India may be the home of yoga, but right now New York City is among the world’s greatest hubs for this super-healthy practice. And you can see from the cornucopia of spiritual events on offer that its reach is constantly expanding. Of course, it’s not surprising that you can find so many different styles of yoga here—NYC has a reputation for diversity to uphold (greatest city in the world, you know). But there truly is something for everyone and anyone in Gotham, from long-established, respected studios like the Iyengar Institute, to pioneering newer spots like Laughing Lotus, via such off-the-wall hybrids as naked yoga (sorry, you won’t find that in our best studios roundup). In our guide to the best yoga in NYC, we’ve outlined some of the city’s most popular styles of yoga: hatha, ashtanga, vinyasa and kundalini. You’ll find a description of what to expect with each style, plus our pick of the best four studios in each category. Feeling fired up? If you’re looking to go all-out with a new fitness regimen, you can head to our roundup of the 20 best gyms and health clubs in NYC. So grab your water bottle, pull on those spandex pants, and hit the mat. Mindfully, of course.
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Hatha yoga in NYC
With its origins in ancient scriptures, hatha is really the OG of yoga, the starting point for the many variations that are on offer today. Hatha is a clear and straightforward way to practice with a focus on breath and correct physical alignment. It’s also slower than ashtanga- or vinyasa-style yoga, which makes it well suited to beginners and athletes recovering from injuries. Equally, advanced yogis can hold poses for longer or move more deeply into the postures. Many NYC studios will offer hatha classes as part of a well-rounded schedule that accommodates different styles, but we’re focussing here on the city’s dedicated hatha hubs.
For beginners and advanced yogis alike, Iyengar yoga offers a supremely clear, safe and peaceful way to practice and is taught all over the world. Its founder, the late BKS Iyengar, was the first Indian teacher to bring yoga to the west in the '40s and laid the path for all the offshoot styles of yoga that are available today. The focus is on physical alignment in the poses, which means you won’t create injuries, and it's also ideal for folks who are dealing with existing problems, as well as sporty types and older practitioners. Instruction is super straightforward, and teachers use clear language, steering away from any kind of wishy-washy jargon. Classes are offered on four levels (from beginners to advanced), and there are also many specialized classes and workshops, including breast health, HIV, restorative and prenatal.Read more
Yoga may be big business in NYC right now, but when Integral first opened its doors in the '60s, few people knew anything about it. The Integral Yoga system was founded by respected guru Swami Satchidananda in 1966, and there are now institutes all over the world. Its 90-minute hatha-style classes are offered at three different levels and always include meditation. There are also specialized classes, including prenatal, yoga for arthritis and for those with HIV, plus free drop-in deep-relaxation classes. The institute also has a wellness spa, gift store, well-stocked health-food store and café.Read more
Housed in a beautiful brownstone building in Chelsea, this nonprofit yoga center has been in operation since 1964 and has offered yoga classes in NYC since 1959, before Lululemon leggings were a glimmer in anyone’s eye. Its emphasis is on the physical practice of yoga, as well as on meditation, good breathing, proper diet and a positive outlook (who can argue with that?), and its hatha-style classes are offered at three different levels.Read more
Ashtanga yoga in NYC
It’s little wonder that ashtanga yoga is so popular in New York, the city that never sleeps—it’s among the most vigorous, dynamic and exciting ways to practice. Ashtanga was developed and brought to the West by Sri Patabhi Jois (who studied alongside BKS Iyengar) in 1948. Its famous proponents include Madonna, Willem Dafoe and Gwyneth Paltrow. Vinyasa yoga, which features poses flowing together, is derived from ashtanga, but there’s a greater emphasis on structure and discipline in ashtanga. Students practice set sequences at six levels of skill; each pose is held for five breaths, and students move through a vinyasa (from downward-facing dog pose through plank pose, chaturanga and upward-facing dog) between poses. Teachers will carefully adjust students in the postures.
Ashtanga Yoga New York
Many studios in the city offer ashtanga-style classes, but few are officially approved by ashtanga’s founder, the late Sri Patabhi Jois. AYNY was given the guru’s blessing in 1995, and the studio’s teachers (including Eddie Stern) studied with him in Mysore, India. Classes take place at the Broome Street Temple, a tranquil space in Soho that also offers Hindu rituals and was consecrated by Jois in the days following September 11. Suffice to say, the space and its classes are steeped in tradition.
