i’ll take manhattan: it’s all yoga, baby goes to nyc!

“… and some instinct, programmed by all the movies I had ever seen and all the songs I had ever heard sung and all the stories I had ever read about New York, informed me that it would never be quite the same again. In fact it never was.”
Joan Didion, Goodbye to All That

So there’s an excuse for the long-ish silence ~ I was in New York City! The intention, really, was to blog from my iPhone, but seriously, I just didn’t have the patience for two-thumb typing. I tried, I even downloaded the WordPress app and was all gung ho. But whenever I had wi-fi access, it took all my time and energy to just minimally keep up with my email and make the occasional Facebook status update/Tweet. And so… no liveblogging from NYC. I was too busy enjoying everything the city had to offer and just living.

This was my first time in NYC (ever! can you believe it?) and it was an excursion, not a Yoga Trip. Although I did manage to squeeze in a few yoga-related experiences (in addition to the MoMA, the Guggenheim, the Brooklyn Museum, walking around, drinking coffee, hanging in Central Park, watching burlesque shows and enjoying time with mon amour), including an informal yoga blogger dinner in Williamsburg with Joelle of Yoga Nation and the legendary YogaDork. We made plans for world domination, of course, and gossiped about the NYC yoga scene. I only had a chance to make it to two yoga studios:

YogaNerd class at Virayoga – As an aspiring Anusara teacher, I absolutely had to check out Virayoga (founded by Elena Brower) in SoHo and I could not resist a Tuesday morning class called YogaNerd, with the delightful Zhenja La Rosa. The description promised a class “for dedicated students who want to explore the technology of Anusara yoga with a sophisticated approach to alignment and its therapeutic applications.” That’s me! I’m not only a YogaNerd, but a bona fide regular old nerd, so I was excited when Zhenja started off the happiness-themed class by referencing a New Yorker article (which I had, of course, read because I’m also a magazine nerd). The class was focused on the tailbone and its subtleties, and I figured out a little trick to get deeper into parsvakonasana. Zhenja was a pleasant and knowledgeable teacher, with a great presence. I also loved how she called me “Roseanne Canada,” to differentiate me from another student named Roseanne.

Thursday morning class at Yoga to the People (27th St location) – I’ve been fascinated by the donation-based concept of YTTP for a long time, since I’m a believer in making yoga accessible and available to everyone. The mandate of YTTP is based on making it “possible for everyone to do yoga regardless of economic limitations. Yoga is meant to help strengthen and stretch your arms and legs, not cost you one!” Heck yeah! The 27th Street location is one of three studios in Manhattan, and classes range from $8 – $10 each (which is apparently a suggested donation, although that option wasn’t clear at the front desk). It’s a “traditional hot  yoga” studio (the other locations offer “power vinyasa” and “hot power vinyasa”), but the location worked for my plans for the day and after three days in the city, I was in need of a little detoxification.

I was surprised to get off the elevator and walk into a brightly lit front desk area with classic rock radio blaring (luckily, they turned it off during the class). The place felt more like a gym than a yoga studio. The class itself featured the Bikram sequence, which surprised me – I thought it was copywritten and strictly prohibited in non-Bikram studios. I asked the teacher how they were able to teach the sequence, and apparently they get around it by offering slight variations and different language (not the “Bikram script”). Interesting.

Even though the teaching style was less aggressive than a typical Bikram class, I still felt agitated by the end. This wasn’t helped by the return of the classic rock radio. While I love me some Led Zep, I just don’t need to hear “Stairway to Heaven” as I’m coming out of savasana. I admire the ethos and vision of YTTP, but I have to admit that the overall feeling was “discount Bikram” rather than the proletariat yoga that I was expecting. Perhaps the other locations offer a better experience (with better lighting and music, too, I hope).

I just got back to Montréal last night and I’m still buzzing from the energy of the city. My favourite thing about NYC are the streets like canyons, which stretch for miles, lined with high buildings. Montréal feels like a village, so small and slow and quiet, the streets at once too narrow and too wide, the traffic too peaceful. It’s hard to explain, but I feel like I have a better understanding of how the world works, like I understand everything that is referenced everywhere in our culture – all the movies and stories and songs – and I do, on some level, feel like nothing in my life will be the same again…

  1. I’m a born and raised Chicagoan and proud of it, but I LOVE NYC! NYC has the street life that Chicago used to have.

    • Glad you mentioned this, Linda. I was just discussing New York vs. Chicago with my daughter-in-law a couple of days ago.

      I know both cities very well and for many years. I was wondering why I’m so much more attracted to NYC than Chicago, even though on paper Chicago has most of the things NYC has.

