Practicing Mysore-Style Ashtanga in New York

I visited New York recently and I tried to do a tour of all the important Mysore-style classes in Manhattan. I managed to take Ashtanga classes at 3 centers:

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Zoe Slatoff

My first experience was with Zoe Slatoff at the beautiful Yoga Sutra studio in front of Bryant park. The studio itself is on the second floor and looks stunning. Zoe has a well attended afternoon class and her students evidently love her. It was a real treat practicing in the afternoon – everything feels easier due to the increased flexiblity. I knew Zoe from when she was teaching in Berkeley at 7th Heaven, so the class was immediately familiar. This feeling increased when one of my students from Mountain View, Terence, unexpectedly walked in through the door and put his mat next to mine. What a coincidence!

I always make a point of visiting the local Ashtanga studio whenever I travel. Since the practice is the same around the world, it feels like a home away from home. No matter how exotic the places you visit, the opening mantra will be the same anywhere. Daily practice is such an intense commitment that I believe there is a bond between all practioners. The students you meet are always happy to share information, it feels like a big family. Truly a wonderful feeling.

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Zoe adjusting a student during her afternoon Mysore-Style class at Yoga Sutra

My second stop was at Guy Donahaye’s Ashtanga Yoga Shala in the East Village, on Tompkins Square. The studio is located in a basement away from the beaten path. It is quite a few blocks from the nearest subway station, and for many people, that means it might as well be on the moon. I got lost while trying to find it and good thing I saw someone holding a yoga mat at a street corner; otherwise, I think I would have missed the class altogether.

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Painting of Sri K Pattabhi Jois at Guy Donahaye’s studio in NYC

It was my first time meeting Guy and he gave me the sense that a tight community had emerged at the shala. Since you have to go the extra mile – literally – to get there, students at Ashtanga Yoga Shala have to have a certain dedication to come to the studio every day. From the practice room in the basement, you can see the bottom of the sidewalk. This gives the shala a real feeling of practicing in the middle of a living city; yet, the space is very much apart from the hustle and bustle of New York city. Beautiful, contemporary paintings of Guruji enhance this feeling.

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Painting on wood of Guruji in Ashtavakrasana

Last, but definitely not least was Eddie Stern’s Ashtanga Yoga New York. This visit was my third in 5 years, and as with my previous visit, the layout of the shala had changed. Before, Ashtangis went to an upstairs room for the finishing postures, and now finising postures are done in an anteroom to the main practice room. That practice area is where Sharath’s new practice DVD was shot, by the way. There is also now what is the smallest and neatest “office” I have ever seen, a 4-by-4 foot space right in the corner of the building.

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The corner office of Ashtanga Yoga New York

Ashtanga Yoga New York has two Mysore-style classes in the morning: 6:30-9:30 am and 11:00-12:30 pm. During peak season, up to 200 students practice there daily , which must make it one of the best attended and largest Mysore-style classes in the world. Only about 30 or so fit in the room, so when it is full (as is usually the case), students write their names on a blackboard and wait to be called. There are one or two assistants to help out with adjustments. The students are advanced – during my visit, there were more Intermediate Series than Primary Series practitioners.

With the room so full of energy, practicing at Ashtanga Yoga New York is truly uplifting. I was able to meet up with KJS who wrote 5 posts for us during Guruji’s 2006 New York leg, with Spiros of Sri Ganesha Tea Stall fame, whom I’ve been wanting to meet for years. As an additional plus Balthazar is just round the corner, one of the most authentic French brasserie in New York with a wonderful bakery. Highly recommended for breakfast, and a lot of students hang out on the benches outside of it after practice now that the chai place is gone from Eddie’s studio.

All in all, New York has one of the most diverse and high quality set of Mysore-style classes anywhere, and Ashtangis lucky enough to visit there will really be spoilt for choice with special places to practice Ashtanga.

16 thoughts on “Practicing Mysore-Style Ashtanga in New York

  1. Julie

    I recently did the same visit with the exception of Guy’s. I only had two days and having been to Guy’s before, I practiced Mysore with Christopher at Yoga Sutra and then Eddie’s Mysore class.

    The NYC Ashtanga Community is definitely tight and truly a gift. In my unique circumstances (alone in NYC and having an unexpected surgery), the community gathered around me, in many cases, my first time meeting some of them, and helped me through my surgery all the way to getting me onto a plane at JFK. The beauty of the practice and the quality of the teaching certainly shines through.

