With the proliferation of fabulous online yoga services, yogis anywhere and everywhere can enjoy incredible teachers and classes from the comfort of their own home. While I certainly adore my home practice, there’s still nothing that compares with practicing in a beautiful studio with a teacher that soothes and assists, surrounded by the energy and support of a room-full of like-minded folks. Because I don’t go to studio classes often, when I do, I’m picky. I do my research and make an effort to find the best experience, considering what I’ll learn, who I’ll meet, and the atmosphere and reputation of the space.
I’m so blessed to live upstate from New York City, a yoga oasis and home to some of the best teachers in the world. Believe me, I take advantage of the proximity! If you’re a vinyasa-head like me, I’ve put together this list of my favorite studios in Manhattan. When you’re in town, be sure to stop in to one of these institutions for a truly memorable experience.
580 Broadway, 2nd Floor
The home of Elena Brower, one of my dearest and most favorite teachers, Virayoga offers a variety of styles, though originally founded in the Anusara tradition. Elena teaches weekly, and if you’ve never been to the studio you can make a one-time reservation by emailing the studio, which I highly recommend (there’s often a line of eager yogis and not everyone gets a space). If you’re lucky, Garth Stevenson may accompany the class with his stand-up bass, and it’s truly the cherry on top of a perfect yoga sundae!
Elena’s classes are strong, steady, and always carefully sequenced to reveal a deeper message and truth that will stay with you long after the final OM.
As a bonus, the gourmet market Dean and Deluca is right downstairs. Stop in for a post-yoga treat (they have a great selection of healthy drinks like kombucha and coconut water).
* Editor’s Note
Unfortunately, Virayoga has closed its doors since this article was first published. I was recently contacted by Deepak Tayal, owner of BigToe Yoga which now resides in the space Virayoga once called home. I haven’t had a chance to visit yet, but hope to do so soon. Here’s what Deepak shared about his studio:
BigToe Yoga studio is located in Soho, Manhattan and the classes are taught by a team comprising of extremely reputed teachers. BigToe was founded by Deepak Tayal, an avid yoga practitioner with a background in the hedge fund industry. His finance background and a vision to introduce more yoga into people’s lives inspired Deepak to create a business model that has simplified the pricing for the customers. BigToe Yoga offers a five class for $60 package with no expiration date. This allows the customers to take classes when they actually want to, instead of being forced to take them by certain date, all for just $12 a class on average. Deepak plans to expand his idea to more locations in the near future.
Highlighting the idea behind creating this simplified pricing model, Deepak says, “As a long-time yoga practitioner, I sometimes wanted to go to different studios to try out different teachers, but the existing options made it difficult. My main objective in creating this model was not only to make yoga affordable, but also make it easy for people to try out other studios. It also addresses the needs of people who are trying out yoga for the first time, by offering them an affordable alternative without any pressure to commit before they are ready.”
Kula Yoga Project
28 Warren Street, 4th Floor
Schulyer Grant co-founded Kula Yoga Project shortly after September 11th as a way to offer healing and a place of community in the wake of tragedy. Not far from the new 9/11 Memorial lies this yoga epicenter of creative sequencing and sweaty vinyasa bliss. If you’re looking for a strong physical practice to rattle your cage and set your heart free, this is your place!
The space is warm and inviting, and Schuyler teaches a two-hour class on Friday afternoon that’s sure to leave you giddy (and sore!) for the weekend. For a well-rounded asana adventure, try the “Honey Flow” class, which includes an hour of hardcore vinyasa, followed by 20 minutes of Yin (deep stretching) and 15 minutes of restorative.
Jivamukti Yoga School
841 Broadway, 2nd floor
Whether or not you are a devout Jivamukti yogi or subscribe to their strong ideals (animal-rights activism and veganism), the beautiful, massive Jivamukti center is the largest in the U.S. with classes running daily from 7:30am to 8:00pm. You can pretty much drop in at any time, browse the boutique, and lounge in the café with a coffee or sprout bowl (the menu is impressive, all vegan, and delicious!). I enjoyed my visit so much that I returned the next day just for the food.
Jivamukti is a vigorous vinyasa flow that includes chanting and an emphasis on music. The teachers at the New York studio are diverse, talented, and each put their own unique spin on the practice. Have fun perusing the teacher bio pages and finding one that resonates with you.
Dharma Yoga Center
61 W. 23rd Street, 6th Floor
Sri Dharma Mittra was born in 1939 and has been teaching yoga since 1967; His namesake studio, founded in ’75, is one of the few places where you can drop-in with a yoga master. Dharma Yoga is an Ashtanga-influenced vinyasa style that is deeply rooted in bhakti (devotional) yoga. Expect a practice that is equally intense both physically and spiritually. Dharma, himself, is incredibly humble, sweet and funny—be sure to top off your asana practice with a class called Maha Shakti—a unique opportunity to sit with a living legend and absorb the wisdom of his teachings.
Yogamaya New York
135 W. 20th Street, 6th Floor
I first discovered this hidden gem a couple years ago during my teacher training. I dropped in for a restorative class, and was taken aback by the homey feel and unmatched beauty of this unassuming space. Equipped with personal changing rooms in a gorgeous changing area, this top-floor studio also benefits from skylights and smooth hardwood floors.
I stopped in for a second visit recently, this time with studio co-owner Stacey Brass, and enjoyed a perfectly balanced vinyasa that hit all the right notes (a little bit of chanting, some challenging poses that pushed my edges, excellent alignment cues, and a succulent flow with seamless sequencing). Stacey was open, friendly, shared her teachings with honesty and passion, and took the time to say hello to me, which is not so common in the bigger studios.
Yogamaya is conveniently located right around the corner from Laughing Lotus, so if you’re short on time you can hit both these studios in an afternoon.
Laughing Lotus Yoga Center
636 Sixth Avenue, 3rd Floor
Ok, so this is the only studio I’ve included on the list that I have not yet visited… After taking an exceptional class with studio-co-founder Dana Flynn at Wanderlust Vermont, I am absolutely compelled to visit this studio. Their take on vinyasa—Lotus Flow—is described brilliantly on their website: “Merging radically fluid asana and phat beats into a dynamic, devotional dance, Lotus Flow Yoga delivers a physical and spiritual high.”
At Laughing Lotus, yoga is all about being open and free, and the class schedule reflects this beautifully. Classes called Sun Celebrations and Love Saves the Day stand out, as well as Midnight Yoga—complete with live music and/or DJ’s—every Friday night. If you like the idea of partying yoga-style, be sure to add this one to your list.