Anyone who is even slightly aware of yoga knows that it’s a recreational activity that may be practiced by just about anyone – young or old, fit or rotund.
And if you’re committed to the practice, you’ll begin to see impressive results, such as longer, leaner muscles, increased flexibility and balance, and, according to the most recent research, improvements in cognitive function, including memory skills. Other reports claim that regularly practicing yoga may make people better equipped to deal with mild to moderate pain (without the support of medication) as well as improve insomnia and reduce stress.
In 2010, the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine reviewed more than 80 national research studies that examined the health benefits of yoga and found overwhelming evidence that the ancient practice is “as effective or better than exercise at improving [a person’s overall] health.” As a result, doctors everywhere are recommending yoga and meditation to both healthy and diseased patients as a method to improve and restore good health.
Some people think that yoga is just about stretching, but there is much more to it. Learning from a professional instructor is useful, as he or she can help you improve your technique and avoid injuries, such as overextending your stretches and possibly pulling a muscle. However, once you master some basic techniques, yoga is something you can tap into for the rest of your life, either on your own or with a master yogi by your side. To get you started, we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite places to bend and breathe. Namaste!
Bend & Bloom Yoga
708 Sackett Street (b/w 4th and 5th Aves) Brooklyn, NY (347)
Bend & Bloom is a gorgeous new studio that offers more than 50 yoga classes each week in various skill levels. Bend & Bloom teachers nurture new yogis to help them develop a life-long love of yoga. They offer regular monthly beginner workshops designed to help students feel confident in their first class. In the workshops, students explore foundational asanas (yoga postures), proper alignment, pranayama (breath) and meditation. Students also learn how to use yoga props to ease tight muscles and to cultivate a healthy, safe practice. Advanced and intermediate yoga, prenatal, kids, and family yoga classes are also regularly available. Availability: Both early morning (7:00AM) and late-night (9:15PM) classes are held daily. Check online schedule for further details. Amenities: Plenty of one-on-one attention and free ginger snaps and tea after every session. Also, since Bend & Bloom a two studio space, parents with young children can enlist them in a simultaneous (but separate) children’s yoga lesson. Mat rentals are available. Cost: $99/month unlimited membership; three-class workshops for beginners are typically offered monthly ($30); two weekly community classes and a work-exchange program (help clean the studio or assist at the desk in exchange for class credits) are also available to those who require financial assistance. Drop-in classes range from $14 to $18 per class. Bonus: A variety of ongoing weekend workshops further immerse people in their practice with sessions dedicated to beginners and those seeking advanced instruction, including learning to teach. Check website for further details.
555 Fifth Avenue Brooklyn, NY
Founded by native Indian Bikrum Choudhury, Bikram Yoga of Park Slope (one of many Bikram Yoga Centers in New York City) welcomes beginners and those who are more familiar with yoga to go through 26 Hatha yoga postures in a heated environment. The uniqueness of the session, during which the room is heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit, enables sore muscles to stretch with less pain. The heated room also promotes sweating and the release of toxins from the body. Note: No latecomers will be admitted; it is recommended that you arrive 20 minutes before classes begin. Availability: the Fifth Avenue location and 7:00AM at Flatbush Avenue. Both studios are open throughout the day and late evening classes are scheduled at 7:30PM and 8:00PM. Amenities: Changing rooms and showers; towel and mat rentals. Cost: Single class ($20); five classes ($90); 10 classes ($170) and up. Unlimited 30-day and 90-day passes are also available at $175 and $465, respectively. Bonus: Members may switch between both Brooklyn locations, which each have their own character, schedules, and staff . Sign up for Bikram Yoga’s e-mail list for discounts.
442 Ninth Street (at 7th Ave), 2nd Fl. Brooklyn, NY
Bodhisattva Yoga provides individualized instruction (classes are limited to fewer than 12 people) and emphasizes the importance of establishing a basic foundation to yoga and its approaches, including a type of Vinyasa yoga created by Vivekan, the studio’s founder. Each class is individually tailored to the skill level of its participants. Th e studio, which is located in a classic Brooklyn brownstone, is warm and inviting with refinished wooden floors and the scent of natural Tibetan incense. Latecomers are admitted, but please try to be on time. Availability: Early-morning classes are given daily beginning at 7:00AM and some late nights (10:00PM) are also available. Patrons may view schedule online to make reservations. Amenities: Changing rooms and mat rentals and props (blocks, straps) are available. Cost: First class ($10); one month unlimited pass ($95). Bonus: Ongoing weekend workshops, retreats, and teacher training sessions are scheduled in a variety of skill levels. Check website for more details.
473 Thirteenth Street (b/w Prospect park West and 8th Ave) Brooklyn, NY
Kundalini Yoga in Park Slope is part of the 3HO Foundation, a non-profit foundation based in New Mexico that offers the teachings of Kundalini Yoga in centers throughout the world. Kundalini Yoga combines posture, movement, breath, meditation, mantra, and relaxation to work on your body, mind, and spirit. Classes combine moments of meditation and relaxation as well as working through various postures. Beginners and those experienced with yoga attend in classes that are oft en mixed. Drop-ins are encouraged. Kundalini Yoga works to balance the glandular system, stimulate the nervous and immune systems, and improve strength and flexibility. Availability: Early morning (7:00AM) and evening classes available; closed Fridays. Amenities: Yoga mats are provided free of charge. Cost: Each class is $15 or six classes for $75. Bonus: Information about workshops and other one-time events can be found on the website or by subscribing to the Kundalini Yoga e-mail list.
Yogasana Center for Yoga
118 Third Avenue (at Wyckoff/St. Marks)
Yogasana Center was founded by Kristen Davis to teach the subtle aspects of alignment-based yoga by assembling some of New York City’s best yoga teachers. From years of self-study and acquired knowledge, Yogasana teachers have more than a decade of training and provide thoughtful, individualized attention, helping students develop a stronger, more flexible body, a calmer nervous system, a quieter mind, and a connection to their own true nature. Yogasana instructors are firmly rooted in the Iyengar tradition, known for its precision in alignment, its use of props to facilitate balance, and its slower more methodical pace and sequencing. Latecomers are only admitted at the discretion of the teacher; please be at least 15 minutes early for your first class. Availability: Early-morning classes (7:00AM) are typically available twice weekly. Check schedule for individual class times and reservations. Amenities: Lots of props and ropes to guide you through the poses and plenty of individualized attention. Plus, separate changing rooms and a bright, airy space. Cost: Classes include a six-week beginner series; beginner, intermediate, and advanced drop-in classes ($18); Yogasana Kids (infant to teenager); pre-natal, restorative, and back care drop-in classes; and an advanced studies/500+ hour teacher training program. First class special is $10. Bonus: Ongoing workshops are available; check website for details. Free trial classes are available for children.