As diverse as the city itself, Manhattan's yoga community continues to expand into the borough's many nooks and crannies, keeping up with an ever-growing demand. (Get your ticketsfor Yoga Journal LIVE New York, April 21–24, now!)
1. Laughing Lotus (Chelsea + Manhatten)
"Forget doing yoga; be yoga!" says Laughing Lotus's Dana Flynn, whose celebrated free-form vinyasa classes are as lighthearted as they are physically intense. Together with co-director Jasmine Tarkeshi, Flynn is bringing a fresh attitude and a sense of community to the New York yoga scene. The duo's first classes were taught on a rooftop at sunset, and now their colorful 4,000-square-foot Chelsea sanctuary offers up to a dozen classes a day, including Tarkeshi's revered early-morning Sun Celebration. And Laughing Lotus welcomes well-known teachers like Mark Whitwell and Bhagavan Das for satsangs and kirtans. Massage, reflexology, and tarot and astrology readings are available by appointment. 59 W. 19th St.; laughinglotus.com.
2. Dharma Yoga Center (Gramercy)
Everything about Dharma Mittra's intimate Manhattan studio says "old school"from the scent of patchouli wafting down the stairs as you arrive, to the honor system for paying for water and snacks, to the flowered shower curtain in the small bathroom, which looks like it's been there since the center first opened, in 1975. Mittra is a gentle, humorous teacher, but he's also a world-renowned yogi whom you've likely seen beforehe's both creator and model of the Master Yoga Chart of 908 Postures. His daily intermediate-advanced classes include asanas you've probably never fathomed, much less achieved, but witnessing the 65-year-old master in action is an inspiring education all its own. 297 Third Ave.; dharmamittra.com.
3. Jivamukti (Upper East Side)
This long, narrow, lavender-walled annex of the famed Manhattan yoga center might not feature the celebrity sightings (or the crowded classes) of its luxe downtown sibling, but if a spirited hatha yoga practice is on your agenda, you won't leave disappointed. Created by Sharon Gannon and David Life, the signature Jivamukti classes begin with chanting and build into a heated, flowing sequence that makes a towel a necessity, not an afterthought. Because the study of ancient scriptures is another tenet of Jivamukti Yoga, formal classes in the Yoga Sutra and Sanskrit are offered at the downtown center. 853 Lexington Ave., second floor; jivamuktiyoga.com.
See also Move to the Music Jivamukti Flow
4. Kula Yoga Project (Tribeca + Williamsburg + SoHo)
Up a steep three flights, this unpretentious one-room studio is full of artistic touchesfrom the painted mandala on the ceiling to the sequined altar to Ganesha built into a wall. Kula is Sanskrit for "intentional community," and co-owner Schuyler Grant specifically chose this beleaguered location (just blocks from the World Trade Center) in 2002 as a place that needed the healing energy of yoga. "It's been nice to watch the neighborhood come back together and get healthy," she says. In addition to upbeat freestyle vinyasa classes, Kula offers Thai massage workshops and a new "Hot Mama" pre- and postnatal program taught by Grant, a new mother herself. 28 Warren St., fourth floor; kulayoga.com.
See also Get in Touch
5. Prana Mandir (Upper East Side)
A devotee of Yogi Bhajan and a Kundalini teacher since 1989, Lea Kraemer opened her own studio two years ago. "Kundalini Yoga coordinates your vitality with the breath," she says, "and that's why people love it." With 35-foot cathedral ceilings and a view of the Queensboro Bridge, this urban oasis offers daily classes in addition to level 1 Kundalini teacher training certification. The space is equipped with a full kitchen, so food is sometimes part of the picture as well. For daylong retreats or kirtan, Kraemer brings in a vegetarian chef. "It's hard to know what's more exciting," she says, "the food or the yoga." 316 E. 59th St.; pranamandir.com.
6. Iyengar Yoga Institute of New York (Chelsea + Brooklyn)
The Iyengar Institute is celebrating its new Chelsea home, which is twice the size of its old, cramped location. The space houses a library, a meeting area, two yoga studios, and a smaller practice space for teachers, and is better equipped to handle the 700-plus students who visit the institute each week. Classes are taught according to the principles devised by B.K.S. Iyengar, well known for his focus on precise alignment. Senior teacher Mary Dunn advises first-time Iyengar students to come to a level 1 class, "to be able to gather all the lessons the practice has to teach. It's not just what you do, it's how you do it," she says. "It's how you experience the postures and learn what they have to offer you." 150 W. 22nd St., 11th floor; iyengarnyc.org.
See also A Tribute to B.K.S. Iyengar
7. Prana Studio (Bryant Park)
Introduced to Ashtanga while she was a swimmer at Columbia University, owner Danicia Ambron studied under Beryl Bender Birch until going solo six years ago. Today, she runs a thriving studio that caters to Ashtanga yogis of every ability. She offers one-hour lunchtime classes five days a week that are a thoughtful mix of the primary and secondary series, Mysore practices on Monday nights and Saturday and Sunday mornings, a secondary-series class on Wednesday evenings, and instructor-led primary classes five nights a week. The amenities are minimal (no shower or lockers), but the instruction is intelligent and sensitive. Ambron has created a warm, intimate community here. 66 W. 39th St., third floor; thepranastudio.com.
See also Mysore Style Ashtanga Yoga
8. Sonic Yoga (Theater District)
This three-year-old studio, opened by former attorney Jonathan Fields, continues to raise the bar for yoga innovations. Fields's weekly "Theta Flow" class combines sound, light, and rhythm to bring students into a deeper meditative state. Sonic's latest stroke of genius is "iFlow," in which students practice on their own schedule to a prerecorded audio class on an iPod for a bargain rate (supervising teachers are on hand). The two-story space is clean and modern (no incense or fragrances are used, in deference to people who suffer from allergies), and Sonic keeps its studios heated to a toasty 80 degrees, so prepare to sweat. 754 Ninth Ave., second floor; sonicyoga.com.