Last time I promised that I’d share my experience finding a new studio. When I had to start looking around, I went to classes at YogaWorks, where I’ve been a member for a few years, practicing Mysore-style Ashtanga with Evan. When I could no longer make it to his class, I went to some others there. Those of note are Lisa Yi and Sherman Morris. I’d taken their classes before and like them partially because they are Ashtanga-based. The other classes I took were not for me. I certainly didn’t try all the teachers, and I’m not going to snark about those I didn’t like. Rest assured that in no class recommended here will you hear a teacher expounding on the spiritual lessons learned when her cat lost a leg, spend the entire flow class lying on the floor, begin class in pigeon pose, be invited to friend the teacher on facebook, or hear that a part of your body or yoga experience is “juicy” or “delicious” (gross). You might not get much of your beloved pranayama. For that I apologize and add, get over it. You cannot have everything.
Evan Perry: Led Ashtanga & Mysore
I practiced with Evan for a few years, and thoroughly enjoyed my experience. He’s been teaching ashtanga for years and is a very dedicated, low key teacher. A friend calls him a bit of a rogue, as he’s not obviously a part of the ashtanga scene or gossip grapevine, no regular trips to Mysore, and none of the attitude that can come with. His adjustments are strong, grounding and generally spot on. His led classes on the weekend are a good place to start. Note that straight-up Ashtanga classes never have music, and there are usually the traditional opening and closing chants. The 3pm Sunday led class is a bit more mellow, sometimes half primary, sometimes more than half, seldom all, with plenty of people who don’t know the style. The Saturday 9am is usually full of his Mysore students and is always full primary. I’d guess everyone gets 0-1 assist, double that in Mysore. It’s also fine to drop in on the daily Mysore classes (6am–8:30am, M-F. He’s there until about 8) even if you are new to ashtanga and don’t know the primary series. In fact, Evan is a great person from whom to learn the basics of Mysore-style ashtanga. He has some truly dedicated students and a fair number of beginners, so it’s much less intimating than some of the city’s shalas. It’s easily the best deal for unlimited Mysore in NYC, and one of the few with towels and showers (not that you are supposed to shower after ashtanga. You aren’t). The Mysore community here is friendly. After they’ve seen your face for a few weeks, you’re one of the family.
Lisa Yi Supple: Vinyasa Flow
Lisa Yi teaches one of the most refreshing and straightforward vinyasa yoga classes I’ve taken in New York (Tues/Thurs 6pm, Westside). There is no idle chit chat, just clear, insightful, incisive instruction. She does start each class with a short talk on yoga teachings, which thankfully lean toward the intellectual rather than the personal. Lisa has an ashtanga background, and begins with sun salutations and other ashtanga-derived asanas. While she strays pretty far from ashtanga, the sequencing is well considered and is not a choreographic free-for-all with no mind to the energetic properties of the asanas. She favors alignment over pushing yourself past your limits, but keeps the class challenging. Her adjustments are gentle and accurate. I’d estimate about one per class is average. She is exacting and has a grounding, spiritual presence, by which I do not mean OM is tattooed on her calf. I might argue her class has the most spiritual feel to it that I’ve taken at YogaWorks, but I cannot tell you why that is, save her presence. Worry not, you won’t be chanting (much) or listening to her play the harmonium while you’re itching to move. She plays music after the first fifteen or so minutes of class, but it’s not terribly loud or invasive. Her inspiration? Chocolate. Me too. I totally enjoyed her class when I couldn’t make it to morning Mysore, and wish that it fit in my schedule for an occasional drop in. She also teaches at The Shala Yoga House in Union Square.
Sherman Morris: Power Yoga
I had stopped going to this class because there was no cool down at the end, so I felt dreadful after it. Instead, four straight minutes of crunches, then straight into savasana (corpse/resting pose), during which I felt anything but peaceful. It’s not that I’m such a yoga purist I don’t approve of crunches. They just don’t work for me as the grand finale. I tend to be high strung anyway, so need at least eight minutes of calming poses (seated forward bends, closing inversions, reclined twists) before savansana. Yeah, preferably traditional sequencing but definitely not a crunch-time cardio blitz into corpse. I would leave feeling jacked-up and cranky, and who wants that from their yoga? Thankfully, that has ceased and now Sherman’s classes are like a kid in a candy store for an ashtangi whose shala is closed on weekends. There’s variety, fun, and it’s slightly verboten—trashy music and poses you haven’t been given yet. There is a slight nod to ashtanga sequencing, and more ashtanga asana than you will find in most vinyasa classes. While I find lowering to hanumanasa and eka pada rajakapotasana then getting back up for virabhadrasanas unwelcome, most people will not care. Please note that this is not a class for beginners. Nor is it for self-defined intermediate students who aren’t aware of their bodies and limits. It’s for people with a highly intermediate or advanced practice who have body awareness. You will need it to dodge the people flinging themselves into inversions with nary a bandha, who come crashing down onto your otherwise-stable headstand. I’m not exaggerating. Adjustments are unfortunately few and far between. I get one maybe every five classes, though it’s possible he’s busy putting out fires in this kind of class. The circus atmosphere is bolstered by the music, e.g. Earth, Wind & Fire (September), the Clash (Rock the Casbah), Pachelbel (Canon in D, always). If that doesn’t sound fun to you: Practice. All is coming.
All of these teachers are at YogaWorks, which has free one-week passes for new, local students. Their Westside management seems to have improved since they tried to curtail the Mysore program in 2010, and in my experience thus far, the management at the SoHo location has been lovely. That said, they are a chain, and I do prefer to patronize independent shalas. I will cover some next time.