Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center

Located on 24th between 7th and 8th, Sivananda is one of the better yoga studios in NYC. As someone who is from Santa Cruz, California, this studio reminds of home. If you aren't familiar with Santa Cruz, I suppose this reference will remain a mystery. I have tried many types of yoga; from Vinyasa (and other variations) at the gym to Bikram at a studio to a yoga on a rooftop in India. Sivananda is where you will find the most well-trained and committed instructors, in my opinion, and in an environment that makes you feel relaxed and at peace. I'm raving about the quality of this studio, however, I'm really not a big yoga person, so me talking about Sivananda says a lot. The yoga here is slow moving and more laid-back than I'd like in a workout; nonetheless, I like coming every few months to balance out my system and meditate (or something).

I took the open yoga session, which goes for an hour and a half and includes Pranayama (breathing exercises), a regular series of Asanas including sun salutations, and relaxation. You can choose from beginner, gentle, advanced, prenatal, Satsang (group meditation) and open classes. Because the poses are slow-paced, this class gives you a chance to work on balance and technique.

This is not only a yoga studio, there are cooking workshops and other courses, and they have a wide selection of yoga supplies including books, mats, etc. If you're lucky to come to one of the open houses, you will be able to stay for one of the most delicious vegetarian meals of your life. If you are a member, you may get free meals (?), but I highly recommend that you check this place out at least once.

Classes are priced from $8 (gentle) to $12 or you can buy an unlimited month class pass for $125. With the prices for working out around the city, Sivananda is very reasonable and, when I go once every three months, I don't mind the $12 entrance fee.

Bikram Yoga Manhattan

Birkram Yoga, founded by Bikram Choudhury, is a practice consisting of 26 poses in a room that is heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. The extreme heat helps your body to burn fat more effectively, increase muscle elasticity and to bring more oxygen to the muscles, which in turn helps remove waste such as lactic acid and carbon dioxide. Bikram not only works your muscles, but it works out your internal organs: the glands and nervous system. The 26 Poses of Bikram

About three years 3 ago I tried Bikram Yoga, but I figured it was time I actually tried it for a few weeks at a time to really get a grasp on whether I like it or not. Yesterday was day one at Bikram Yoga Manhattan in Soho (one of their 3 locations). The Spring Street studio is pretty basic: a small waiting room with a water cooler and coat rack and two changing rooms with showers that I probably won’t ever shower in. The instructor, Byron, who was wearing a very small piece of clothing (his almost shorts) was also the receptionist. I paid $20 for 7 days of practice -- a typical first-time Bikram fee.

Because it’s hotter than a tropical country, you need very little clothing; I only wore a sports bra and short shorts because anything else would have been too much…meanwhile it was 32 degrees and snowing outside. The class started out with Pranayama Breathing where you should be inhaling six pounds of oxygen in six seconds, but I apparently need some practice because I could only go for maybe three seconds. This pose has been proven to not only increase oxygen content to the bloodstream and quadruple lung capacity, but it strengthens leg and abdominal muscles, among other things.

I was literally dripping sweat (I hate the word literally, but it’s completely appropriate in this context) from every part of my body, even from the bottom of my feet. At one point we were doing the pose Dandayamana Janushirasana where I had to interlock my fingers around my right foot while trying to straighten my right leg and lock my knee while keeping my left leg locked – the problem was that my hands kept slipping off my foot. As the class progressed each pose became a little more invigorating and difficult, but each was in preparation for the next. Toward the end of class, we lay in Savasana (dead body pose) in order to return circulation to normal and sustain concentration before progressing. Savasana is also a great way to improve hypertension, nervousness, anxiety, and irritability and generally just feels good at the end of any workout.

Indeed Bikram is a challenge, but I learned that it’s not whether you can do the pose to its full extent, but that you concentrate and use the will power to hold that pose for one minute or more without losing focus. I like this concept and can incorporate the inspiration into my day-to-day routine, in both business and personal situations.

I don’t want to go to class on Thursday morning at 7am for 90 minutes (the class is offered at many different times), but I know that once 8:31 rolls around, I will be more than thrilled that I made that decision. I will keep you posted on the next days of my practice.