Yoga in NYC

Oct. 18th was my 37th birthday.... sigh.

To celebrate, my husband and I took a short trip to NYC. I love NYC. I decided that while we were there, we would check out a couple of NY yoga studios. I decided to go to 2 completely different places - The Dharma Center and Strala. Here's my thoughts on both experiences:

The Dharma Center
Yoga Master, Dharma Mittra, has been teaching yoga in New York since 1967. A pioneer of yoga today. Andrew and I signed up for a "Meditation and Self-Awareness" class with him. I was nervous and I had no idea what to expect. When we entered, the desk person said but 2 words to us - "names please". We entered the space into a small lounge area where a few students were relaxing. Everyone was silent. We had no idea where to put our stuff or where the studio was. We just waited. A few minutes later, yogis started to come out of the studio and we entered. Everyone was grabbing blankets, so we did the same. The mood was calm, relaxed, and reverent. Dharma took a chair in the front of us. He spoke about awareness of the 'self' - the self being the collective 'self'. He spoke about having compassion for others and about getting in touch with others on a mental level. We did lots of chanting, a few breathing exercises and a lot of listening to Dharma. While he tried to keep the mood light by occasionally making jokes, the class was very, very serious. There were people in the class that sat in lotus with their eyes closed the entire time. Overall, it was a great experience, but a bit intimidating for me. Next time, I'll definitely come back to experience an asana class with him.

The next day, we woke up bright and early to make an 8:00 am STRONG class
with Tara Stiles (aka "the Yoga Rebel") at Strala. Tara got in the elevator with us on the way up to the studio. She smiled brightly and complimented my WhetherBag yoga bag! As we entered the space, the desk person warmly greeted us and Tara asked where we from. She was extremely warm and welcoming. We chatted for a bit about Chicago (she's from Joilet) and Tula. When she found out it was my birthday, she gave me a big hug. The studio was a large open space with white walls and large windows in the front. Tara docked her iPod and we began. The class was challenging. We did a ton of standing poses and inversions. She did not utter one Sanskrit word - everything was English, which I found to be interesting. Throughout class, I could hear her giggling with students. The vibe was light-hearted and fun. The class wasn't heated, but by the end I was drenched in sweat. As we left, she gave me another hug and said she couldn't wait to come and practice at Tula!

So what did I take away from these 2 very different experiences?

The Dharma center was very 'yogic'- from the silence of the students to the smell of incense, the beaded curtains to the old red carpet in the studio. There was a air of reverence and sacredness (is that a word?). Dharma honors and embodies the yoga tradition throughout his space. Our chanting contained all Sanskrit words. While do love being in this type of environment, it is really hard for me to connect to it. It is so far outside my day to day life in the modern world (not to mention all the chanting in a foreign language). Although what he said (in English) I completely found meaningful, true and applicable to modern life.

On the other hand, I felt completely comfortable in Strala. I knew what was expected of me and I connected to Tara and the people around me quite easily. There was a sense of humor about things that I love so much. No one was afraid to laugh, smile, and chat with their neighbor. BUT there was a little something missing - the yoga-ish part of the practice. I think it was mainly because there was no chanting, no Sanskrit, no Namaste. We could have been practicing any number of different group exercises - not just yoga.

So all of this leads me to ask - what makes yoga, yoga? I don't really have a good answer for this, do you?

Here are the websites to the studios, so the next time you are in NYC, check them out!