    I, too, like to visit studios when I travel (Yoga Whore that I’ve been dubbed). I find the experience of practicing with different teachers invaluable. They all have something unique to themselves that is interesting to digest and experience.

  2. artrol

    hey!!!!, there is another place that you should check out when you are in nyc.
    It’s the Shiva Yoga Shala which is run by Patty Perez with Manju jois’s blessing. It’s a very beautiful and peaceful space. Greg tebb also teaches there and happens to be an amazing teacher too!!!
    the website is:
    http://www.shivayogashala.com

  3. Lauren

    Hi Phillipe..glad you got to see three of the Mysore-style Ashtanga schools here in NYC. Too bad you missed Shiva Shala. There is also a Mysore program at “The Shala” on lower Broadway. In addition, at Yoga Sutra, as I am sure you know, Christopher Hildebrandt is the director of the Ashtanga program, and his sister Erika teaches a daily led half-primary class, which is a pretty unique offering, I figure.

    At any rate, I do want to say one thing about the location of Guy’s shala….You said “It is quite a few blocks from the nearest subway station, and for many people, that means it might as well be on the moon.” But I really don’t think that is any more true of Guy’s location than any other. MANY Ashtangis live in the East Village, a mere hop skip and a jump(through) from Avenue B and East 8th Street. And even though I live on the Upper East Side, 71 blocks North, it is the easiest shala for me to get to, since I can drive my car straight down the FDR drive. NYC is an interesting lace in terms of how we view the distance between places. It really isnt about how many blocks, how many miles. You’d have to live here to understand!

    Lauren

  4. Lou

    Couple of corrections – Guy’s last name is Donahaye. And that painting on wood is of Guruji – Not Guy! Guy would NEVER have a picture of HIMSELF at his shala…too funny!

  5. mogini

    Guy’s studio is less than a five minute walk from the 1st Avenue stop on the L train. It can be a nice and contemplative walk if you have the right attitude–you can even walk through the park.

  6. philippe Post author

    Hi Lou, thanks for the corrections – I fixed the spelling. No wonder we kept coming up first in Google under “Guy Donahue”…

    Are you sure about the painting? I seem to remember Guy telling me it was him (it looks a little like him).

  7. Laura

    A couple of people mentioned Greg Tebb. He is truly an amazing teacher, with teaching experience at all of NYC’s major shalas. Though he’s no longer at Shiva Shala. But you can find him at gtebb@optonline.net if you’re looking. He’s in the processs of setting up a permanent schedule himself.

  8. strainger

    hi, i have been practising yoga since 5 years and my teacher is told me that “u never call my name” and now i am going to create a new yoga which is based upon the patanjali yoga , lets wait and watch, the world is must going to accept the power of yoga and meditation, i am from india ,rishikesh

  9. John

    Just another quick note about Greg Tebb; last time I was in NYC he had started teaching a 10AM-12Noon class at Yoga Sutra. When I’m in town I usually take class there with Zoe, but I did make it to Greg’s once and was impressed with his teaching.

  10. Pingback: AshtangaNews » Practicing Mysore-Style Ashtanga in Tokyo - Ashtanga Yoga Matters (as taught by Sri K Pattabhi Jois)

  11. larry g hobbs

    If you want some great Mysore classes(1)if your in Durham NC check out fran@ridethebreath.com for schedule and you’ve got to make it to Annie Pace’s Shala in Crestone CO,there is nothing like it from one of the most skilled and dedicated practioners I have ever met.If you ever make it to Wilmington NC the check me out at the Wilmington Yoga Center. Blessings to you

  12. Sri Mahan Kaur

    Guy’s shala on Avenue B is off the beaten track in a lovely way. Practicing in the East Village next to Thompkins Square Park, you hear more birds and children and general silence than most any place else in the city. When you walk out, you’re not assaulted by the city but eased back in as you make your way across the park and avenues and back into the “mainstream.”

  13. Samantha

    There is also a mysore program at YogaWorks in the Upper West Side. I believe it’s on 65th btw B’way and Central Park West – I’ve never been myself because it is too far from where I live, but it looks very nice and would love to check it out. They have Mysore-style during the weekdays and a led class on Sat, which Sunday being rest day.

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