On Tuesday, I schlepped my mat to work hoping to sneak in a yoga power hour at lunch. Jivamukti is a ginormous name in the yoga world, and is one of the most influential schools in NYC. Celebrities go there, so it must be good. Right? Right?? ...it's a few blocks away from my office and offers a freebie class to new students, so I was game. I didn't have to use my 2010 Yoga Passbook card, which by the way, is one of the rare passes in the book that gives you a full week of unlimited yoga classes. Cha-ching!
Now, I should mention that I'd read about Jivamukti before, and wasn't totally sold on their whole schtick. For starters, they're chanters. I realize this is totally politically incorrect, but nothing gets my goat worse than seeing a bunch of *cough*white*cough* Manhattanites sitting on their $90 Manduka mats in front of an elephant-man painting chanting prayers in languages they don't understand. Seriously. How many of them do you think actually know what Om Shanti Shanti Shanti actually means?
Sorry, ya'll. I'm still pretty green to yoga. I haven't fully embraced the non-judgment tenant. But them again, I could argue that Jivamukti hasn't either. They have this veganer-than-thou thing that I have a beef with (har har!).
One of the basic tenants of modern yoga philosophy is something I can totally get behind: Ahimsa or non-harm. One love, hippie. Do unto others as you want done unto you, and all that.
So here's my problem with Jivamukti: because they interpret Ahimsa a certain way, they admit only vegans into their teacher training program. No meat-eaters allowed. No cheese-eaters or milk-drinkers, either. You like chocolate? Well, fuck off — Jivamukti won't have you. Doesn't that kinda go against the whole non-judgment / all-inclusive / one big happy family / group hug yoga philosophy? What happened to that? One love, hippie...but only if you're one of us.
Long story short, Jivamukti rubbed me the wrong way a long time before I stepped foot in their studio. Still, I had a pass and it was the closest studio to my office that had a lunchtime class open. I boldly ventured into vegan territory with grilled chicken (albiet from a free-roaming local hen) still fresh on my breath.
The studio space is lovely. Gorgeous hardwood floors throughout, dimmed lighting, big windows, the works. The studio my class was in was a quiet, windowless room with pictures of Hindu gods hangings on the walls. Mmm hmmm. There were many 12 students in the entire class (and zero Manduka mats, incidentally). The teacher, Mark, started class with a few stretches to get us warmed up. I'd read earlier that he has 800+ hours of teacher certification, which means that he can pretty much levitate, so I was expecting a great class.
At this point, I was still extremely stiff from my yoga hiatus, and my down dog was a pathetic mess. Mark came over and adjusted my poses, and those 800+ hours of certification really showed. Best. Adjustments. Ever. He put his feet on top of mine and pulled my hips back so my spine straightened out and my hamstrings caught on fire. Every adjustment was perfect: painful, painful, amazing.
The flow part of class was a fantastic challenge. It was a fast-paced power yoga and I loved every second of it. I've never done handstands before, so that was a tough one for me. My supported headstand was pretty weak, but that's pretty much what I expected. At some point, we found ourselves in a seated position with the lights off and a single candle burning in the center of the room. Mark led us in a silent, breath-focused meditation, which seriously rocked my face off. We don't meditate at all in my regular class, and I didn't know what I was missing.
Despite the chanting portion of the class that followed meditation, I left feeling totally blissed out. It's worth sitting through the B.S. for the meditation alone, but coupled with the challenging flow and Mark's spot-on adjustments, I have a newfound respect for Jivamukti. I'll be back for more of Mark's lunchtime classes, and I promise I'll keep the eye-rolling to a minimum.