Yoga resources for the new year
This is another recycled post from Facebook, but it’s timely because it was almost a year ago today that I returned or perhaps, arrived, to the path of yoga. A yoga studio near my then-job was having a special in November: take class 5 times a week for a month and earn your next month of unlimited yoga for free. It was too good an offer to pass up, so I joined nearby Levitate Yoga (which is no more; it’s been sold and is now run as Reflections Yoga on W. 49th St.) and did a month of yoga.
I’d studied before, about two years of Sivananda hatha yoga, about 2 years of Bikram, lots of vinyasa and some ashtanga, but this was the first time I was going regularly. And it took over me. It became a part of me. That’s another blog post but this is the research I assembled when I first started looking into yoga studios and what sorts of discounted starter programs they offered.
Here are my findings, which are most certainly out of date and will need to be updated (maybe it’ll become a yearly project), but if you are interested in yoga and have been thinking about it for a while, try out one of the many studios in the city. Or, you can try all the studios in the city you want to take class at on the discounted starter packs! I have a few spots I take class at when my main spot’s not convenient. I spread the love :)
Since everyone is feeling the financial pinch lately, I have been especially interested in the city’s yoga schools and studios that offer new student intro specials. Not only is this a great way to save a bit of money but it’s also a fantastic way to try out different schools and styles and see which ones you like best. You can try out the space, the location, the teachers, classes, and the whole vibe of the place and the people that go there before committing to anything! It’s also agreat incentive to do lots of yoga because if you get unlimited classes for two weeks for $30 (like at YogaWorks), it is SO WORTH IT to get the most you can out of it because under ordinary circumstances, a class can cost as much as $18. For ONE CLASS!!!!
Right now I am a total poly-amorous yoga student, giving my shakti out to studios all over the city and I don’t feel guilty about it one bit!
So with the spirit of supporting existing or potential practices, please utilize my reference here. I will indicate which schools I’ve tried out and add any personal notes where applicable. For schools I haven’t tried yet, if you are a yoga buddy and want to join me in trying out the new student special, please get in touch!
New Student Yoga Specials to Get Your 2009 off to a Radiant Start
It was Levitate’s posting on FB that got my passion for yoga burning again. It was here that I read about a special starting in January where if you come 5x/week for a month,Levitate will give you the next month of unlimited yoga for free. Not only is this an amazing deal, but it’s serious motivation to not only save money, but do you know how good you’ll look and how amazing you’ll feel after a month of 5x/week yoga practice? You will be a completely transformed person.
Levitate is a small studio on 8th Ave. near 48th St. There are two practice rooms. Levitate offers a slow flow vinyasa style. The teachers here are knowledgeable, friendly (especially Lippy, she’s awesome), and the staff is really cool. There is a $30 for three classes special and they will send you a 10% off coupon shortly after your trial runs out. Only downside: no showers.
Reading Levitate’s website and exploring their list of teachers and classes re-awakened my love of yoga. I began looking for yoga information, first at Facebook, then all over the web. The more I looked, the more I saw how much information was available. And there is a lot! I hope this introduction to the resources of the yoga community online is a tempting nibble for those who are curious about the fruit of yoga, and you will be inspired to discover more and most importantly, take a class :)
Levitate was bought by Paula Tursi of Reflections Yoga. Most of the teachers who taught at Levitate are now teaching at Reflections, including Jenny Cohen, Rebekah, and of course Paula. Reflections is now about 2 blocks away from the original Levitate location. The new space is gorgeous! There are three beautiful studios that get tons of light, bamboo sustainable wood floors, two showers, two healing rooms for massage therapists and other healers who work in the space, and tons of communal space for hanging out in! In addition to classes, Reflections offers tons of great workshops and teacher training, of which I will soon be a proud graduate!
Reflections has a great new student special of 3 classes for $33.
Another yoga studio with a FB presence that works to its advantage: I learned about Strala via a friend here on FB. Strala is run by Tara Stiles, a long, lean, beautiful yoga teacher whose style is an eclectic and somewhat unorthodox combination of vinyasa and pilates and whatever Tara feels like doing that day. You will use props (blocks) and you will sweat (at least I did!). Tara’s classes include lots of balancing poses (crow, etc) and sun salutations until the cows come home. The studio is housed in a gorgeous space on 5th Ave. near 23rd St. with insanely high ceilings, big windows, and fireplaces. On Friday nights, Strala offers “yoga & a movie” with a movie shown on the wall of the studio after the 7pm class. Strala also brings out organic cookies and juice after class!
