If you’re a yoga virgin, a good starting point is the free outdoor classes in Bryant Park and Prospect Park (Tue 11am–noon, Thu 6–7pm; through Sept 27; mats are provided), sponsored by Lululemon Yoga. After staking out a spot on the west-facing lawn in Bryant Park, participants—who typically number in the hundreds—practice vinyasa yoga, a sequence of poses designed to flow into one another, with the guidance of more than 15 instructors from various city yoga schools. A sister program in Prospect Park’s Long Meadow (Thu 7–8pm; through Sept 6) serves 60 to 80 students a week.
For a more intimate, personalized experience, try West Village Yoga (311 W 11th St at Greenwich St; 845-399-8934, westvillageyoga.com; first class $25, thereafter $30 per class; ten-class pass $250), located on the sunny third floor of instructor Alex Auder’s home; class size is limited to ten students. Auder’s rigorous training in Iyengar yoga alignment means the 15-year teaching veteran is a perfectionist when it comes to her students’ getting poses right—necessary for building flexibility, stamina and strength—but she also incorporates vinyasa flow into her classes, encouraging them to start slow and build momentum.
Ramp up the intensity of your workout by adding extreme heat (think 100-plus degrees with a hefty dose of humidity), the signature feature of hot yoga, meant to access deeper musculature and increase the benefits of yoga poses. Classes at Bikram Yoga NYC, which has four locations in the city (see bikramyoganyc.com for details), are typically 90 minutes long and cover 26 postures and two breathing techniques. Though the classes are not for the faint of heart, the studio offers deep discounts to new students: a week of classes for $27, and a month for $59 (regularly $50 and $145, respectively); there are several classes a week for first-time students only. Classes are offered seven days a week, and multiple-class cards are available.
Not surprisingly, the city’s biggest holistic learning center, New York Open Center (22 E 30th St between Fifth and Madison Aves; 212-219-2527, opencenter.org), offers a huge lineup of courses, including instructor training. Jeff Migdow, M.D., takes a hands-on yet also clinical look at the chakra system via two three-hour sessions: “Chakras, Yoga and Healing” (Sept 23 10am–1pm; $50) and “Tibetan Five Rites” (Sept 23 2:30–5:30pm; $50). In the morning workshop, students explore the anatomy of chakras, the body’s subtle energy centers, and learn to facilitate the flow of energy through the chakras via touch, sound, yoga practices and imagery-based techniques. The afternoon session studies ancient Tibetan yogic practices that are meant to balance the energy flow through the chakras, correcting hormonal and nerve imbalances and imparting a sense of rejuvenation. Migdow will elucidate each rite, looking at its principles and benefits, then lead participants in practicing the techniques together.—Lee Magill
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