“We had no idea they would come up with this semi-curved conical concept where you feel like you’re in a cloud, but there are still some edges so you don’t get disoriented completely,” said Pelham. “We were thinking of doing just the opposite—use many pillows in earth tones to make it feel cozy." But the minimalist look makes the space feel bigger than it would have if it were jammed with meditation cushions and props, so they're happy they took the chance.
After teaching her yoga class in the White Room, Hazuki Homma said, “I felt that I was inside of a cocoon, like I was being held by somebody. Also, the sound vibrates because of the room’s shape.”
In Homma’s slow flow class that is focused on alignment, class begins and ends with Om.
“There was a man in the class, and somehow his voice came from one area even though he was sitting in another area,” she said, amazed at how the sound carried through the space.
Flow yoga is just one of the offerings at CRS, a healing and arts center that opened in 2004 with a core teaching inspired by A Course In Miracles, the classic book about a meditation-based psychology and philosophy system designed to train people to replace thoughts of fear and anger with peace and love.
Pelham explained that “I felt this [ACIM] was distilling a lot of the Eastern concepts without the religion. I wanted to love. I wanted to understand how to love. We want to be loving, but then we speak angrily to each other. Why is that? So there is a detailed teaching of psychology of why we get afraid and why we get angry, and how to do something other than be kind moment to moment.”
Pelham was introduced to ACIM by Kasaki, who held healing clinics at the time. About a year later, she suggested they open a healing center together.
“Our intention was to have a multi-use arts and healing space,” said Pelham. “I had produced some off-off-Broadway shows, and was interested in trying to find more dance studio space for my friends, who were teaching.”
The lobby at CRS also serves as a gallery space. Currently, there’s a show of colorful, mandala-like oil pastels by Erika Mizukami, a hypnotherapist who rents rooms at the center.
“All of our art exhibitions are by people from our community. A few months before there was an art therapist who sees clients privately here. She exhibited some of the work that they had developed through the therapy process,” Pelham said.
Helping people become clear about themselves so they can express themselves fully—whether it’s through art or their authentic selves—is the foundation for this center.
“We want to encourage people to relax and tune in enough so they can notice what their inspiration is and where their curiosity lies and where it pulls them and encourages them to express themselves more and more. It’s like yoga, the root of yoga is a union of mind, body and spirit," Pelham says. "If we look at the world without knowing what we want, or what we like, then it’s noisy. We can distract ourselves, but we can’t be happy. But if we really make a dialogue between the inner and the outer—What do I feel? What do I like? What do I want?—then I can look and explore with some purpose, and I can pay attention much better because I’m not irritated. If you have no purpose, you’re constantly trying to keep busy because you’re irritated that you don’t know why you’re doing anything."
By encouraging people to do art exhibitions, to show films, to do live performances "provides a platform for them to show others what they are focusing on," added Pelham.
In addition to flow yoga, with Hazuki Homma, other CRS classes include Basic ACIM, with Nana Masuda, NIA, with Yuka Tomita, Yoga Nidra, with Marvin Rosenberg, Iyengar, with Hiromi Sakashita, and guided meditation, with Makiko Mizuta. Kasaki offers an open class—Meditating with ACIM. Classes are taught in English and-or Japanese, and are noted as such on the schedule.
Another weekly offering is Pelham’s Inner Vision Workout, a guided-meditation-, spiritual-healing-, and discussion- based class on the principles of ACIM.
This class "may explore some spiritual theme or visualization, like inviting somebody into your mind and imagining that they see the truth in you. There’s no speaking, no obligation, and no awkwardness involved. You are completely understood and accepted by that person, and you imagine how that makes you feel. And when you are accepted like that, you must be accepting them in the same way. So you try to experience a healing, pure connection with somebody. And it stays with you. It’s very sweet and beautiful,” explained Pelham.
CRS also hosts workshops and classes taught by holistic professionals, who rent space from the center, such as Reiki, nutrition, kriya meditation, shamanic healing, and others.
As for the rooms to rent, in addition to the 18’x18’ White Room, there is the Healing Room, which can accommodate 30 seats for lectures, or eight mats for yoga; the Studio, which fits 25 mats for yoga, or 75 seats for lectures, or 45 seats for screenings; and the two Therapy Rooms are geared towards smaller groups or individual sessions.
Pelham would like to expand more in the yoga world, and attract teachers who need space for their classes.
“We find so many people getting displaced all the time. So many new yoga studios open, but so many close in Manhattan, and then they open in Brooklyn. And people like to follow their teachers, but there is only so far they can commute. We do a lot of semi-privates here. Five friends will arrange their own class, and that’s really helpful for teachers, because they don’t have to chase the students. The students contact the teacher, and that means the students are committed.”