As they say at Strala, it’s “yoga without the ho-hah.” Strala takes a light stance on om’ing, chanting, and other rituatlizing that accompanies some schools’ classes. There’s definitely a sense of humor about the whole enterprise at Strala, and the people who teach and take class there. And their special? Free yoga on Saturdays at 11am. Yes, free. Every Saturday.
Strala has also moved since I wrote this post, and they charge $10 for all of their classes, at any time of day. Tara has become quite the yoga rockstar since I wrote this too. She is Deepak Chopra’s personal yoga teacher and writes for the Huffington Post in between teaching yoga and modeling gigs. Tough life but someone’s gotta do it!
LL is one of those old NYC studios that, if you’ve taken yoga for more than 5 years, you’ve probably gone to at least once. Everybody who does yoga knows somebody who studies at LL or got their teacher training at LL. On the third floor of a Flatiron District office building, LL has two sizeable studios and offers vigorous vinyasa practice from early early in the morning til well into the night. LL even offers a midnight yoga on Fridays (10pm-12am, actually), which I plan on doing one of these days.
The sense of community at LL is palpable. There is a small bookstore and boutique where you can buy candles, incense, yoga gear, and a good selection of books. There is always hot tea, filtered water, and organic cookies out for after-class snacking. The dressing room is small but everyone gets along and there is a shower.
Classes at LL can be crowded, especially the after-work ones, so arriving early is a good idea. Two first-timer specials are available: one week of unlimited yoga for $20 or three classes for $30 (one month expiration). Either is a good deal, and either will give you a feel for the yoga here.
Sivananda Yoga Center
The first yoga I experienced in New York. I recently found an old membership card dating from 2000 from Sivanada, and I may have had one before, from 1999 or so. Sivananda will always hold a special place in my heart. It’s an anachronism, a throwback to when yoga was mostly for eccentric spiritual seekers who walked to their own beat, smelled like incense and herbs, meditated, probably were vegetarian, and wore lots of lose flowly cotton garments. The style of instruction here is just as unpretentious. The rooms are sparse, the studio is located in an entire brownstone in Chelsea (which also houses the resident yogis) and has been since 1964. There is no cool ethnotronica playing during class. There is no spa-like ambiance (on the contrary, the changing room is spartan at best).
Instruction at Sivananda is traditional hatha yoga. No flow, no vinyasa, no jumping to the top of your mat. You will hold the poses for a long time. You will not sweat much, but you will create great change in your body and mind. Chanting opens and closes classes. Sivananda is dedicated to the full experience of yoga, so raja yoga, or royal yoga, courses are offered here (classes in meditation, mind control, and positive thinking, overcoming the five afflictions, pranayama, etc.).
Prices are very reasonable and have not changed much over the years. When I was coming in 2000-2002, classes were $10 with membership ($100/year; worth it if you come a lot). They still are $10. $12 without membership. The philosophy, meditation, or yoga courses are also very affordable ($65 range for 4 weeks). There is also an awesome kitchen that is always churning out some fantastic vegetarian meal and is a nice way to get to know the Center, your fellow aspirants, or the Center cat (who is probably on his 10th life at the moment as he was rather old and fat from what I remember. There may be a new one. The old one’s name was Buddha. He was an orange tabby).
Open houses are offered monthly and are a great way to learn more about the Center, take a free class, and also get a 10% discount on any membership or class package you purchase that day.
Bikram Yoga NYC
Ahhhh yoga in a 100 degree room. You either love it or hate it, but it WILL do things to your body and mind. You will sweat like a hog and exert like you haven’t in a LONG time. This is not easy yoga. But it can be done easily, which is absolutely essential for anyone first entering this practice. All Bikram yoga is the same everywhere. It’s for another post, but Bikram Choudury, the man and founder of this system, won’t allow any yoga that doesn’t follow his exact specifications, from the sequence of the poses to temperature of the room, to be called “Bikram Yoga.” Thus “hot yoga” or the various other names yoga in a hot room will be called.
