So, here's how this will work: every so often I will take my little yoga butt to another yoga studio in the city, attend one of their classes, and give you the low-down on the place, from soup to nuts. Or rather, from "Om" to "Shanti". This week we begin with Om Yoga Center...an uber-popular NYC yoga spot.
Atmosphere: I'm sorry, but if I had a little "star" system, Om would rate preeeetty low on the ol' atmosphere scale. For one thing, you walk in and it is deathly quiet and deserted (or at least it was at 3:30 in the afternoon), and dim, dim, dim. The dude and dudette at the front desk were stone-faced...I had to ask the guy who signed me in to please tell me where everything was. (Which wasn't even all that helpful as their studio is layed out like a maze, and he rattled off the directions so quickly I just had to pray for signs...).
The studio itself is quite large, with lots of winding hallways and rooms with cutesy names (every yoga studio in the world is guilty of this.. .oh, that will be taking place in the sky room... you'll be having class in the love room... just leave your mind right outside the earth wind and fire room...) and the dressing rooms are practically palatial compared to the Lotus. This was actually really nice, as I'm so used to bumping elbows (and all kinds of other things) with my fellow dressers while shimmying in and out of my sometimes-sweaty yoga togs.
After getting dressed I lined up with my fellow classmates outside the earth room (sigh) where we would be taking class. Again with the silence! No talking, no laughing, no groovy chant-y music playing...we all just kind of jammed ourselves against the wall and pretended we were alone. Other signs of chilliness: a full-size model of a skeleton staring at me from down the hall. (I mean, I get why it's there, but really...necessary?), and a large-size note next to the perfectly organized rolled-up mats declaring over and over that if you are NOT a member or a teacher you are NOT to touch these mats. Mats for you (oh, non-member peon) are hanging up in the studios! (Okay, now I'm just being snarky. I promised myself I would keep an open mind, but the vibe was really killing my I'm-about-to-go-to-class buzz.)
Class: (Intermediate/Advanced, One hour and 40 minutes) Finally, the doors opened and we were allowed in to the studio (also huge), and all beige, which I was not super fond of...though the light was nice and because of the monochramatic thing going on it felt kind of ethereal, which I like...and stocked to the brim with mats and props. I found what I thought would be a nice hidden spot, one row from the back, and set myself up.
Note: I hate being the new girl, and I hate even more being the new girl and feeling like I have to "relax" or "warm up" on my mat before class. It makes me supa self-conscious. So...picture that.
My teacher today was to be...let's call him "F"...the straightest straight man I have ever taken a yoga class from. Perhaps even a trace of a New York accent? F. wandered in with coffee cup in hand to our class (all women, mind you) and wandered from student to student, chit-chatting and making them giggle before calling things to order. I was hoping that he would not come over to me to have one of those "are you new?" conversations that teachers feel obligated to have when they see a new student in class, as they are oftentimes embarrassing, and also make me feel like I'm wearing a "new girl" tattoo emblazoned on my forehead (but also I was kind of hoping that he would. No, not for the reason you think! But, because it's nice to feel that the teacher is looking out for you when you are new.)
Class began and I quickly realized that I had not chosen my spot as wisely as I had imagined. Turns out, at Om (or at least in this class), they orient the front of the room toward the middle, meaning, there are two rows of mats on each side, all facing in toward the center. Meaning, you are staring at the people across from you while you practice.
Boo! Double boo! Me no likey. Where do you look?! Do you look at them? Do you look right past them as if they aren't there?! Do you stare at the floor the whole time?! What the...ugh! Blar! Noooooo. Bad. Bad bad bad. (Okay, seriously, I thought this was totally uncomfortable, but you do actually forget about it pretty quickly. And I'm sure there's some good, spiritually enlightening reason for setting things up this way.)
As for the class itself: though I felt frustrated by the set up and the total lack of music (!!), and the continued somber atmosphere, the class itself was good. I say "good" and not "great", because I, personally, like my classes to have a bit more "flow" to them...this class was sequenced for learning, more than for moving, if that makes any sense. What I LOVE about the Lotus is that, no matter the teacher, the classes tend to be physically inspiring and move with the breath in a creative symbiotic way--not this pose, pause, pose, instruction, pose, pause stuff. I miss that, in classes that are otherwise, but I do not deny the benefits of working with poses for the sake of the poses individually and not just the overall output of the asana. Which is what F. was doing. Some of the work in ardha chandrasan a was particularly helpful...at one point he made an adjustment for me and said softly "it's not all about your leg" which was a bit of a revelation, as it has been pounded in to me over and over that half-moon is very much about my leg!
Moment of Brilliance: We did a long handstand practice toward the end of the class and after a bit of us all hopping up into handstand against the wall, F. encouraged those of us who have been practicing for a while and used to being upside down, to start playing around with micro-bends in our elbows after we got up. He emphasized the micro part of that instruction and asked us to pay attention to how it shifted the weight on our hands and the rotation of our shoulders. He likened it to the up-and-down play that is so often done in standing poses (bending the knees and then coming out, re-bending, etc.). I tried this and it ROCKED my handstand WORLD!! I realized, as soon as I did it, that, not only was all my weight focused in the heels of my palms, instead of spread throughout the whole breadth of my hands as it should be, but also I had been paying so much attention in my handstand practice to my legs and my feet and my lower ribs, I had completely forgotten about my hands! That would be like doing an entire standing practice only thinking about your arms, and then wondering why you kept falling over! This one instruction, for me, was worth the entire class.
Conclusion: Though I can't see myself getting really excited about OM, I would go there again in a pinch. I still think Laughing Lotus beats it on all fronts, and going there made me realize just how much I value a sense of fun and improvisation in my practice, and in the atmosphere of the studio itself.