Amped Up Asanas at NY Loves Yoga

I wanted to title this post, “Yoga on Crack,” but decided that was too harsh for a class that included harmonium chanting and essential oil annointing. Take note: the Chakra Flowtastic class at NY Loves Yoga is NOT for beginners. It’s a warm, inviting studio and the teacher, Christine Chen, from California made it her mission to get us warm on one of the coldest days of the year.

a95b5fe863019bbb532ed015eabf014dI’d never done a 3-legged chaturanga before, but by mid-class we were moving through it as a part of some of the most vigorous vinyasas I’ve ever seen. And Christine started out so California-mellow chanting beautifully as she played the harmonium. Don’t let her fool you, she’s actually a Yoga Lady Jaye who could easily swing a side job as an auctioneer since she can call out Yoga poses faster than I can think them. (And she writes books in her spare time.)

It made for a sweat-filled, cardio-style class that would have been a “lyrical dance-like flow” as the class-description reads if I were more  graceful. As it was, I flopped out of a few twists and skipped a few chaturangas to meet everyone in downward dog. But I loved the fast pace because it kept my mind from wandering and had me trying things out before I could think about them too hard. I also enjoyed the chanting much more than I though I would. It was surprisingly, genuinely heart-warming which was much needed in 7 degree weather.

chaturanga-how-to-perfect

NY Loves Yoga (140 West 83rd Street between Columbus & Amsterdam)

PROS:

Beautifully designed, cozy space and a true community vibe; friendly staff and yogis; experienced, well-trained teachers; a variety of classes offered from beginner to advanced; mat and towel rental available; cubbies for shoes.

CONS:

No showers and limited space for changing

Best of ClassPass and Me, Day 28

8950165394_534b1c43dc_zIt’s day 28. I was back at Brick New York in Chelsea today for another awesome workout. It’s high on my list of favs. Really feel stronger after my workouts there with an extra side of endorphin rush. Then chatting with some other ClassPassers in the locker room, I got some more suggestions for new, similar-in-style studios to check out. These were some serious class-goers. Here I thought I was daring with 100 classes in 100 days, and these girls are often hitting two different studios a day. (Granted one was a professional actor/dancer.)

But I’m feeling strong, sleeping better, am down 3 pounds in weight, and 1 whole inch off my hips, and discovered the answer to world peace. Actually, I can’t even keep the peace in my own house sometimes. I struggle to make it to every class and find time to write about it. I always feel better after a great workout though. Here’s a list of my favorites of the 26 studios I’ve tried thus far:

Best Total Body Workouts

4600362568_85e099188b_z

1. BFX Studio – love the Fusion workouts that involve both cycling and weight training. Beautiful space with lots of personal attention from the staff.

2. Brick New York– Honestly I had a hard time deciding between this place and EVF Performance for #2. Both are intense total body workouts that leave you feeling strong and motivated because of amazing instructors. But Brick has a nice lounge area and locker room and EVF doesn’t.

3. EVF Performance – Like Brick, it’s a CrossFit gym that also offers classes that are super intense, functional fitness workouts for non-CrossFitters. Instructors pay attention to form and encourage you by name. Really love this place.

Barry’s Bootcamp was also a kick-ass workout, and I plan to return. I’m just a little concerned about the size of the classes that make it hard for the instructors to check your form. And locker room gossip has it that I should also check out Exceed and PushLab Fitness. I’m also looking forward to trying out Drill Fitness this weekend.

2945594079_d28487da4f_zBest Yoga Studios

1. Upper West Side Yoga and Wellness – The more yoga I do, the pickier I am about the studio space and the instructor. This is a clean open studio, and the classes I’ve taken here are the perfect balance of mind and body alignment.

2. YogaMaya – Again this place has a large studio and instructors who take the time to remind you of the new-ness of every pose every time you experience it. They also often start class with a short reading, reminding you of the more spiritual aspect of the practice without overwhelming you with it.

3. Exhale Spa – This was the most luxurious of all the studios so far, and while it wasn’t spiritual yoga in any way, the instructor was fun, accommodating, and knowledgeable. And then there were the plush robes in the locker room.

I’m loathe to start my next list since I haven’t yet hit all the cycling studios I want to. I definitely already have my favorites though.

2370276576_c1d308368b_zBest Indoor Cycling

1. Cyc – It has a special place in my heart since it helped me kick off my 100 days, but it was also the most fun of all the cycling I’ve done so far. And my upper body got worked too!

2. Crank – This was a pleasant surprise find. It’s smaller than most and located only on UES and Long Island. They include more of an upper body workout mixed in with the cycling and it was FUN!

3. FlyWheel – (especially with Danielle) These classes are consistent. They are challenging and they track your metrics. I LOVE that they provide shoes, free water, and fruit, and the space is clean with nice amenities. Secret hint: the blue lockers at some locations have plugs so you can charge your mobile device while you ride.

That stated, I’m scheduled to take an off-ClassPass class at the infamous SoulCycle tomorrow. Looking forward to seeing whether they really are worth the hype as the industry standard. Pretty soon I’m gonna have to move on to a new genre. I’m thinking dance so I can try out this new ClassPass studio addition: StripXpertease.

