I’m not talking about mainstream, branded, “I’ll sweat away the pounds” yoga.
I’m not talking about “you’re not cool because you don’t know the latest gossip” yoga.
I’m not talking about “does this yoga thing work?” yoga.
What I’m talking about is Jill Camera’s 6pm class at YogaSutra on Tuesdays in Midtown Manhattan, and the sort of deep concentration and focus a person can build in this sort of class, and at this sort of place. Imagine a Vinyasa yoga class so crowded that most mats are touching, but the student don’t. Imagine trying poses you’ve never even seen. Imagine floating away into yoga bliss during savasana. Imagine new words, like the combination of strength and confidence-strongfidence. Or imagine a yoga class where everyone in the room has an amazing body, and no one really cares. Imagine a gathering of yogis who are all about practice. There is no stumbling and stuttering, no falling out of postures, and no personal acceptance of failure within each student. There’s a huge difference between practicing amongst yogis and practicing amongst people who are trying out yoga, waiting to see if it works for them. What draws me to places like YogaSutra is not amenities, although the tea bar and meditation rooms are great, it’s that focus is number one. So it’s not simply that the place offers places to focus, it’s that they care that you’re focused. There is no party going on in Jill Camera’s class, and if you treat it like one, you’ll miss something.
That’s the way I like my yoga: fast, leaving out the space for the laughs and the joking and the coddling of the American mind. I can do without a yoga that accepts my failures. I’d like yoga class to be the one place in this society where I’m forbidden to have that “all I have to do” mentality because a playing field leveled by this sort of rule creates a professional environment, and you can hence, pay professional attention, and give professional intensity to yourself. Leaving these classes, I always felt a sense that I was more alive and more aware. I felt a freedom that, even here with the power of words at my disposal, I know I will never describe.
Truthfully, I tried a few classes at YogaSutra, like some Hot Vinyasa classes (my first good experiences with such classes) with Sara Nicole Baxley and Megan Alexander, two teachers I’m hoping to have again very soon (Ms. Baxley is also at Hot Yoga NY, another future stop). I also took a vinyasa class with Phil Lynch that was loaded with dry jokes. But the gleaming highlight of my time there was becoming a semi-regular in Ms. Camera’s class. I bounce around from studio to studio, but I can honestly say that I’d love to make her class a regular part of my own practice, even if only once a week.
I also recommend YogaSutra to people who are new to yoga. When introducing a branded yoga, like Bikram Yoga, to a person who is new to all forms, most of us either take years and years to explain that this isn’t the only yoga, or we allow the person to believe (and say ignorantly) that Bikram Yoga is the only type of yoga that exists. At a place like YogaSutra, one that offers many styles, has many rooms, but still keeps their core values (which aren’t intrusive), a new student can get that broad sense of what yoga is, and how it works, rather than the unsatisfying quest to find out if it works. Whatever that means.