The Peabody Hotel in downtown Memphis is a Memphis icon. It is the home of the famous Peabody Ducks who spend their days floating in the indoor fountain in the hotel lobby beneath a magnificent floral arrangement. At 5 PM daily, the Duckmaster addresses a crowd of onlookers and escorts the ducks out of the fountain, up the elevator and to their palatial home on the roof of the hotel. Each morning, the Duckmaster reverses the trip and brings the ducks down to their daytime home.
The story goes that, in the 1930s, the General Manager, Frank Schutt, came home from a hunting trip in Arkansas a little inebriated. He and his buds thought it would be funny to leave some ducks playing in the fountain. The guests found it amusing, so the tradition stuck. Tourists to Memphis consider the Peabody Duck March to be one of the highlights of the city. The first time I went I was astounded at the size of the crowd that gathered for this quite anti-climactic event. You have to experience it to believe it.
Last Friday, the Peabody Ducks had some unusual visitors to the Duck Palace. About 200 yogis practiced yoga on the rooftop of the Peabody at sunset. The practice was a celebration of the new Lululemon store opening in Memphis. Lululemon is big on building community, which is a smart marketing move for any business that sells primarily to females. We are so relationship-driven.
Hannah, the own of Memphis’ Give Yoga studio taught the class and kicked it off a little after 7 PM. I found a spot where I had a good view of the river. It was a beautiful night, and I knew it would be a fantastic sunset. I had a couple of girlfriends that were there, but I’m pretty internally focused when I’m practicing yoga, so I didn’t hang near them.
Yoga is typically practiced by more women than men, but I was surprised by a slightly larger contingent of male practitioners than I usually see. One man I
talked to said this was his first time doing yoga. What a great way to begin! As for the women, they all looked fabulous in their Lululemon, Athleta, Prana and stylish yoga wear. It was definitely a yoga fashion parade. I mean…. it IS all about the outfit. That was the first thing my friend Stephanie asked me…”What are you wearing?”….”Lycra of some sort,” I replied.
Hannah is greatly influenced Shiva Rea, a national yoga teacher who created a style of yoga that is more fluid and dancy than the traditional yoga practice. We started with some breathing practices and did some free-form dancing to some great blues being played by a DJ. The sounds of the city including the music from Beale Street competed for our attention. I’ve been to yoga conferences in the Chicago area, and this class reminded me of the classes in those conferences. The class was designed to provide an “experience” as well as a yoga practice. One of my favorite movements was a side to side lunge that was a flowing movement reminiscent of surfing. Since I plan to learn to surf in November, I was really enjoying the experience and imagining the Costa Rican Ocean. Now, I just can’t wait to go and try it on a real surfboard rather than my surfboard yoga mat!
As the sun was setting, we ended the class with a Sea of Oms. Om is the chant that usually ends a yoga practice, and the sound is supposed to symbolize the sharing of the energy that a person produces within his or her practice with the rest of the world. A Sea of Oms is when a group chants the Om sound in a round fashion so it becomes a never ending chant. Its really beautiful, and it really opens your heart. The ending of the practice was really profound with the sun setting over the Mississippi River, the sounds of the city and Beale Street pulsating in the background, and the Sea of Oms pouring off the rooftop. Its one of those moments that I’d like to “take a picture” in my mind and never forget.
Of course, there were plenty of hugs to go around afterwards and some friendly chatter. I caught up with my friends Shelly and Stephanie and Stephanie’s beautiful daughter, Megan. I hadn’t seen any of them in quite awhile, so it was a nice relaxing chance to catch up and share a few laughs in a great environment. As all the yogis took turns taking the elevator down to the first floor of the Peabody, I couldn’t help but think that Memphis really has some great things to offer. When I first came here, I wasn’t so sure about this city. But, the more I experience of it, the more I love its unique spirit and style. I surely hope this event will be repeated. If not, maybe I’ll pack my yoga mat up there one day on my own and share a few asanas with the famous ducks by myself. Maybe the Duckmaster will join me.