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.

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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

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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.

Day 15: Back and Forth at Row House

With my shin splints in full bloom on day 10 of my challenge, I decided to opt out of EVF and Barry’s Bootcamp and attempt an indoor rowing class at EVF’s sister studio, Row House, located in the same building. I’ve always liked the rowing machine. That’s probabrowhouse11ly because I’ve never done it for more than 5-10 minutes in all of my gym wandering. A 50-minute class was a bit more intense, and it turns out my form was all wrong before.

I attended the Full Body class (they also offer Core, Endurance, and Express classes), and between sets of power bursts on the rower, we did bootcamp-style exercises like push-ups, squats, burpees, and weight work. The class is reminiscent of an indoor cycling classes in that the instructor starts you off with an explanation of proper form and technique, leads you through a warm-up, and then has students sprint to faster music in intervals.

I found it a great balance of cardio and strength, and it challenged me without bothering my shins. I did take issue with a couple of things though. I wasn’t always sure I was doing the conditioning exercises correctly, and in some cases I wanted a modification, but the teacher (who was very nice), didn’t do much technique correcting. I was also a little miffed that she would often call out that we were “lookin’ good” while she was looking at her watch. The music was meh, and the transition between songs was often choppy. That said, we all have our lackluster days. So I’m heading back today, DAY 15 to give it another go, or should I say row.

13493053095_2ef5db44c4_zPROS: Good total body workout that’s not hard on knees or shins; nice space; friendly staff

CONS: Teacher was great at explaining moves, but didn’t do a lot of correcting or modification; music was so-so; they need more bathrooms and showers are located in the bathrooms of which there are only two.

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!

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