Tough Life, Tough Yoga

Since moving to NY in February, after growing up in the Santa Monica yoga scene, I’ve learned a lot.  Most simply, life in NY is TOUGH.  People told me this, but I didn’t really know it until I lived in first hand.  Walking 3 miles a day uphill in the snow, carrying my daily provisions and props.  It’s like going to battle.

And being a Yoga Teacher in NYC is hard. If you’re the type of sensitive and receptive being that has decided to be a yoga teacher, then NYC might be sensory overload for you.  There is a different type of self-preservation that is required in this city.

For teachers who are constantly giving of their energy and nature to students, I think that preservation is up there on one of the most important things to do.  But it’s not as easy to get energized from the beauty of nature when on your commute there’s a man screaming at the top of his lungs.  Oh and sirens, lots of sirens.

One of the biggest ways I fill my well is through asana.  But finding a teacher’s teacher in NYC has still been a challenge. I know they are a specific breed.  But an asana teacher who is knowing and challenging enough to guide a fellow teacher through a practice is a beautiful thing to find.  If you’ve got recommendations, please respond below.

I’m a firm believer that asana should balance out the energies of our lives.  I’m a Libra; I love balance. Thus active people benefit from restorative or yin and deskbound folks benefit from vinyasa.  Of course there are exceptions to every rule too.

The lifestyle in Santa Monica lends itself to very laid-back people.  Surf culture is relaxed as long as tourists stay out of the good swell.  Even the type of speech folks use is slower and more indirect.  And it makes sense that the asana practice balances this out.  You aren’t walking everywhere or carrying your life on your back, so you’ve got extra calories to burn in class.  In Santa Monica there are, no doubt, the most physically challenging classes in the world, which average 90-120 minutes a session.

Life in NYC is so different.  Speech is clipped and the pace is quick.  Tourists: don’t even think about stopping on the stairs going in and out of the subway stations because you will be run over.

But still, I have been wondering why it is so hard to find a really physically challenging asana class in NYC longer than 60 minutes.  And the answer kinda hit me on the head.  Because life is hard here!! Why does our asana practice need to be hard too? If the classes left us in a pile of sweat, unable to move because we’ve exhausted every part of our body, we wouldn’t be able to walk home!  We’ve got to save some energy for the street.  Remember, it’s a battleground.

But despite the differences between the coasts and yoga communities I’ve experienced in a very short time, I am appreciating the direct nature of New Yorkers.  You know what you want and you make it happen.  I love that.  It really is inspiring.  And also, I am questioning the purpose of why I practice asana in this great city.

I still believe that yoga should enhance lives.  And in a city where we all face incredible challenges everyday, I couldn’t imagine a better place for yoga.  New York is the best city on earth, and as yogis, we have the great duty to take our practices onto the streets and still be warriors, but for peace.  Hopefully, that balances things out a bit too.

— Sarah Girard

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4 comments

  1. Dharma Mittra 🙂 61 west 23rd

  2. Kula Yoga Project has many great teacher’s teachers. The asana classes there are always challenging and most are 90 mins long. They even have a class specifically for teachers on Wednesdays and an amazing two hour class with Schuyler on Fridays that is very popular with teachers. Katonah Yoga also has some great classes for teachers. The “katonah” style certainly isn’t traditional vinyasa, but as a teacher, I always come away with new ideas about movement when I take class there.

  3. Hi Sarah! I can really relate to this article, thanks for writing it. One of my favorite ‘teacher’s teachers’ is Jennifer Brilliant: http://www.JenniferBrilliant.com Her classes are not sweaty or physically tough though – but I always get a lot of good thoughtful information.

  4. Brooklyn Yogi 2 · · Reply

    Friday Noon Laughing Lotus with Director Dana Flynn. You will be challenged and inspired.

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