      We concluded that it’s the concentration and ease getting around, plus I suggested that Chicago could be more like NYC if they just built a few really big suspension bridges with spectacular views.

      But you hit the nail on the head–it’s the street life. It’s there in Chicago. There are great neighborhoods. But you have to know where you’re going and seek them out. In NYC, every block is like walking into a self-contained small town.

      Bob Weisenberg

  2. Sounds like you had a wonderful trip. Glad you took a break as it makes your voice all the more meaningful now that you’re back. Your accounts of the two yoga studios make me want to take a tour of the local ones here in town to do a similar experiment w/out the travel pricetag. Always good to get out of the comfort zone. Someday I’ll get to New York and I’ll be thinking of this post when I do.

  3. “MoMA, the Guggenheim, the Brooklyn Museum” Wow, and an ArtNerd to boot…:)

  4. I’ve never been to NYC either! Sounds like you had a great trip!

  5. thanks everyone! yes, it was a wonderful trip. i forgot to mention that i am indeed an artnerd too! the marina abramovic show at the MoMA was fascinating, and i loved everything about the brooklyn museum (especially the absence of long lines and crowds).

  6. Great blog, Roseanne.

    I have three kids that went to college in Manhattan, so I had the distinct pleasure of visiting them at least twice a year over a period of ten years. Every time I visited I made a point of walking where I hadn’t been yet, so I now know the city really well. For me only San Francisco exceeds NYC for pure excitement.

    My two sons are musicians in Brooklyn, so now when I visit I’m getting to know Brooklyn, which is about the same size as Chicago all by itself!

    I was once asked by someone who was only going to be in NYC for one day what they should do. My list, in priority sequence, was:

    1. Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge
    2. Times Square
    3. Central Park
    4. Staten Island Ferry
    5. China Town

    This is the outdoor list. If one is into art, the Metropolitan Museum would be number 2 and the Guggeneim 5th.

    Bob Weisenberg

    • wow, bob, i had no idea you were such an expert on NYC! i should have asked you for some tips before my trip.

      nevertheless, i managed to make it to 4 of your top 5 recommendations (didn’t get a chance to ride the staten island ferry). i loved walking across the brooklyn bridge! i found times square to be a little overwhelming and commercial, although i was happy to stand in front of the condé nast building (home of the new yorker, vogue, and other fave magazines ~ i also walked past vogue’s creative director on 8th ave and was very excited: my only “celebrity” sighting in NYC!).

      • Yeah, Times Square is just on the list because it is so overwhelming and completely over-the-top, and because you just got to be able to say you’ve been there. Great job covering 4 out of 5.

        Put the Staten Island Ferry on your list for next time. One of the reasons it’s on the list is because it goes right by the Statue of Liberty, which you can then skip unless you have a pressing need to go up in it.

  7. Thank you so much, Roseanne Canada (!), for making Virayoga a part of your NYC experience. Zhenja is a treasured teacher at Vira and we are lucky to have her so close.

    For your next trip to the city, check out http://www.kulayoga.com also. Great vibe, gifted teachers. Again, our gratitude~ e

    • thanks for stopping by, elena! i was hoping i’d have a chance to check out one of your classes at virayoga, but there just wasn’t enough time. i should have skipped the empire state building!

  8. Hello, thank you for the love & passion you put into your weblog. Your photos are great, too. Katie.

  9. out of curiosity… how big/packed were the classes?

    • interesting question, emma! neither of these places were “mega studios,” so they weren’t huge, packed classes. there were maybe 25 people in the yoganerd class ~ which is still bigger than any of the anusara classes i regularly attend in montreal (usually, max 14 people).

      there were about 22 people in the YTTP class. the room felt quite spacious, but it was a 10am class ~ i’m sure the evenings are more crowded!

  10. Nice! I can see that you really had a great time huh. Good for you. Oh by the way, I love your blog!

  11. Hi! New to your blog and have been enjoying reading back posts… I just couldn’t resist asking, what was the trick you learned to go deeper in parsvakonasana? unless it’s a secret. 😉

    • thanks for asking! it’s not a secret at all. more inner spiral in my straight leg, draw the sides of the waistline back and scoop my tailbone.

  12. Wow!!! LUCKY! I have always wanted to go, and now i have all these yoga and tourist resources (if I ever go to NYC I am so emailing Bob and you! lol).

    interesting experience with the YTTP studio. Sadly, my experiences with karma classes (or by donation) classes here in Halifax has been similar- discount yoga. I still have a couple of studios to try on this level though…

    I wonder if it’s a general (taboo) trend with karma yoga, or if it’s situation specific…?

  13. I felt the same way when I visited New York City last summer. It is hard to put those feelings into words but I know I will never be the same and I’m grateful for the experience.

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