I believe that every time you’re proven to be wrong about something you also learn something. With that said, I’m learning a lot at YogaWorks this week. Honestly, before starting this project, this “Exercise Odyssey,” I was curious about these sorts of yoga studios. I’d been reading all about Tara Stiles and Strala Yoga and how yoga is turning into a fitness fix for so many. When I saw the YogaWorks website, and their pictures and testimonials, I thought it was more of the same. I expected to go to these locations and find students and teachers who talked about yoga positions that “target certain areas” or that were “great for losing that pesky ten pounds.” When I say I was wrong, I was massively wrong. By Monday February 14, 2011, I’d learned more about yoga in three days than I’d every known. It was Valentine’s Day when I decided to try one of their “Yoga Works signature classes” which I thought would be an in-house compilation of postures they’d put together to brand their own type of yoga.
Again, I was wrong. But let’s start earlier than that. I’d scheduled that day’s class at Yoga Works Westside location, a fourth floor location near Lincoln Center with above average facilities and a beautiful lounge area for the amount of space they’re dealing with. Upon entering the room, I set up my mat as the others did, in normal rows, then our instructor, Jodie Rufty swept into the room in a whirlwind of blond hair and energy, immediately commanding our attention, and instructed everyone to bring their mats to the wall, grab two blocks and two blankets. I had no idea what was going on. My first two thoughts were “huh, we’re going to use the wall?” and “no, sorry, I don’t need blocks or blankets.” I’m glad I understand that any negative stigma about yoga always leads to a stupid question, so I kept my mouth shut and played along. What happened was a different sort of yoga class than I’d ever attended. We did some very simple postures, but we did them many times in different ways. At first, we used the wall, then blocks, then nothing. I learned the proper positioning for postures I’d usually just muscle through. We did many things that people see with their eyes and execute wrong, but this was a situation where, based on the nature of the class, it was impossible to execute the postures wrong.
There was also a whole lot of chanting, more than I expected. There was a lot more closed-eyed meditation than I expected. The deliberate manner in which Ms. Rufty teaches brought me into the sort of yoga that I’ve been searching for, one that brings you into a different state of consciousness-where the mind simply moves the body (or keeps the body still) without any clutter or detours in between. I can truly say that in my three days at YogaWorks, this was the most centered and focused I’d been. I also did so many things correctly that I left feeling taller, leaner, and calmer. I commend Ms. Rufty, the Yoga Works practice, and my fellow practitioners for an awesome class.
It was a fun day because after that 10:45am-12:15pm class, I had to eat right away to make a 5:30 Bikram Yoga class at Hot Yoga New Jersey’s Westwood location. They were gracious enough to offer me a free class for my birthday, which was last week. So after heading to Willamsburg to Oasis, a tremendous falafel spot right off Bedford Avenue, I took a yoga class and a hot yoga class in the same day. My experience was stellar. Of all the Bikram Yoga classes I’ve taken, this was the most focused, relaxed, and in control of my breathing that I’ve ever been. The result was a nearly perfect class, and I could see the mental benefits of my practice at YogaWorks. I’ve learned a great deal about moving with breath, budgeting my energy, and keeping a clear mind as I move through any yoga. I do miss Bikram Yoga though, it is both refreshing and personally challenging, and it’s also the yoga that introduced me to yoga. It also has my aching knees feeling great. Valentine’s Day was a day that made me wish I could take three yoga classes a day.