The thought of doing yoga in Bryant Park is a lot like the thought of going on vacation in Newark: a little confusing.
However, when I pulled a muscle on the same day my friend Steph asked me to take Bryant Park’s free yoga class with her, I figured it was a sign. After all, in the same way that a vacation is still a vacation – even if it is in Newark – yoga is still good for pulled muscles, right?
Whatever, you know what I’m trying to say. I decided to give it a shot. Plus, did I mention it was FREE?
And in case you need some reminding, "free" usually doesn't come as a price tag descriptor in New York. With $35 spin classes and gym membership initiation fees that can top $500, working out can equate to a second rent if you're not careful. This is why I was glad to discover that the good-hearted Yogis of the world are still trying to spread their health practices to everyone, even if that means doling out sessions for free sometimes. So, before we get started on the recap of my own free yoga experience, here are a few helpful links:
- Yoga To The People on St. Marks - East Village, Free 24/7
- Modest donations encouraged
- Shape Up NYC - Multiple Locations - Free 24/7
- Large selection of classes, year-round
- Yoga in the Park Multiple Locations - Free during summer
- Dharma Yoga in Midtown - Donation Classes Available
- Bikram Yoga - Donation Classes Available
- Shala Yoga House - Donation Classes Available
If you're group-exercise averted like me, it's nice to know you don't have to commit to a series of pre-paid classes just to get your yoga fix every now and again.
So, that all being said, Thursday evening came and off to Bryant Park we went. Strolling in a mere 10 minutes before “class” was to start, we were happily surprised to find about 40-50 perfectly placed yoga mats still available for the taking. After all, we had planned on using Steph’s paint-laden towels as our ghetto yoga mat replacements, so this was a significant upgrade.
Our next surprise came in the form of a series of cirque du soleil–esq performances put on by the Yoga Works team, otherwise known as super-in-shape-motherf*ckers-with-mindblowing-bodies. I guess it was supposed to be an inspiring way to start the class - and it was – but it also kind of felt like having your Spanish teacher look directly at you on the first day of class and ramble on in complete foreign-language mode.
Like, lo siento, prof. No hablo espanol, yet.
Anyway, after the slightly intimidating observational yoga session was over, class got going. I had been wondering how we were all going to follow along, but it proved to be a very coordinated experience. On the loud speaker, in the middle of Manhattan, an incredibly soothing voice began coaching us through each move.
Having taken yoga a handful of times previously, we didn’t have much trouble hanging in there, physically. I guess Yoga Works figures if they're leading a free class for 500+ strangers, they may as well stick to the basics (P.S. thanks for that). What we did have trouble with, though, was paying attention.
Allow me to remind you that neither Steph nor I are exactly Yogis (duh). On a good day, I have the attention span of a gnat and the energy of small chihuahua. So, between immature fits of laughter and listening to the guy next to us continuously gossip, I was having a little trouble getting into my om-zone. Then, like a namaste booby trap, Steph spotted a chick two rows ahead of us who had an AVOCADO tattooed on the inside of her arm. An AVOCADO, YOU GUYS. Naturally, we then played an unspoken game of spot-the-avocado-tat-and-snicker for about 5 minutes or so.
Moral Of The Story: partaking in outdoor yoga really slates the odds against you in terms of the whole attention span struggle.
Other Moral Of The Story: amidst all the joking and various distractions in the form of cell phones, avocados and hula-hoopers on the lawn behind us (mental note: join this group next time), it’s really a good time overall. About 40 minutes into the session and sixty-seven hundred downward dogs later, my muscles were loosening a bit and I even stopped hearing the rumblings of Midtown.
Furthermore, we had originally been set on leaving at the 45-minute mark, because #letsbereal, 60 minutes is just a lot for anything. However, upon us making it to 6:45, we suddenly didn’t feel such an immediate urge to leave. Instead, we took the liberty to “freestyle” a bit, if you will, stretching more to our liking and hanging out in corpse pose for a bit.
Feeling stretched and at ease, we picked up our belongings and then did what any relaxed New Yorker might do: went for a post workout beer!
* Free Yoga Picks were selected from Lisa's site over at Cheap in the City