Yoga endures. Pilates and Zumba might be the (relatively) latest exercise rages, but yoga will carry on when they become passing fads. It has been around for thousands of years in various forms and is grounded on an appreciation of the body-mind connection.
Everybody has a story of how they came to the practice. For Marc Altheim of Lake Success it started at a ski resort, Mount Snow, VT.
“I found yoga by not being able to touch my ski boots anymore. I was 45,” he related in an interview recently. “I’m sitting in the lodge and I can’t even clip my boots. And I say to my wife [Hope], ‘This is crazy. I want to ski till I’m 80.’ She had been doing yoga for a number of years and she had a teacher she thought I would jibe with. That was the impetus for learning about yoga, and once I started doing it I got into it. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.”
Altheim, 58, is a 1981 graduate of Hewlett High School and went on to earn a bachelor’s in sports management from UMass-Amherst (’85) and a law degree from Cardozo School of Law (’88). He’s no longer a member of the bar.
In 1995 he co-founded Atlantic Development Group, and went on to build thousands of apartment units in New York City, mainly in the Bronx and mostly affordable ones. He is no longer active in his firm.
“I was going through my career and trying to figure out how much longer I wanted to do that,” he said. “I wanted to deepen my knowledge of yoga. So I applied to become certified as an instructor in a studio in Port Washington called Om Sweet Om. I was substituting there and learned that it was fun to teach and it really influenced people in a good way. And over the past 10 years my interest in real estate waned and I started doing yoga more and more and I found it could balance me. I found I wanted to help other people, to help heal people. Because I have gotten so much out of it myself.”
Of his former life he said, “I’ve been in that arena for a long time. I worked for a nonprofit that built housing for homeless families. I played the game in that world. Being a developer is not easy. There’s a lot of risk involved. It is an enormously stressful exercise. And you have to balance between trying to encourage affordability with the interest of a private enterprise.”
He added, “I decided to pull back from the real estate industry, which is unusual. Developers always want to build bigger, build more.”
In the past 10 years he’s pursued studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary, developed a business called Beach Tennis, (“That failed miserably but it was fun,” he said) and also began his journey into yoga.
Altheim opened Know Yoga, Know Bliss at 580 Plandome Rd. in Manhasset. He rented half the space that had been the former Manhasset Sporting Goods store for decades.
“I’m a fan of Manhasset,” he reflected. “It’s a highly charged, very turbo community, and I felt like it could use a studio.”
The studio’s teachers, in addition to Altheim, are five women from Manhasset who are trying to counter the idea that yoga is a little esoteric and not mainstream.
“I want to bring it to the people. And that’s why we do what we’re doing. It’s a pursuit,” he said. “It’s more traditional yoga. We emphasize breathing. We emphasize getting into the pose in the correct fashion.“
He added, “We want [new students]. They’re like a piece of clay that we want to help mold. In that regard we are geared toward beginner and intermediate yogis. We’re trying to serve as a gateway to person’s yoga practice and create a very welcoming environment.”
Studio teachers Rebecca Scaramucci and Carolyn Carpentiere joined Altheim on a recent afternoon to demonstrate some techniques and talk about their paths to the practice.
Both women were in high-stress corporate sales environments, with Carpentiere selling digital printing equipment while Scaramucci worked for Kodak at its height, when only Coca Cola eclipsed it in brand recognition.
“I took my first yoga class [while I was doing sales] and I could not believe the transformation from just one class,” said Carpentiere, who went on to become a certified instructor.
Scaramucci, now a real estate salesperson, had an additional motivation: she wanted to maintain the youthful flexibility of her high school cheerleading days. She also obtained a teaching certificate at Om Sweet Om and described how yoga helped her get through a difficult and challenging time in her life.
All three emphasized the importance of breathing and meditation as part of their classes.
Altheim, a certified breathing coach as well, observed, “Breathing exercises are a way for people to calm their nervous systems. People are stressed out with COVID and just life. I meditate twice a day. And the folks who believe they can’t do it are the ones who can benefit the most.”
He has a men-only class on Monday nights.
“They don’t feel like their ego is going to be reduced. They don’t feel like they have to impress the women,” Altheim explained. “They don’t [look] at a flexible woman next to them and think, ‘How am I going to do that?’ ”
He continued, “If there’s a new person in the room we cater to that person. Because every other person that’s there has been that person. If they’re new to yoga we don’t want them to leave—that’s why the approach is centric to the new person. The people who are more developed can do their own things.”
Scaramucci said she makes it a point to introduce herself to a new person and find things out about them.
The interior space was inspired by Japanese Zen studios. Altheim had the ceiling painted to simulate dark wood, explaining, “It’s like a cocoon. We’re in this special place. You leave your issues out the door. People who come here are seeking a sanctuary.”
Or as Carpentiere put it, “It’s physical therapy and psychotherapy in one class. Where else can you get that?”
“Can you put on your ski boots now?” Altheim was asked.
“Not only can I put on my boots, I started playing basketball at Whitney Park the other day. I’m playing hoops with people 30 years younger than me,” he replied.
Altheim could barely reach below his knees when he started yoga, but now can touch the bottom of his feet with his palms.
“It’s a process,” he warned. “It’s not an overnight thing. I can totally buckle my boots. I’m not sore after skiing anymore. And it’s attributable to this amorphous thing called yoga.”
For class schedule and more information visit www.knowyogaknowbliss.com.