming, chant, food, community and connection.
The free festivities begin at 3 p.m. with a special one-hour Hatha Yoga class led by Denise Corsini, and capped with a guided relaxation/meditation. A little later, there will be a drum and dance session, featuring percussionist Mark Wood and Arielle Wortzel, yoga teacher and JourneyDance facilitator.
Celebrants can nourish themselves with a pot luck supper, and then, at 6 p.m., head over to PCYH’s new labyrinth, for a special group “walk” and blessing, guided by Deborah Ketter, a labyrinth facilitator who led the building of the labyrinth earlier this summer.
”There were things I had envisioned from the beginning, and this labyrinth was one of them,” Ms. Metzger says. “Ours is the classic design of seven circuits, but we made the center a bit larger and we put a big boulder in there so people could gather.”
”It was wonderful to work with Debbie, she really has studied it,” Ms. Metzger says of Ms. Ketter. “We picked out the materials, including many, many river stones, but we also used found objects that have come to us from time to time. We also have a box in the center we call ‘The Heart Box,’ and you put your intentions in there.”
The culmination of the anniversary jubilee will be an evening of kirtan chant, featuring kirtan artist Suzin Green, with Daniel Johnson and David Freeman. These master artists of the tradition — rooted in ancient Sanskrit mantras and rhythms — weave rapturous kirtan, the focus of mantra, and the exhilarating rhythms of the drum.
Ms. Metzger says Ms. Green essentially got her start at PCYH, and that she had moved to the Princeton area in 1996, around the time PCYH was opening its doors. The physical practice of yoga was just starting to take root, and yogic mantra, kirtan chanting and meditation were still on the fringes of the mainstream.
”Suzin Green started coming to our yoga classes, and came up to me and said ‘I do kirtan chanting, do you think the community would be open it?’” Ms. Metzger recalls. “So, basically, we brought kirtan to the area.”
While looking back, Ms. Metzger is simultaneously planning for the future at PCYH, and is especially pleased to present guests such as Dr. Larry Payne, the author of “Yoga for Back Pain,” “Yoga Therapy RX,” “Prime of Life Yoga” and more, who will be at PCYH in November.
”He usually only appears in Hawaii and California, but he loves coming to see us,” she says.
In the spring of 2017, PCYH will welcome Dr. Mala Cunningham, who developed “Yoga for Cardiac Care,” a therapeutic modality of working with people who suffer from heart disease and related ailments to incorporate the practice of yoga. As Ms. Metzger notes, Western science is catching up with what the ancients knew about yoga’s physiological and mind-body benefits.
”There’s been so much research about how the brain changes with yoga, how blood pressure goes down, how issues of aging are helped through yoga,” Ms. Metzger says. “It’s being used for veterans and other people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These are all benefits of the mindful yoga practice, and it doesn’t matter if you’re doing yoga from a seated position or you’re doing all these dramatic poses.”
”We’re really happy that we’ve been able to host nationally and internationally acclaimed yoga educators, and bring deeper understanding of yoga and meditation practices to yoga teachers and our community,” she says.
Ms. Metzger reflects that PCYH is the first place of its kind in the area and is the oldest, at a time when there seems to be a yoga studio opening every week. Interestingly, many of the people in the area launching their own studios once practiced or took classes at PCYH.
”There are a lot of new things out there, but we remain here,” Ms. Metzger says. “But, it’s not about us, it’s about this beautiful space where people can try things, and we’ll support them. I still have ideas, I still don’t know exactly where it will go.”
”(When I started PCYH), I wasn’t attached to what it was supposed to be,” Ms. Metzger continues. “The whole center is my practice, and part of my practice is not to be attached — which is a paradox. How do you have a goal and not be attached? Yes, we all have aims, we all want ‘to get to California,’ but you never know what might happen along the way. You don’t have a clue, you just enjoy the journey.”
The Princeton Center for Yoga and Health will celebrate “20 Years of Commitment to Yoga and Health,” at PCYH in the Orchard Hill Center, 88 Orchard Road, Skillman, Oct. 1, starting at 3 p.m. Free, but reservations are required for planning purposes. For more information, go to princetonyoga.com/20thanniversary/ or call