It’s a boom time for yoga studios in Williamsburg/Greenpoint. When I first began researching for Part I of this story, I was aware there was a surge of new places to practice yoga in the neighborhood, but I didn’t realize we were in a veritable cornfield of them. Turns out that behind those barricades we all thought contained high-rise apartment buildings—just yoga studios! Miles and miles of yoga studios. If you haven’t yet sought out a neighborhood practice space for your plow pose, it’s a wonder you haven’t tripped into one, given their prevalence. It’s even possible you are living in a yoga studio and haven’t realized it yet. Take a whiff of the air—is it incense-scented? Is your pup, Sparky, all of a sudden stretching with his back knees bent, and his pelvis tipped in the air? Are people touchy about you wearing shoes inside your own home?
But in all seriousness, what is wonderful is that each location offers a different flavor of practice; a unique pathway to enlightenment and philosophy of mind/body healing. There are studios for those who like chanting, and studios for those who want to skip the “OM” business and dive straight into a workout. There are studios in the east, in the west, and Southside and Northside. And while there are ever more variations of the eastern discipline dotting our enlightened streets, what remains a common theme, is that when we come together to heal ourselves, good feeling and goodwill prevail throughout our community.Yoga to the People (Affordable Yoga)
211 N. 11th St. 2nd Floor
b/w Driggs Ave. and Roebling St.
Yoga To The People’s name is instantly recognizable. The first YTTP studio cropped up on St. Mark’s place four-and-a-half years ago, and is now one of the premiere spots for donation-based Power Vinyasa in Manhattan, holding heralded classes crammed with post-workday yogis, some-times as many as 60 at a time. The brand new Williamsburg outpost hasn’t garnered quite that much traffic yet, but I would be surprised if the studio’s contingency didn’t grow rapidly in the coming weeks. When I attended class at 4:30pm on a Tuesday, the just-opened traditional hot yoga studio held a class of about sixteen, one of the largest classes I attended in my ongoing yoga marathon. YTTP also had the most equal male to female ratio of any class I attended, and I don’t know about the other ladies in the neighborhood, but I am always motivated to work a little harder when there’s some strapping muscle around.
Eye candy aside, the studio’s hot yoga room is something special to behold, equipped with state-of-the art flooring used in upscale saunas and mirrored on three out of four walls. The space is also outfitted with a long row of windows above the mirrors on the front wall that offer a view of the towering, golden dome of the Russian Orthodox Church by McCarren Park and the blue open sky, which, when you’re folded in half inside a pressure cooker, appears cool and inviting.
YTTP Williamsburg will soon add donation-based Power Vinyasa to its repertoire. (Suggested donation of $10, obligation of $0.) The practice room is still under construc-tion, and should be ready within the next few weeks. In
the meantime, take advantage of the studio’s extremely affordable hot yoga classes, priced at $8 for a drop-in, just enough to cover the cost of the heat and water, of which
you will receive and need plenty.
David Greenhouse was a visionary when he opened Greenhouse Holistic almost ten years ago. Sure, it’s clear the residents of our neighborhood are mad for mountain pose now, but Greenhouse has been offering therapeutic exertion, relaxation, and meditation to the denizens of Williamsburg since long before the first vegan café planted its roots in the Bedford area for post-pigeon pose refueling/indulgence. The yoga mini-empire, which now includes three locations, and a sister spa (where a post-yoga-marathon hot stone massage may very well have saved my life), aims to be a one-stop-shop for your holistic needs, offering massage, nutrition counseling, facials, and various therapists to the community.
The Roebling studio, where I took a class with instructor, Gabby, is a long, narrow space that filled up like a corn popper, representatives of the post-work crowd popping in two or three at a time at 6:30pm on a Tuesday night. I was impressed by how many people fit into the space—yogis, seven to a row, coordinating the alignment of their blue and purple rubber rectangular mats. This is a studio for regulars. People who like to get in, and get it done.
