REVIEW: 36 Hours, 7 Classes in NYC
In June, I took a “refresh and learn” trip to New York City
I took seven classes over the course of two days and loved being a student, learning from fantastic teachers, and doing some really different kinds of workouts. I definitely took a big bite out of the Big Apple and it was delicious!
When planning my schedule of classes, I primarily chose classes associated with Class Pass, of which I am a member and can take classes in any city where they have member studios. I also chose classes that were different from the ones available to me in Chicago, many I’d heard of or read about and sought out to experience. In the end, I was able to experience:
- RaMa Institute
- Exhale, Central Park South
- Hackd Fitness
- Laughing Lotus
- Alvin Ailey Dance
- intenSati with Patricia Moreno
Here’s my experience at each.
Technology of Yoga
Having taken a handful of Kundalini yoga classes, I’ve always been so curious about the reference to the “technology” of yoga. Kundalini yoga teachers are always robed in white, from head wrapped in a turban to some kind of loose fitting, mostly Indian-inspired clothing, and follow a prepared set of kriyas (as opposed to improv-style vinyasa classes that loosely follow a warm-up with sun salutations, followed by standing poses, seated poses, backbends and inversion). The word “technology” is the last thing I expect them to use. But whatever it is, I always feel glowing after a kundalini class.
The studio is located in the Lower East Side, easily accessible from the F Train off Delancy Street. The studio has a lovely boutique with crystals, white clothing for kundalini practitioners, a nice, curated selection of books, and gorgeous yoga-inspired jewelry and statuettes.
If you’ve never been to a kundalini class, expect some chanting (a little more beyond an opening OM), controlled breathing practices, also known as pranayama, and repetitive actions that feel like you’re activating a particular set of muscles or areas with the actual goal of activating the chakras, energy centers in the body.
You won’t walk out feeling like you’ve gotten a good stretch, but you will feel like you took an energetic shower. There were moments when I questioned the “purpose” of the action, but was able to let go and give into the leadership of the teacher. Good thing because this technology is quite effective.
With Erin Jacques
This location of Exhale holds a special place in my heart.
About 15 years ago, I did my Advanced Teacher Training here with Shiva Rea and made frequent trips to this studio (from Chicago). It was transformational.
I was delighted when I reached out to my longtime colleague, Erin Jacques, and she told me she would be teaching on the day of my visit. Erin started out teaching Power Yoga, as taught by Jonny Kest. Her many years of teaching yoga comes through in her confidence in leading a full class through a challenging-yet-centering practice.
Having taught Core Fusion barre classes and mentored many CF teachers in training, Erin is very comfortable including a lot of core and lower body strengthening into her yoga classes.
Technology in Fitness
I went on a 20-minute date with CAR.O.L. – Cardiovascular Optimized Logic, that is. It’s a stationary bike with automated and laser-controlled resistance, and other advanced biosignal processing.
While riding, I had headphones through which CAR.O.L. calmly guided me through some breathing, pacing my RPM to a very slow pace. Then, she suggested there’s a threat (animal chasing me) and encouraged me to cycle as fast as I could as she increased the resistance for about 20 seconds. The resistance made it feel like I was going both uphill and through thick mud. CAR.O.L. is encouraging but she wants you to work for it, so it’s hard. Once I was clear of the threat, she was back to coaching me on slow deep breathing and an easy pace.
Ideally, after eight dates, CAR.O.L. gets to know you and your ideal capacity so that she can give you a choice of programs to choose from, for example, the equivalent of a 40-minute jog in a 10-minute ride. Based on scientific data, this technology provides an efficient and short workout.
CAR.O.L.’s website says that it’s an AI powered bike that “gets you slim and fit in 40 seconds” not 45 minutes, which is the length of most indoor cycling classes.
For anyone who is short on time (and New Yorkers are known for their faster-paced life), this sounds like a great option. I think it holds great potential for anyone who wants to minimize strain on joints and muscles (45 minutes of any kind of impact or activity, several times a week over many years, could cause mind strains) while achieving the daily/weekly cardio activity for a healthy heart.
ARX is computer-controlled, motorized strength training. If you’ve ever tried SuperSlow, it’s a similar technique of bearing maximum weight for fewer repetitions, with timed holds and extremely slow release. This very slow technique of maximizing weight and minimizing acceleration and momentum (literally moving heavy weights in a very controlled way) requires a trained coach who understands the method and knows when a person is trying too hard or is truly working at maximum capacity.
I didn’t try this, but the concierge/front desk person showed me around the studio (literally all equipment is in one NY-sized gym space). Again for a busy person’s schedule, it could be the ideal solution for maintaining muscle activation in less time.
Hackd also has tech assisted “recovery” systems:
- Muse: I used the Muse which is a wearable device that measures brain activity during meditation.
- Infrared Sauna at JOOV (modular device): Near InfraRed (near IR) light therapy claims to improve skin tone, build collagen, reduce wrinkles, and speed healing of skin issues including acne, rosacea, broken capillaries, and wound healing. This red light exposure is the “good” kind of light needed to activate our body to recover (as listed above). It’s promoted as a great post-workout recovery as well as an antidote to all the “bad” light we’re exposed to from screens and indoor lighting. Increased light therapy enhances mental therapy and restores muscle recovery, improved performance, reduced pain and inflammation, deeper relaxation, balanced hormones and improved sleep.
