as promised, i'm gonna have to admit that i had a fairly good practice with greg at yoga to the people last night. this studio was highly recommended to me by a surprisingly wide range of people, so i put aside my many reservations and went.
what reservations? long-time readers know that i'm not a fan of the "bootcamp" power yoga gig.
this whole bryan kest/baron baptiste thing has always left me cold intellectually, and the one baptiste workshop i've tried really bored me. it just seemed like an aerobics class done with a few poses and a lot of pilates chucked in.
so before i went to yttp, i chatted a bit with everyone's fave punk yogi, j. brown. "yeah, i've heard about that space," he said. "it's cool, but it's like, all ashtanga."
um, well, kest calls his schtick ashtanga, but i don't think any ashtangi would (hi eddie!). i wouldn't either.
anyway, i hopped on the lex to astor place in a light drizzle. the weather's still unseasonably warm, so i was walking around in a cotton sweater with my usual change of yoga clothes, my giant black mat, a pile of presents (those given to me, and those i have to give), as well as my usual assorted coffees, my marc jacobs bag, a book on carribean cooking, and some chocolate.
it's always easy to spot me in a crowd, you know? i have more bags than a homeless person, they just happened to be filled with awesome goodies. . .
so i wandered to yttp, walked up the stairs, and was pleasantly surprised by the space. as j. say, it's a great space.
long, high-ceilinged, perfectly lit for yoga (ever tried to do savasana with a fluorescent light flashing in your face?), with beautiful lacquered brick walls, and a fantastic, fantastic wood floor. the floor and the bathroom were both spotlessly clean.
the room features both radiator heat and 2 side heating elements set to 88 degrees. the dark wood built-ins and cubbies by the bathroom are nicely placed and just the right size.
the classes are donation only: the donation box last night was an empty kleenex thing just sitting on a bench by the door.
only about 15 people arrived for class in this huge (by nyc standards) room. they were all kiddies, probably freshmen from nyu.
i was clearly the oldest person there. despite their youth and slenderness, these were mostly challenged people, which surprised me.
watching them before class i was stunned to see the large number who couldn't touch their toes. there appeared to be only a couple with much yoga experience; one guy, thinner than a stick, practiced his forearm stand in the middle of the room, but didn't quite have the pose -- he muscled his way up and then bent into a shocking s-shape to hold himself there.
uh-oh, i thought. i have a bunch of 19-year-olds who can barely balance and a couple of frustrated former gymnasts. this isn't gonna be good.
then greg, the owner and teacher, came in rather quietly. all i knew about greg beforehand is that he was supposed to be a power yoga guy from seattle, which he confirmed for me later.
(i had also been told that he had taught power yoga to professional football players, but i didn't confirm that last night.)
since i'd just been talking to j. brown, something he often says came to my mind: "don't take yoga from a teacher who isn't kind, and run away from a teacher who doesn't listen."
greg's kindness was immediately apparent in the way he talked to the other students. just overhearing him eased my fears a lot about the class.
so the class started, and it's, you know, power yoga, altho' i have to say it was the slowest power yoga i'd ever seen. you could actually do a 4-part breath in the sun salutations.
all through the salutes greg emphasized the importance of moving at your own pace and following your own breath. he also reminded the class several times that he couldn't hear them breathing!
that's good, as my previous power yoga experience had been that all the breath-talk was mere lip service. greg really meant it, it seems.
greg had the class hold a few poses for 90 seconds every time -- warrior 2, plank, side angle. i don't mean to be super-judgmental, but it seemed like all the kiddies around me could barely hold the plank!
one guy next to me, who had entered with all the trappings of the upscale, upper-middle-class suburban skaterat, esp. appeared to be struggling. at one point i thought he was going to choke, his face was so purple.
greg noticed: "when the difficulty starts," he said, "try not to react harshly, but respond gently."
heavens, do these children today do nothing but play computer games? as i said above, this was the slowest "power-type" class imaginable and compared to the other students, i was an aged, aged crone; still i feared i'd need to call an ambulance for mr. skate.
i myself liked holding these poses, as it was so easy to relax into them and adjust yourself into better alignment in the warmth of the room. but again, it seemed as most others were having a hard time.
greg came over and gave me a gentle adjustment in bound side-angle. i think he has a good touch with adjustments.
but what struck me was what he said to me (it's always odd talking to teachers in yoga poses, with everybody's face speaking to you from these crazy angles, very cubist!): "you know you've been doing yoga for a long time, and i know you've been doing yoga for a long time. but could you please point your foot more forward and move your knee more to the side?"
that made me laugh a bit -- i'd never met him before, so i had no idea how he knew anything about my practice! i suppose he just has a good eye. . .
after the salutes, greg went thru a few perfunctory standing poses, and rushed on to the pilates/ab portion of the evening. what he called "awkward airplane" (holding one arm out to the side on the right, and one leg out to the side on the left) took right back to my old monday-evening pilates class.
this was definitely the most boring part. then we did a few simple backbends, mostly variations on locust and bow.
boom! suddenly it was time for savasana, with the option of a quick plough. wait -- i was confused! where was the rest of the class?
alas, it's more of this 60-minute x-press yoga that's quickly taking over nyc (elevate, laughing lotus, etc.). pity.
overall, greg plays some great music during class. but at the end of savasana, he had this strange moment where he turned up the music really loud, and played this strange brief change of pure tones.
not sure what that was about. overall, i must say i liked greg and his class much more than i would have expected.
so i tried out the second part of j. brown's aphorism: i went over to greg and talked to him for a bit. i even pushed it, venturing to complain a tad about the trouble i was having finding quality yoga.
greg took a step back(!) but still listened graciously. ok, so he easily passes the basic j. brown test.
in short, greg teaches a fun class in lovely space. he's kind, he listens, and he gives good adjustments.
my only caveats are that the class is too short, the bare brick walls make practicing inversions tough for beginners, and there's the issue of the style itself to overcome.
would i do this class again? absolutely: it's much better than the dog-yoga in the dirty rooms i've been suffering through for the past few months.
as much as it may surprise regular readers, i'm gonna say that greg's teaching an authentic yoga. but it's all him, not the style.