Because of the sheer size of Greenhouse, with its three locations all within walking distance of the Bedford L stop, the studio offers a wide breadth of yoga styles, including Vinyasa Flow, Iyengar, and Ashtanga, with a Mysore class in the works. Greenhouse is also one of the only yoga studios in the neighborhood that also offers Pilates; and a band of regulars strips down for a bellydancing class every Friday night at the Driggs location. Greenhouse also focuses heavily on its teacher training program, which offers another opportunity for its students to deepen their prac-tice and which has helped foster the strong community for which the studio is known.
Drop-in classes are $15, and bulk packages are also available, so visit Greenhouse’s website for more info.Sangha Yoga Shala (Nutritious Yoga)
107 N. 3rd St. #2H
b/w Berry St. and Wythe Ave.
Sangha Yoga Shala’s owner, Alana Kessler, studied nutrition at New York University and was a practicing, clinical dietician when she began to suspect her yoga practice could become more than just a hobby. The studio she founded, a year and a half ago, is the synthesis of her commitment to both her nutrition career and ever-evolving yoga practice. SYS offers a variety of classes of the Ashtanga-inspired Vinyasa variety, and will soon offer Iyengar, which will make use of the studio’s extensive system of rope walls. Alana also offers her nutrition consultation services, during which she tells people like me to trade in their Fruit Loops for Kashi. “People who come to me [for my consultation services] already have a body awareness,” she notes.
Located on N. 3rd Street, Sangha Yoga Shala is housed in a new, flat-faced building that doesn’t belie the existence of such a spacious practice environment. Alana designed the studio as a “boutique urban sanctuary.” High curtains keep the space airy while providing privacy for yogis changing by a tall wall of cubbies; and maroon armchairs in the common area are extra inviting places to lounge, perhaps while munching on something cooked up in the space’s gleaming, full kitchen—an expected amenity in the studio of a nutrition junkie. The studio has even partnered with a custom bakery that offers gluten- and dairy-free baked goods.
“I’m probably going to make myself dinner here after class,” she told me after a vigorous Wednesday night Vinyasa session. I’ll assume she wasn’t making Kraft macaroni and cheese.
Sangha Yoga Shala’s classes usually host about seven students on average. Drop in classes are $18, and a 5-class package is $75, with a two-month expiration date. And don’t let Google Maps fool you—the studio is located on N. 3rd, not N. 6th. The coordinates are wrong in the system, and will steer you to Go Yoga (covered in Part I) instead.Usha Veda
1104 Manhattan Ave.
b/w Dupont St. and Clay St. ushavedayoga.com
If you’re going to make yoga your evening activity, you might as well romance yourself. Which is why, late one Friday evening, I donned my yoga finery and whisked myself away to Usha Veda’s moody, candlelight session.
The 8:30pm class was taught by Nami, a gorgeous, dreadlocked yogi with a honey-voice made for seduction and calming hypnosis. She could have put me in a trance during a fire drill. In a class of just three people, Nami pushed us each to our individual limits, subtly pushing down on my neighbor’s lower back to help him touch his toes, and making sure I couldn’t cheat my way through the Vinyasa (“thighs don’t touch the ground”), and that my warrior posture was so perfect I almost let out a battle cry. At a weekend Vinyasa class a few weeks later a different instructor opened up our session with philosophical words about love. “Yoga does not talk specifically about romantic love, but J.Krishnamurti, the Indian philosopher, describes relationship as an act which brings us closer to self realization, and with that in mind, yoga is the tool to bring us to the possibility of self knowledge. I always try to connect the physical practice to the philosophy of yoga, which is in truth the core of what yoga is.”
Usha Veda’s storefront studio is located in the far northern corner of Greenpoint between Clay and Dupont, where owner Christina Mattus and other local business owners have created their own warm little community.
If you don’t live in Greenpoint proper the walk towards the water is worth it for the near-private classes of between four and ten students on average. Usha Veda’s Manhattan Avenue storefront location is a few months old, and calming, gauzy curtains protect the practice space from the street. Christina, who has lived as a tenant in the building for three years, converted the space, previously used for storage. “I always wanted to clean it up and practice yoga in here,” she says.