Murray Hill’s Studio 360

studio 360

Ventured all the way to Murray Hill to hit another cycling studio, Studio 360. The quick summary is that if I lived nearby, I’d probably go back, but it’s not worth traveling for. I signed up for their Signature Series class which they say is 40 minutes of cycling and 20 minutes of Yoga. I got there just in time, only to find out that you don’t automatically get to do the Yoga part. There’s not enough space in the Yoga studio to accommodate all the riders. I was put on the wait list, and luckily I was the last person admitted.

360 yogaRather than a long rant, I’ll just get straight to it.

PROS: Good, accurate metrics (you can input your gender, age, and weight for more accurate calorie burn count) and a light on every bike so you can see the readout; a teacher that seemed to really know what she was doing; if you put in your own effort, it was a great burn; decent music; lockers with locks and cycling shoes provided.

CONS: The mic was broken so the teacher had to shout at us off her bike; the whole ride was in the seat (unless you chose to stand) and that can get boring, not to mention uncomfortable since the bikes were by far the least comfortable I’ve experienced; no showers, dry shampoo, or deodorant so don’t plan on going anywhere but home right after your workout; have to get there early if you want in on the Yoga part of the Signature Series.

WHAT TO WEAR: Cycling pants, and any kind of shoes because cycling shoes are provided.

One little rant: I take issue with the fact that their website says they are the only studio in Manhattan dedicated exclusively to Cycling and Yoga, because Monster Cycle also offers Cycling and Yoga exclusively, unless you count that Monster Cycle has an awesome juice bar and Studio 360 does not.

Feeling Like Bridget Jones at Yoga Vida

I thought today would be a run-of-the -mill, stretch-out-my-sore-muscles Yoga day, always needed after an EVF 360 class (which I took on Monday and am still feeling 2 days later!). I’d never been to Yoga Vida before, but it’s near the school where I teach Lego Robotics so I figured I’d give it a try.

As I set up my mat ($2 rental) and looked around, I noticed the usual yoga crowd: 90% female, slim and trim up front (by the way, for more on the whole front row crowd, here’s an interesting NY Times article), pregnant yogi in the back along with those of us who need lots of blocks and blankets to stay comfy in our poses. However, this class also had several preening pre-class stretch-ers already down like dogs, one of whom had on a long-sleeved, bare-midriff top. (This is an item of clothing that really makes no functional sense as you’d never find yourself in a situation in which your arms were cold, but your belly wasn’t. But hot she looked.) And just as I was wondering why this class seemed unusually heavy on the lipgloss-wearing showboat types, in walked our instructor.

10597382_1447585792189484_341146290_n zander_altimages

His name is Zander (“with a Z”) Gladish. In addition to being a heartthrob yoga instructor, he’s an actor, a board certified Heath and Wellness coach, and an EFT or “emotional freedom technique” specialist (sounds liberating). He does Reiki and Thai massage too. You can even find his workouts on an on-line workout platform called Booya Fitness (looks like an interesting way to squeeze in a fitness class when it’s too cold, rainy, or snowy to make it out of the house this winter.)

The class was fast-paced, and I think it was good, but really it’s hard to say. I was much more interested in catching glimpses of Zander and his interactions with the students whose poses he chose to correct as he circulated the room. I found myself, in a very Bridget Jones-like way, bending deeper into my twist as he walked by. Then, as I looked up at him in hopes of some correcting, I toppled to the ground, and he moved on to the deeply tanned, flat-bellied, Lululemoned Asian girl. I swear he corrected the 6-foot blonde waif two or three times, but he never made it to the three dudes in the back nor to me.

So then I moved on from ogling to amusement making Shavasana pose an impossibility. I mean, it was starting to feel more like an episode of The Bachelor than a yoga class. Could these girls act more like peacocks? After class they loitered. I think I even saw him exchange numbers with one. Me, I scurried out to change. I’d never stoop to fawning over an instructor. But then, as I was putting on my hat and coat, there he was behind the counter, tucking his long strands past his glasses behind his ear. And as another girl passed by gushing at him about how great his class was, I suddenly found myself walking over to him too.

“I really liked the music you played in class. Do you have a list of the songs?”

But, really, I did like the music, I swear.

You can find the playlist on Spotify by searching Zander Gladish by the way.

Days 4-6: Yoga Power and Robots, Oh My!

One of the ExhaleSignagebest parts of ClassPass is that it gives me access to the ritzy parts of NYC that I might not otherwise be a part of, like the Exhale Mind Body Spa on Madison and 77th Street where I took a Power Yoga class. I could’ve stayed there all day. Not only do they give you plush towels for your shower in the day spa locker room, you can even use a complimentary robe and head into the sauna. This was by far the plushest of my excursions. And the yoga class was fun too! (Warning: UES locals wear lots of bling to yoga class. Sparkly pants, flashy watches, and movie star tans there were a plenty.) I’m sure I didn’t exactly fit in in my wife beater and Costco yoga pants, but no matter.yoga-crow-pose

I’ll be back to try out other classes. This one was called Power Yoga and was a bit more vigorous than your average Hatha class, but only 60 minutes and most of the “power” poses were optional. The teacher was very friendly and peppy, taking the time to learn all of our names and use them as she encouraged and adjusted us. I got into crow pose for the first time ever!

