Next to LA, New York is the yoga capital of the USA. It is a place that has inspired new styles of yoga such as Jivamukti, as well as become a hub for many styles of yoga including Sivananda. There are about 300 yoga studios, with hundreds of classes per day. (Source and more information on http://www.yogacitynyc.com/)
The summer brings a plethora of outdoor yoga – most of which is free – attracting hundreds of people to the city’s parks. One event in Central Park attracted around 10,000 people! New Yorkers love yoga and they love it in a variety of styles, colors, and sounds.
Here I offer you a short review of some of the unique yoga studios that I have visited in NYC. I hope you find it enjoyable and inspiring. I certainly have!
My first stop was Laughing Lotus yoga – I love the name – in the Chelsea neighborhood. The long entrance way is covered in graffiti stylized pictures of Hindu gods. There is a large reception area that sells books, sparkly yoga pants, and fresh juice. There are 3 yoga rooms, including a dance hall where they hold yoga dance parties. I have yet to take part in one but I plan on it!
The whole place is very colorfully painted, very pitta! And so are the classes! I took a FLY class, which is one of the more advanced classes – fast paced vinyasa flow set to a mix of traditional Hindu music and modern electro-pop. Many of the yogis, 4/5 female, were doing handstands and arm balances, or at least attempting them. Taking a class like that can be really tiring, which is different from my usual practice, but it can be so empowering as well. Doing poses that you don’t normally do, or at least don’t know in such a complex combo can feel really good, energizing. As well, you feel supported and inspired to try more challenging poses.
The instructor mainly called out commands as she walked about the room, adjusting people with a loving but heavy touch. At some moments, she raised her voice, prodding us to go further, try harder – definitely an intense atmosphere. At the end, she commented how outside of NY, people would think we are crazy to call this yoga. And we all laughed knowingly.
If you are interested in hi energy classes and musically inclined, you would really enjoy the sounds and colors of Laughing Lotus, http://nyc.laughinglotus.com/
Later that day, I had a reservation at Joschi International, which has become famous for offering naked yoga classes. Perhaps the only studio in NYC to do so, they offer 2 classes per week, one co-ed and one all male. Otherwise they offer private lessons and regular clothed yoga. The full class was half male and half female, 7:15 on a Tuesday night, so probably a crowd of people coming after work, to let off steam and sweat. And there was lots of sweat, more noticeable than usual because there are no clothes to absorb it!
When I walked in, I was greeted with a big grin from the yoga instructor and co-owner Monica, who makes sure to get everyone’s name and use them in class. Then, I hesitated for a moment, wondered when and where to strip. There was no dressing room, so I waited until other people started taking off their clothes, basically right there in the entrance way. And so I followed, and took off my suit. I borrowed a mat – only for the lazy and brave – and took a space in front of a woman, over near the window. As a first timer, I thought I may be a little demure. The class began with sun salutes that never seemed to end and continued for about an hour of standing poses, arm balances, and lots of sweat. The soundtrack was euro techno-pop and Monica never stopped smiling.
At the beginning of class, people naturally looked around a little. I was struck by the amount of tan lines, in stark contrast to my shocking whiteness. By the middle of the class, we were all so focused on getting through the poses and breathing that the atmosphere really changed. We were all united and it was a beautiful feeling. Yoga classes sometimes have an air of competition, for stylish clothes and mats are well as the ability to get through the challenging sequences. But stripped of all coverage, people seemed humbled and more able to focus.
At the end of class, a few yogis hung around, a natural, chatting about naked yoga in Japan and other fun topics. It was surprisingly comfortable.
Look forward to a Naked Yoga, coming to a studio near you, Nagoyans!!
If you are too shy for a class, you can also schedule a private session, http://www.boldnaked.com/