The plus side to Bikram is you can go to any Bikram studio in the world and you will get the exact same class. Once you know it, you know it. Then, you work at refining each pose, each movement, each entry. The fact that it does not change may spell boredom for some, but for others it means a clear means upon which to chart progress, regress, change, etc. I fall into the latter camp. Here’s a NYTimes article about how practictioners of Bikram can just drop in for a class anywhere. I have done Bikram yoga in Miami, New Haven, and will probably do it in a lot more places before this lifetime is up.
Bikram Yoga NY has four locations and offers a fabulous new student special of $30 for 30 days of unlimited yoga. This is an amazing offer and if you do Bikram for 30 days, you will probably be unrecognizable to anyone who hasn’t seen you in a month. You will weigh less, your skin will glow from the inside out, you probably will have lost your appetite, and you will be surgically attached to your water bottle. But hey, it’s a small price to pay for happiness and a very tuned physiological machine.
If you would like a little more perspective on the Bikram practice, feel free to message me. I’ve done a fair amount of Bikram and feel I can speak on what the experience will be like.
Haven’t tried this place yet, but it is a bi-coastal group of schools, with three branches in NYC and locations in LA and yes, the O.C. YogaWorks style is a vigorous vinyasa practice, but there’s tons more. This is one of those studios that offers so many types of classes, the mind reels. But there is a good new student special of $30 for 2 weeks of unlimited yoga, which should allow anyone to try all there is and decide what works best. There’s also a free yoga class for first timers.
Integral Yoga Institute
Used to do karma yoga here in the kitchen years ago (karma yoga = volunteering). Would scrub and chop veggies, wash dishes, keep the kitchen clean and serve meals in exchange for classes. Very nice community of people. One of NYC’s older studios. Good focus on pranayama and meditation, mellow vibe. Traditional hatha yoga. Located on a wonderful block in the West Village, and the Integral food market nearby is great for fresh and organic produce. No new student special per se, but there is an offer to receive your 2nd class free. Check the website for details.
Dharma Yoga Center
Dharma Mittra is something of a beacon in the yoga scene. People love him and the classes here. Dharma Yoga Center has a very good reputation for turning out well rounded yogis and focusing on all the limbs of yogic philosophy. Sri Dharma Mittra himself chooses things to focus on for the month or day (a pose, a particular practice), strengthening the community experience here and also making the practice about a whole lot more than just the poses. 5 classes for $35 new student special.
Kula Yoga Project
Very nice site design. Vinyasa-based yoga (Kula Yoga is vinyasa with focus on creativity and alignment) that also offers workshops and retreats. New student special, $30 for three classes.
Vinyasa studio run by Cyndi Lee, who’s very well known in the yoga community. Also offers Buddhist studies and meditation classes, frequent workshops, and a work-study program for those needing financial assistance to do their practice. $28 for two classes introductory special.
Yoga To The People
YTTP has an interesting philosophy: to take the commercialism out of yoga by offering classes on a donation scale. Yes, pay what you want. The suggested donation is $10, which is radically affordable considering many NYC studios charge $18/class, but no one will be turned away for lack of funds. The idea behind YTTP is to bring yoga to as many people as need it, in an affordable way. Their model has done well, as the studio has recently opened a 2nd branch in Berkeley, California and classes at the NYC studio on St. Marks Place are always packed.
The style is a power vinyasa flow based on the teaches of Bryan Kest. This is a very VOCAL sangha. I think it’s a Left Coast thing, but there is a LOT of vocalization throughout class: inhale, exhale HAAAAA sound. Inhale, exhale HMMMMMM. Inhale, exhale SIGH. People are letting go like crazy in this class so sometimes it sounds like a big collective moan or like the whole class is sighing from the core of their being. It aids in relaxation and if you are at all inhibited about making these big sounds, I predict half-way through class you will be sighing and moaning along with the rest of them. Candlelight classes are a nice touch and the end of class is marked by an insanely large singing bowl being rung, whose vibrations fill the room with a size I’ve not experienced at any other studio. Lots of actors/dancers/creative types and good looking people. But no shower, only one bathroom, and two small curtained-off areas in the main room for changing.