So that concluded a 4 day sprint of fitness classes, because the next day I had to go to a training class for work, and I’m totally counting that as one of my 100 classes. I work for a company called RoboFun, where I teach Lego Robotics. I learned how to use the newer EV3 technology and was reminded that as a teacher, I really need to be a student as often as I can. Having to fumble, experimlego-ev3-IMG_0994ent, and troubleshoot are things that often feel foreign for adults who experienced traditional school learning where there were right and wrong answers, and you didn’t want to be caught making mistakes. What I love about doing robotics with Legos is that there are lots of ways to get to similar end results and you get there by playing with Legos and programming tools.

Then, I ended this week with a Family Yoga class at Harlem Yoga Studio. I was super psyched to see that there was a class I could take my son to through Class Pass too! The teacher, Rena was warm and clearly experienced with children. We did some group yoga songs and sun salutations and then she set up a yoga obstacle course for the kids. They also offer a 90 minute drop-off class on Saturdays for the kids while the parents can go practice at an adult class in the yoga room next door. She gave me a coupon to try that out next week for $5. Loving ClassPass!

Fitting in 100 classes in 100 days and writing about it is definitely taking it’s toll on my schedule and my house. Something’s gotta give and in this case it’s the cleaning. Oh well.

More than a stretch: Upper West Side Yoga and Wellness

5423423505_6c0504a96a_zAfter my EVF class soreness and then another workout with my cousins at their traditional gym here in my hometown of Tallahassee, FL, I’m longing for a good stretch. I’m hoping to find a yoga studio down here that might match a couple of my experiences at Upper West Side Yoga and Wellness.

I’ve never thought of myself as a yogi. In fact, some of my loved ones claim, “I’ve got ants in my pants.” I’m one of those people who thought yoga was for lightweights. How could I possibly burn enough calories posing like a dog or a cow? In more recent years I’ve taken quite a few yoga classes that have convinced me otherwise, and while I don’t maintain a regular yoga practice, I’m a convert. I’ve been challenged physically and mentally by some of the classes I’ve taken, and if the class is especially good I come out feeling stronger, walking lighter, and perhaps even taller. (I have a good friend who claims she grew two centimeters since she started a regular yoga practice.)

Like anything, not all classes are worth the time, and so much depends on the teacher. Shortly after I had my son I took classes at Yogamaya and loved them. I also took a few classes of Bikram or hot yoga at Bikram Yoga NYC. Warning: do not attempt hot yoga with a hang-over. It’s hard core, and you supposedly burn about 700 calories in a 90 minute session.

But more recently, I tried some classes at Upper West Side Yoga and Wellness. After the first class, I wasn’t super impressed. It was a Level I class, and while the teacher was kind and knowledgable, the class didn’t seem to flow. We got out chairs, moved to the wall and back, and I felt a little confused at times.

yoga-and-wellnessMy friend, who’s a regular there though, convinced me to go back for a class with Stephan, the studio’s co-owner, and now I believe that she might actually have grown those two centimeters. I will definitely be using my 3 alotted ClassPass classes per month here.  My second class was a 75-minute Open Level class, and I even managed to break a sweat. I got what I call the yoga-buzz, that balance of peace and energy that children seem to have, that most adults lost somewhere along the way. My back felt aligned and my hips open, and that’s what I’m looking for right about now in the after-math of burpees and box jumps. I’ll shout out to my Southern peeps and let you know what I find down here. In the meantime, if you need to lighten your mind and body after carrying packages and party-hopping in New York, I’d recommend a class with Stephan or his wife, Ingrid. Here’s what you can expect:

UPPER WEST SIDE YOGA AND WELLNESS

LOCATION: at 75 West 85th Street (just east of Columbus),

Enter a cozy lobby where you can hang your coat, cubby your shoes, and browse the bookshelf. Get there about 5-10 minutes before your scheduled class so you have time to set up your mat (rental for $2), blankets, and blocks, and to stake out your preferred spot. The studio is spacious, but fills up so you have to stagger to stretch your arms. Most classes are 75 minutes and teachers vary the classes to focus on different body areas or intentions. There was the traditional Ohm chanting in each class, but otherwise not much in the way of chanting or readings. There’s an optimal balance of concentration on body, breath, and mind. 5423423515_ca55935d4c_z

PROS

Clean inviting space; warm, professional staff; ideal balance of challenge and safety; teachers walk around to gently to correct poses; attention is paid to body, mind, and breath; focus on strength, flexibility, and endurance.

CONS

Bathrooms are in the studio so you can’t use them if you get there early and the previous class is in session; very small lobby for storing coats and shoes that can get cramped in the winter between classes.

WHAT TO WEAR

Loose, comfy clothes with a good sports bra (for the ladies) underneath. Too loose and baggy could trip you up though (literally). Yoga pants (duh!) and a tank or tee are ideal. PopSugar has some good yoga wadrobe advice here.

MY GOAL

To be able to do headstand!

8066207860_810ac6641e_z