Diary of an urban yoga warrior

I gave myself a yoga exploration retreat in New York on the cheap (kinda). I’m still digesting the depth of the education. I am changed and changing because of the experience.

I’m tingling with New York yoga in my bones and can’t wait to teach. So come next Saturday. I don’t know what’s in store but it can’t wait to get out!

I visited New York for the Thanksgiving week. Hung out with family and friends – and got in some yoga.

I want to three studios, four total classes. Check out a fun little movie of my travels that I made. CLICK HERE.

Every studio I attended was in Manhattan or Soho.

The first was Kula Yoga for a class called Intenso. The next day I went to Yoga Works in Soho for two classes. Then Friday I made it to Jivamukti.

The list of what I didn’t make it to? Om Yoga, Om Factory (antigravity yoga), Ashtanga Institute, Iyengar Institute, Bikram… you get the picture.

I didn’t have a goal in mind, just find some flow, explore, taste, learn.

Like any good urban yoga warrior I downloaded the Yogoer app onto my iPhone. Equipped with bag of clothes and my Mandara mat I was ready. Push search? The map on my iPhone instantly floods with dots.

Now, finding yoga in New York is like finding air outside. But will it be fresh and sweet or sewer smog?

Result? One studio had canceled a class without posting it. Another studio was too far away for me to make it in time. Thus I found Kula that night before it was time to find my brother, greet him, have dinner and crash for the night.

The next day I hit the Internet before leaving Brooklyn. The day before Thanksgiving held fewer class options but the ones I did presented scheduling challenges. So I went to YogaWorks in Soho, two classes, and called it a day.

I found my brother, explored his workplace at The Onion, and went to an awesome Farmer’s Market that night at Union Square. It was too dark to do it justice with my camera on my iPhone so I didn’t even try.

I was gonna do 108 sun salutations at Om Factory on Thanksgiving morning but I ended up cooking that morning instead.

Friday the options were greater and tougher to choose from:

Free sutra study group at the Iyengar Institute at 1:30?

Om Factory Antigravity? 2 p.m.

Jivamukti? 4 p.m.

Now this is my last day in New York. Any self-respecting urban yoga warrior would say, “All of them!” But then there’s logistics, strategic travel planning – oh – and previous plans for lunch with a friend.

So I skipped sutra study. Missed antigravity by 10 minutes and then hustled to Jivamukti and got there 40 minutes early gosh darnit! And boy was it worth it.

Each studio offered me wonderful insights either about physical asana or the spirit of practice or about people or myself.

The studio that had canceled the class was tiny on Myrtle in Brooklyn, Move with Grace. I was out of charge on my phone and asked to sit for a minute to charge up. The woman was friendly and even offered to teach me a class after a while. Gracious. But I moved on.

There’s a lot of dancers in New York so some of the yoga was kind of bendy and dancy.

Intenso was to be a blend of martial arts and yoga and overall motion. I think I’m a little too fundamental and alignment-based. I found some interesting transitions but never really got in my flow. It was popular though. Despite 500 stairs to climb. This studio was packed and everyone knew each other. Everyone was strong – lots of spontaneous handstands. And there were lots of guys – something I don’t always see in Michigan studios. It’s nice guys – keep coming to yoga!

I was greeted very nicely at Yoga Works and found the instruction to be top-notch. Very alignment-based and fundamental. But my school is branched from Yoga Works so it was to be expected. Beautiful studio – very new – opened this summer, yet very humble. I loved it there and highly recommend it.

The last was the best of all. Jivamukti. I felt at home and I felt like I walked into a spiritual temple. I was greeted. The teacher greeted me after class. It was the least New York feeling (and I’m sorry ya’ll but New Yorkers aren’t very warm and fuzzy – not a criticism just a fact). And what’s not to like about a vegan café at your studio? They didn’t allow photos, which I found to be very respectful and of course I honored it. But boy do I wish I had photos to share. And the flow? Wow. Lots of chanting with the kirtan at the beginning and chanting at the end.  Structural alignment and flow and spirit all mashed up into one.

I gave myself a yoga exploration retreat on the cheap (kinda). I’m still digesting the depth of the education. I am changed and changing because of the experience. Here’s some of my initial thoughts:

1) Saturate. I need to saturate into my practice more as my own. Not someone else’s class. I must listen to my own breath, feel my own prana, build my own samasthiti and Samadhi.

2) Know why. I need to know why I do something in a class. Why I teach a posture or a transition. I experienced some inspired one ands some very random and irritating ones.

3) Listen. By being in the same classes taught by the same teachers often I get used to where we’re going and their styles. I need to listen more. I was extremely attentive over this past week because I had never been in any of these studios or with any of these teachers. So I needed to be listening intently. The act of it alone made me realize just how much non-listening I do on a daily basis.

4) Ancient tradition. I walk away humbled at how ancient of a tradition yoga is and how many branches have sprung up and how many ways we practice. I must explore and honor this more in my daily practice and in my room when I teach.

5) Be inviting. I leave with this note. I was the outsider at all the studios on a holiday week. I watched countless embrasures and kisses. I observed eager, gleeful conversations. None were for me or directed to me and sometimes I felt a little like an intruder into a private party. I don’t want anyone to feel that way at our studio. I will work toward making my space inviting and open, inclusive and loving.


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