Iyengar Yoga Association of Greater New York
Hatha yoga based on the principles and teachings of B.K.S. Iyengar (considered one of the world’s most important living yogis). Large and beautiful studio located in Chelsea. From the website, describing the Iyengar method:
Iyengar Yoga uses the physical reality of the body to know our minds and the deepest parts of ourselves as human beings. The infinite perfectibility of the postures or asanas provides a pathway into the development of our intelligence and our ability to concentrate and sustain focus. This intelligent practice develops our ability to grow and to separate what is worthwhile and productive from what to leave behind.
The method offers:
A safe and systematic progression of yoga postures to develop each student’s ability and skill, both within each class and from class to class
Sequencing that develops strength, flexibility, stamina, concentration, and body alignment
Highly developed teaching methodology
Precise use of language
Demonstration and teaching of specific points to develop understanding and intelligent action
Individual correction and adjustment of students, when necessary
Integration of the yoga philosophy with the practice of asana
Relevance of practice and incorporation into daily life
Ways to use yoga to ease various ailments and stress
Use of props, such as blankets, blocks, and straps, to facilitate learning and adjust yoga postures to individual needs
Qualified and rigorously trained instructors committed to excellence in teaching
$48 for three classes intro.
A vinyasa studio on W. 37th St. Haven’t been here yet but interested in trying it out. New student special: $20 unlimited for the week; $99 unlimited for a month. Offers two interesting sub-genres of yoga: Forrest Yoga (which is described as “intense pose sequences, compassionately taught,” and AcroYoga, a combination of yoga, thai massage and acrobatics. Two yoga studios with tons of windows, pale wood floors, and plants.
What can be said about Sharon Gannon and David Life that hasn’t already been said? These guys are the like the mother & father of urban, modern yoga. Jivamukti was one of the first “big” or “fancy” studios that I recall in NYC. They took the hippy out of yoga (which still lives on in one of my favorite places in the city, Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center) and helped create the paragon of the lean, lithe, glowingly sexy yogi who floats above the grit and dirt of urban living. Or at least aspires to with a regular practice. Jivamukti style is vigorous vinyasa with a fair amount of chanting thrown in. Jivamukti also offers meditation, sanskrit, and sacret texts classes. The integration of the spiritual foundations of yoga are a big part of the Jivamukti method. From their website:
Jivamukti Yoga is our attempt to integrate the physical, psychological, and spiritual aspects of yoga practices that originated in India into the modern lifestyle-without losing sight of the ancient and universal goal of the practices, which is liberation.
Offers classes all day and night in beautiful, large, full-service locations. Great workshops and programs available (check website) on everything from vegan cooking to the plight of carriage horses in NYC.
Although there isn’t a beginning student special per se, there is a beginner course of $50 for four weeks which upon completion you will receive a free pass to any class in the schedule, a Basic Jivamukti CD and a certificate for attendance of the 4 weeks course.
Atmananda Yoga Sequence
Sometimes refered to as Centerpoint Studios. $25 for a week of unlimited yoga or $100 for one month of unlimited yoga. Also has workshops on detoxing, tantra, sacred vine, intutive cooking, and more. Described as primarily vinyasa based style, but with diverse offerings like aroma yoga, hip opening, and Yoga for Musicians.
I will have to fill these in later on…I’ve been drafting this note for weeks in between this and that, and I fear it’ll be February before I actually finish it. So for the following studios, links only with information about their introductory specials.
Kundalini Yoga East
Unlimited month for first-timers, $65. First two classes, $22. Lots of workshops. Strong focus on meditation and mudra.
Interesting practice developed by Alan Finger which combines asana with breathing, meditation, body work, and healing. New student special, one month for $40.
Large ashtanga studio located in midtown Manhattan near Grand Central Terminal. First class is free. Beautiful sun-drenched studio.
Yoga Yoga NYC
Prana Power Yoga
Big Apple Power Yoga
Unnata Aerial Yoga
Some Like It Hot Yoga
Golden Bridge Yoga NYC
Then of course, there’s always the Yoga Passbook. $75 buys you free passes (for at least two classes, and in some cases, an entire week or two of unlimited) to most of the city’s yoga studios.