- 3-D Scan: Used to measure start and progress, it provides visual and accurate body fat, muscle mass, and 3-D measurement for objective and quantifiable reporting.
- Bulletproof Vibe: A vibrating plate (30 hertz, so not as intense as the PowerPlate) is suggested for warm up or recovery because it “passively exercises the body.” At Hackd, the plate is set up in front of a screen equipped to exercise the brain with eye-hand coordination and memory exercises.
- Normatec Boots: Available more widely to consumers in recent years, these compression pants and sleeves have been used by professional and serious athletes for many years. Once zipped on both arms or both legs, they are powered to inflate to compress then release pressure for increased circulation to improve recovery between games, training and workouts.
Other offerings at Hackd include Nanovi Rejuvenation Therapy, Live O2 Oxygen Training, Hypervolt (massage tool) and HUSO.
Putting the “Yoga” in Yoga Studio
Because of the many class offerings and convenient location in Chelsea, I’ve been to Laughing Lotus many times over the past 15 years. When I asked a friend for recommendations on yoga classes in NYC, she highly recommended Ali Cramer’s. It was my third yoga class of the day, but fit perfectly into my schedule.
It makes me a little sad to say that some modern yoga studios have lost a little yoga, and feel like either a workout class in sanskrit (or not even in sanskrit) or a guided flow of movements without much reference to the more-than-2000-year tradition of asana in preparation for meditation. I understand that this evolution has made yoga more “accessible” to the masses, which is not a bad thing.
That said, I love me a good Yoga – with a capital Y – class! From entering into the studio with bold paintings of Indian deities, to the use of essential oils, beginning the class with simple prayer, and yogic ideas infused into the very physical and sweaty vinyasa flow.
The class was full and it seemed to me that the practitioners were here for the Yoga, and happy with the workout.
West African Dance
Located west of Lincoln Center in the north part of Hell’s Kitchen, the Alvin Ailey Extension Center offers drop-in dance and movement classes for kids and adults. From NY-style Mambo to West African Dance, the classes are designed for “real people.”
My friend thought I would love the movement and live music of West African Dance. The class was listed as “open” which was clearly distinct from “beginners” because I felt a bit like Lucy in an episode of I Love Lucy. At some point I just sat down and watched because they were practicing for a performance and it was a delight to get this view of the dancers.
The other students really were “real people,” not all of African descent, who had an appreciation for the full-bodied movement in response to the live drumming. It was so amazing to witness and see such a diverse group of dancers, most of whom had been attending these classes one or two times a week for a year. The teacher clearly has imbued them with a love of movement and the culture.
The “Cool” Studio
Given the trend of hot yoga, one might think that a cool workout, beyond just turning up the AC, is a no-brainer. BRRRN, however, only opened in May of 2018.
With a lot of media coverage of its launch, I read about BRRRN in a magazine and knew I wanted to try it. While I don’t like cold air blowing on me ever, except on a hot and humid Chicago summer day, and even then just until I get cooled off, I thought the science behind this concept was compelling; creating a mild cold stress to rev up the metabolism while you workout, burning more fat and calories.
The class I took was called Slide, and it was the good ol’ fashioned slide board that 12 years ago my trainer said was the most effective, under-utilized piece of equipment in the gym. It’s quite low tech; you put sock-like booties over your shoes and step on to an ultra-smooth glide board with stoppers or edges on each side, and you glide like you’re speed skating in place. Coco, the instructor, knew exactly how to build heat quickly on the UltraGlide board. In addition to skating side-to-side, we did lunges and Pilates & MegaReformer-esque exercises using the core to resist and move the body on the glide board.
It was one of my favorite workouts ever because of the comfort of the cool and the challenge of the workout. Upon hearing about the coolness in the middle of a Chicago winter, I wasn’t sure that would be a big sell, but for people who run hot and women who are experiencing mid-life hot flashes, I could see how this would be appealing.
Instead of a freezing feeling, the 47-degree room feels more like a dry cold, like a mountain top. And, in fact, the “theme” of the studio is a ski chalet, complete with wood trim. The doors into the studio are air tight, like a walk-in freezer, and they offer infra-red sauna as a post-workout warm-down.
Patricia Brings It
This class is the reason I scheduled my trip to NYC.
Patricia, founder and teacher of the intenSati method, is a force in the fitness world. Within a few minutes of my first class with her three years ago, I could sense her powerful leadership of truly body-mind practice. I signed up for her training and have been following her ever since. I wanted to share more about her work with the Illumine community and commissioned this article about her.
intenSati is a transformative experience, or “spiritual fitness” as Patricia calls it. She starts with an opening talk to have us connect with the deep purpose for why we showed up. A live musician used a cajòn, didgereedoo, bells wrapped around his ankles, and who knows what else to help her set the tone for a very energized experience. Patricia leads the exercise part of the class by calling out an affirmation and the class responds by repeating, paired with physical movements.
The best word to describe this practice/class is embody. The “affirmation,” or chants, are positive and aspirational, and the physical movements are strong and empowering. Together, I felt the integration of saying out loud ideas that float through my mind or I read in a book, like “I am daring greatly” (reference to Brene Brown’s book), with movements that feel strong.
It’s definitely a class to be experienced, and not merely described. Patricia’s schedule is lighter in the summers, and I am hoping to bring her to Chicago soon.