Monday, December 11, 2006


People were falling over to the side in Parighasana / Parvritta Janu Sirsasana this morning.

In an effort to get them to straighten up, I asked them to flex the front foot, press down the back of the front knee, roll in the shin, anchor the sitting bones, etc.


Then I told them they were listing to the side like the SS Eastland, a large passenger vessel that was filled with mostly Czech workers going on a company outing, about to depart from a dock along the Chicago River in 1916, when it tipped over.

Eight hundred forty-four people drowned.


While the boat was docked.

The yoga students' ears pricked up. And so did their feet, and they stopped toppling over.

I mentioned that "Papa Bear" George Halas survived the disaster, and that if he hadn't there may never have been a Chicago Bears, let alone a National Football League.

On second thought....

I also told them that the Eastland disaster occurred in the wake (ha!) of the Titanic, and that lifeboats had recently been installed on its upper decks.

The rotting wood floors between decks had been reinforced with concrete, making the thing even more top-heavy.

It tipped over in 20 feet of water, 20 feet from the wharf, in the downtown of what was then the nation's second largest city.


It wasn't yoga and it was distracting. But what else am I supposed to do with all of this useless info left over from The Book That Never Was?

Now, if I could only figure out how to make the 1906 Iroquois Theatre fire relevant to yoga.

More people died in the brand-new, state-of-the-art, "absolutely fireproof" theater than in the Great Chicago Fire.

As with the Eastland, most of the 600 dead were women and children.

As with the Eastland, their families were never compensated.

Ladies holiday indeed.


Next time I must remember to mention that the Eastland bodies were taken to a Near West Side cold storage facility that is now better known as Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Studios. (And prior to that it was the HQ for the groundbreaking nature show, Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom. Strange karma, that.).


  1. Ted Wachholz1:37 PM

    Hi - I found this all very interesting, the Eastland Disaster being tied to yoga! One minor point to clarify, just for the record. ;^D

    George Halas did not technically survive the tragedy, as he was not on board the Eastland when it rolled onto its side in the Chicago River. While he had made plans to be on the first ship, the S.S. Eastland, he (fortunately) was detained and arrived late, thereby avoiding his potential demise.

    While the future of the Chicago Bears and the NFL was secured by Geoege Halas' fate, we can only look back at the hundreds of victims that lost their lives that morning and wonder what their impact on society might have been.

    Thank you for mentioning all that you did on your blog - it is one small way to help us share the amazing history of the Eastland Disaster.

    Eastland Disaster Historical Society

  2. Yes, there was a story in the Trib magazine this weekend that mentioned the Hallas/Eastland connection.

  3. George Costanza lost a rent controlled apartment to one of our survivors.