Founded by Kristin Leigh and Barbara Verocci in 2002, the Shala now has two locations, with one studio off Union Square and the other in Fort Greene. Both offer a supremely peaceful way to practice ashtanga-style yoga and ashtanga-influenced vinyasa; the studio is pretty and spacious. The emphasis is on yoga’s core values, and there are also meditation classes and anatomy workshops, plus a small store with a great book selection.Read more
The Jivamukti yoga system was developed by Sharon Gannon and David Life in 1984 and is a practice in and of itself, but its roots are strongly in the ashtanga tradition. Classes are invigorating, with poses held for five breaths, and there’s an emphasis on teachers giving students good physical adjustments. Unlike silent Mysore ashtanga classes though, Jivamukti classes feature dynamic, upbeat music. There are Jivamukti centers around the world, and New York’s institute also houses a spa, plus an exceptional vegan café and enticing boutique.Read more
Vinyasa yoga in NYC
Fluid, dynamic and sporty, vinyasa is the most commonly practiced type of yoga in our city. “Vinyasa” means “to place with intention,” and it derives from the ashtanga tradition, which links the postures together with flowing movements. Sometimes it’s taught like a workout with an emphasis on building strength and stamina, and other times vinyasa classes can feel almost like dance routines. We recommend that whichever way your preference skews, you make sure that there’s a focus on correct physical alignment, so you don’t get so carried away in the flow that you end up injuring yourself! Here’s our pick of some of the city’s best vinyasa studios.
Loved by locals, this Williamsburg mainstay offers vinyasa classes at every level, from beginners through intermediate and advanced. Having two studios (there's another at 88 Roebling St) means that there’s usually a class on offer to suit your taste and timetable, from the sweaty, lively “Sweat and Flow” session to the mellow, reflective restorative yoga series. There’s also a sauna and spa featuring a team of talented masseurs.Read more
As you’d guess from the name, the emphasis is on fun and freedom of expression at this cheery Chelsea studio (which also has an outpost in San Francisco), founded by Dana Flynn and Jasmine Tarkeshi in 2000. Laughing Lotus teachers offer a dynamic, flowing vinyasa style, usually set to an awesome musical soundtrack, and classes are taught at varying levels. This year also sees the launch of Laughing Lotus's Brooklyn studio, in Williamsburg.Read more
Get this, yoga nerds: Go Yoga was Williamsburg's first vinyasa yoga studio, back in 2000. This cozy escape from the hipster mayhem of the 'Burg offers a variety of vinyasa classes (from express to restorative) as well as ashtanga sessions. Physically and spiritually fierce teachers challenge you through rigorous yet relaxing asanas; classes at this local mainstay are taught in a spacious wood-floor studio, equipped with a set of French doors and brilliant stained glass skylights.Read more
Brazilian yoga teacher Dharma Mittra has been teaching since 1967, and you may be familiar with photos of him standing on his head—without using his arms—and smiling beatifically. While Dharma yoga is its own system (and one taught around the world), its roots are in the ashtanga tradition, and Dharma classes are accordingly vigorous and challenging. Classes are offered at various levels from beginner to “Master Sadhana,” and the Flatiron studio also offers workshops and courses.Read more
This high-end studio has two outposts in NYC, plus studios as far afield as Shanghai and Hong Kong. Founded by former tennis stars Colin Grant and Bruce Rockowitz, Pure offers many different styles of yoga besides vinyasa (including hot yoga, ashtanga and hatha), and part of the lure of Pure is its sumptuous spa-like dressing rooms, showers and lounges.Read more
Kundalini yoga in NYC
Kundalini Yoga’s celebrity fans include Demi Moore and Russell Brand, and its dedicated practitioners are usually clad all in white. There is, unsurprisingly, an emphasis on spirituality and meditation in kundalini yoga. Classes draw on kriyas, or ancient cleansing practices, which may include breath work or physical postures, and there are thousands of them, so you never know quite what to expect. The intention is to direct shakti energy from the base of the spine out of the top of the head and thus achieve enlightenment. Either way, you’ll likely emerge from a class feeling pretty darn high.