Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Yoga Energy: Studio versus Gym, Large versus Small

So I’ve had two interesting yoga experiences this week.

Friday night I went to my first class at Yoga People. Danika, a lithe dark-haired woman, teaches the evening Vinyasa session. There were only three people there and soon after we started the Karma Yogi on duty, Denise, left so that we were the only four souls in the studio. (I heard the faint zip of a jacket closing, the muffled closing of the front door.) The main room has several windows to the left and right of the altar so that as I stretched high and swooped low during my sun salutations I gazed out into the darkness. Danika dimmed the lights halfway through and the aroma of incense lingered in the air. The practice was intense but subtly paced. I felt a sort of camaraderie with the other practitioners—we were practicing together, you see. Not just in the same class. I found myself synching my movements with the woman next to me, breathing and exhaling perfectly in time with Danika’s cues. I left feeling—well, wrung out, but in a gentle, soothing way. I smiled to myself (which, if you know me, doesn’t really happen that often… my face tends to remain a mask of impassivity) as I skidded down Clinton St toward Atlantic Ave., toward the rush of Friday night activities.

On Sunday I went to Reyna’s Vinyasa class at the NYSC Cobble Hill. I’ve actually taken this class several times and think Reyna is an excellent instructor. She’s gentle, her sequences are smooth, and she’s got an offbeat sense of humor that helps with the often-exasperating conditions. First off, the room is always cold. Not sure what’s going on at Cobble Hill but after the Thursday night Club Yoga my feet were so cold I couldn’t feel my toes. By Sunday the temperature was a little better, but still nowhere near the warm, cocoon-like atmosphere of Yoga People. Second, the outer wall is all glass so that there’s no partition between the group exercise room and the free weights: as you pull up into Warrior 1 you find yourself locking eyes with some burly guy doing his hundredth bicep curl. Further, I counted about 30 people in the class. Now, sometimes there’s a kind of collective energy that arises from such a crowd, especially during the initial sun salutation series, and when that happens there’s really nothing like it, but this group was too mismatched to have much of an energy at all. Some were seasoned practitioners and others were clearly unfamiliar with Down Dog. After several initial postures I closed my eyes briefly, focuses as best as I could, and threw myself into the practice. By the end of the hour I felt as cleansed, as relaxed as I had friday night.

So what am I getting at? That yoga studios do a better job at atmosphere than gyms? Seems like a no-brainer, right. And I thought about that all day yesterday and again this morning when I opened for the Basic Vinyasa at Yoga People. I finally decided that it's good practice—and I use the word deliberately—to try a variety of classes in a variety of traditions at a variety of locations. In the same way that we can’t always control the things that happen to us in our lives, we can’t always control the external factors that influence our practice. But if we can learn to quiet our minds and focus our bodies regardless of what’s going on around us, to practice to the best of our abilities despite cold temperatures and ogling athletes, than we’ll be that much stronger. And if you're anything like me, its a lesson we all need to learn again and again and again.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home