Usha Veda offers a wide range of classes, including Vinyasa, Hatha, Pilates and Ashtanga Mysore, which focuses on postures linked with breath. The studio also holds restorative yoga classes and focuses yoga therapy for those recovering from illness and surgery. Sunday workshops have included Yoga Nidra, a yogic sleep session.Abhyasa Yoga Center
628 Metropolitan Ave.
b/w Lorimer St. and Leonard St.
At Abhyasa Yoga Center, attitude is key. J. Brown, the studio’s owner, calls the amalgamated style of yoga he has developed at his studio, “A twelve-step program for A-Type personalities.” (Uh oh.) The practice Abhyasa promotes, which is deeply rooted in the tradition of prominent yogi, T.K.V. Desikachar, focuses on Ujjayi or “ocean breathing,” and is slower and simpler than your average yoga class.
The practice isn’t about achievement or transcendence—it’s about enjoying being where you are. “There’s nowhere you need to get to,” J. intoned in the practice room, as we eased into our wheel positions, or took comfortable, if shaky, tree poses. “In this philosophy, falling with a smile is more celebrated than maintaining your balance,” he added.
J., with his charming smile and warm, encouraging baritone, makes it easy to keep your spirits high and your stress level down. He received his training at Go Yoga, where he was a teacher for over seven years. He opened Abhyasa to expose his students to a different way of thinking about the yoga practice. The tactics offered at Abhyasa come from principles traditionally meant to be imparted one-on-one, though J. successfully implements them in a group setting with his unbounded interactivity. He knows everyone’s names, and asks about everyone’s injuries and wellness state individually before beginning class. He also takes the time at the beginning of every session to talk new students through the process of Ujjayi breathing, demo-ing the hisses of the deep intake and exhale.
Slowing down your practice can be tough for those of us who crave that post-workout soreness, our unofficial Yoga Scout badge of honor. But if you take a minute to step back and breathe, J.’s yoga philosophy has transference to other areas of our lives. “If you’re struggling and having a crappy time, you’re practicing struggling and having a crappy time,” J. says, pushing my back leg in on my warrior one pose to lessen the strain on my hamstring. I expel the air from my lungs with an audible flourish, and the pain is removed from my body. Makes sense to me.goodyoga nyc
(Bed and Breakfast and Yoga)
73 Calyer St.
b/w Franklin St. and West St.
Entering goodyoga nyc is like walking into a yoga pajama party, yogis padding around in leggings and socks, making tea, lighting incense, eating cereal. The studio takes up the entirety of an enormous converted factory on Calyer—a building in which goodyoga owner Ray Gonzalez was once a tenant. It was converted and transformed about two years ago by Ray and his partner Flannery Foster into a full-service yoga studio/massage center and bed and breakfast/art space/hang zone.
goodyoga offers many different styles of yoga, including a regular Morning Mysore class, and Primary and Half Primary Led Ashtanga classes. A lot of the practice rooms within the goodyoga building are convertible, so where you practice one day, you might be receiving a massage from one of goodyoga’s trained therapists the next. There is even a place for goodyoga’s house stylist to cut people’s hair, and a gorgeous rooftop where students do sun salutations with the sunrise in the warmer months.
There is a unique sense of camaraderie and comfort among the students and teachers who practice and work at the space, perhaps because there are actual places to live set up within goodyoga’s four enormous walls. Three bed and breakfast rooms reside within the goodyoga sphere (one of which you actually have to walk through a yoga room to enter). The rates are $100 for a single, $150 for a double, which include yoga, a 10% discount on massage and wellness services, and access to two common lounges that overlook a massive kitchen where goodyoga occasionally holds healthy cooking seminars and demos for their members and staff. The rooms have hosted a variety of intriguing guests, and were recently occupied by a Swedish ambassador and an international journalist.
But most of the patrons of goodyoga can usually be found in one of the space’s two enormous studios, or in the main kitchen, open to all yoga students, where you are likely to run into the studio’s two cats, Bowie and Iman.
Classes are $20 for drop-in sessions, so the intro week-long deal is a steal at only $20.Yoga South 11 (Grassroots Yoga)
55 S. 11th St. #207
b/w Wythe Ave. and Berry St
Zelina Blagden, a mixed-media artist and photographer, opened Yoga South 11 a few months ago, in the heart of Hasidic Williamsburg. Zelina, who received her teacher training at Greenhouse Holistic (reviewed above), is no stranger to the yoga game. She has been an instructor for over a decade, and in 2007 went on tour with Rufus Wainwright as his private yoga guru. She still teaches weekly classes at Greenhouse, but branched off to also develop her own studio to offer students a free-style and more personal practice.
The focus of Yoga South 11’s program lies in Zelina’s highly original “Freestyle It” session, in which Zelina encourages her students to do, well, whatever they like. “Ultimately yoga is a self-practice,” she says. You can also expect a fair amount of spirituality to emanate from Zelina, who is environment-conscious and interested in how yoga connects us to the planet. If you’re looking for yoga minus the meditation you will not find it here. “I’m not into the Starbucks of yoga,” Zelina says.
Yoga South 11 takes up half of Zelina’s combination yoga/art studio space, and has a true homegrown feel to it. The white walls are decorated at their horizontal midline with broad, haphazard strokes of red; the meditation “Om Namah Sivaya” hand-lettered over the crimson base. Wildlife paintings of owls by Zelina’s artist father, Allen Blagden, sporadically dot the remaining white. A shrine at the front of the room houses a pot-bellied Buddha surrounded by live greenery, some of it as tall as the window. By example, Zelina encourages free expression.
The night I attended class, we were a spirited group of three, but Yoga South 11’s room could serve the practice of seven or eight at a time. Zelina played mellow music to accompany our practice, but will often play a more upbeat soundtrack to drown out the noise from the rehearsal spaces that occupy the rest of the Williamsburg flat/floor. If you attend the sessions, you must also have love for Zelina’s dog Goose, an adorably zen black labmix.
31 Nassau Ave., b/w Dobbin St. and Guersney St.
Brooklyn, NY 11222,
Dishan Elise, owner of the gorgeous yoga studio and gym facility, Human@Ease, on Nassau, knows that variety is the key to a healthy lifestyle. Just as a diet of all apples won’t keep the doctor away, an exercise regimen of all yoga may not be enough to bring a person to their peak performance. Which is why Human@Ease’s facility is the perfect place to hone one’s body, and mind, combining a fitness regimen with the more mindful practice of yoga.
When you walk into Human@Ease, it gives the impression, first and foremost, of a weights gym—the sunniest, airiest gym you’ve ever seen, with daylight pouring in through east-facing windows and reflecting off a gem box of beautifully refurbished equipment. But while Dishan and her trainers offer inexpensive and effective programs for imparting their circuit training knowledge, the focus of the space is yoga. And the yoga classes are diverse and original. The studio is one of the only places in the neighborhood to offer Kundalini Yoga, “the yoga of awareness,” which combines meditation, mantras, physical exercise, and breathing techniques. Many classes also focus on “nada japa”—a call and response chanting system.
And the studio offers tai chi, bellydancing, and even pilates. The yoga studio is decorated with cherry tree branches painted on the walls, and a hanging hammock-full of yoga blankets suspended from the ceiling. During my Saturday morning class, our instructor played a mix of old soul and R&B tunes, marking the first time I really “got down” in downward dog. And Dishan even took the class with me and a couple regulars, getting in her weekly dose of yoga to complement her other workout routines.
Human@Ease also offers acupuncture and other holistic services, as well as access to a two-person infrared sauna ($15 for up to 25 minutes). A shower is available for use by all students. Drop in classes are $16. Currently, they are offering three classes for $30, making it affordable and easy to get started.