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Live Be Yoga: 12 Takeaways from the New York City Yoga Scene

It seems like just about everyone is practicing yoga in the Big Apple. Here, Jeremy and Aris reflect on the diverse ways ancient tradition has evolved in one of the most modern cities in the world.

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Live Be Yoga ambassadors Jeremy Falk and Aris Seaberg are on a road trip across the country to share real talk with master teachers, explore innovative classes, and more—all to illuminate what’s in store for the future of yoga. 

It’s called the city that doesn’t sleep, and turns out that with all that extra time New York City residents are practicing a lot of yoga. As they wrap up their whirlwind exploration of the yoga scene in their first destination, Jeremy and Aris look back—on meeting yogis (literally) everywhere, the work of renowned yoga teachers, the ongoing debate about hands-on assists, and so much more—to shine a light on yoga’s trajectory.

12 Things We Learned About the Future of Yoga in New York City

Finding Stillness in the City Is Getting Easier

Live Be Yoga ambassadors visit Be Time Mobile Meditation Studio

The Future of Yoga is here! Offering 15- to 30-minute guided meditations inside a futuristic bus in the heart of the New York City, Be Time Mobile Meditation Studio is driving modern innovation combined with traditional practice. As soon as you step off the street and into the bus, your world is transformed, and the city seems to melt away. The onboard teacher guides you first through a centering process to help soothe the mind and then leads the meditation practice. Be Time offers the most practical way to bring meditation into your life on the regular, no matter how busy your schedule is.

Watch: Live Be Yoga Tour Kicks Off with a Ride in This Ultra-Cool Meditation Bus

Yoga and Meditation Wisdom Has Infiltrated Many Walks of Life

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While walking through Central Park, we had an unexpected opportunity to speak with the knowledgeable and spunky Elijah, a man who stood on a bridge with his guitar and sang his own songs. He spoke to us about how he’s done yoga and tai chi, and how both have taught him the importance of breathing. He explained how breathing helps release tension from the body. It was beautiful to have this chance encounter with Elijah and to watch him speak with passion and humor about a practice that throughout his life has brought him peace.

Yoga Culture Has a Deep Well of Community

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With every studio stop and class in New York City, we were invited deeper into the layers of the yoga community. Each had its own style, but all had the same underlying pulse of conscious-minded individuals that make up a collective—a tribe of people who choose to better themselves on the regular and come together to share the experience. These like-minded individuals infuse their daily lives with a more grounded and peaceful approach to the hustle of life in the city.

There is No App for Happiness

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While at Yoga Journal LIVE, we had the opportunity to hear yoga teacher, global speaker, and author Max Strom speak on the topic of happiness. He started off his speech with some astonishing statistics: Right now 35-50 percent of Americans take antidepressants. “By 2020 the World Health Organization predicts depression and anxiety will be the leading causes of disabilities worldwide,” he said in his keynote address, in which he offered reasons for the stats:

  1. There is no education on how to live happily.
  2. We need to tools to manage stress and focus on what truly makes us happy.
  3. Humans are said to communicate nonverbally 90% of the time; by communicating more and more through devices and computers, we are not fulfilling our natural need to interact.

He believes that less time on our phones, learning tools such as breathing techniques to manage stress and emotions, and asking yourself and others the question, “How do I bring myself happiness at the deepest level?” are ways we can combat this worldwide mental health crisis.

The Art of Ceremony Unites with Yoga

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More and more we are seeing ceremonies—moon ceremonies, emotional release ceremonies, sound baths—infiltrating yoga studios and communities. We had the opportunity to attend a majestic sound bath ceremony at bodē nyc at its Flatiron location. The teacher set up about 10 metal singing bowls at the front of the room. She began by explaining how our bodies are mostly made up of water and how the vibration of the bowl moves water. She filled one of the bowls with water and walked around the room to demonstrate how the water moved when the bowl sang. The vibrations of the singing bowls are said to have a centering and aligning effect on the cells of the body. We then all lied on our backs as she entranced us with the sounds of the bowls. Afterwards there was a sense of deep connection and community in the room. It seems when a group of people come together in ceremony, the energy shifts. We are no longer strangers but all on this path together.

Some Like It Hot

Live Be Yoga ambassador Aris Seaberg practices hot yoga.

As yoga evolves to take on many shapes and forms, our hope for the future is that this helps more people cultivate ease and positive embodiment. After we muscled through a heated cardio-based vinyasa with dumbbells in a Yoga Sculpt class at Core Power Yoga on the Upper West Side, we were joyfully drenched in sweat, and while that may not be everyone’s yogic cup of tea, for some it is the only way. When class was over, a student told us that she really didn’t enjoy other types yoga, but she loved this class because it helped her move through her day with greater ease. Though the Yoga Sutras never mentioned plyometrics, they clearly talked about finding sthira (steadiness) and sukha (ease), and we’re grateful when someone does. 

Consent Is Cool

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There are a lot of important conversations currently happening about about sovereignty over one’s own body. Thanks to Yoga Alliance, an organization that we found to be positively reinventing themselves in a number of ways, studios everywhere are being encouraged to adopt the practice of offering assist chips, allowing students to display whether or not they would like to be manually adjusted in class.

There’s Hope in Healthy Debate

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Jason Crandell is my teacher, and I was fortunate enough to practice and chat with his teacher Rodney Yee, and Colleen Sandman Yee, both prolific and influential veteran teachers for decades. When I asked Rodney about his hope for the future of yoga, he answered, “I hope yoga becomes a place where people question, where people can have honest debate, where the different schools of yoga can actually come together and struggle together. I don’t want people to fight in the old sense of the term, but I want people to challenge each other for their authenticity.” And we agree. Our hope with Live Be Yoga is to initiate and hold space for these important conversations.

Corporate America Is Turning to Mindfulness

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We sat down with Jen Kluczkowski, CEO of Mindfresh, a corporate wellness company that brings mindfulness into the workplace by sending yoga teachers into the office to guide 30-minute sessions of breathwork, meditation, and light stretching. Working years at a desk job herself and nearly burning out, Kluczkowski knows firsthand the negative impact that sitting all day has on the body and mind. Her yoga practice saved her well-being, and she started her company in the hopes that there was a way even the busiest professionals could receive the same benefits without ever having to change clothes or step on a mat.

Alignment: It’s Not Just What, But How

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In our interview with Cyndi Lee, the first female yoga teacher in the West to integrate Tibetan Buddhism with yoga asana, she powerfully reframed a simple idea that has important implications for the future of yoga. At the intersection of these two philosophies, Lee points out that mindfulness, a cornerstone of Buddhist thought, means to consciously place the mind; this aligns perfectly with the concept of vinyasa, which means to place in a special way. It’s not just about moving through poses, but how we consciously place the mind with the body in a special way that keeps the essence of this practice alive. 

See also: How Cyndi Lee’s Powerful Lesson in Buddhism Will Illuminate Vinyasa for Years to Come

People Are Meditating Even if They Don’t Practice Asana

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Life on the road means finding new places for familiar services, like getting a haircut. So when the time came, I found a barber who specialized in fades and had great reviews. Greg was down-to-earth, humble, and genuinely interested in learning about our tour. I asked him if he ever practiced yoga. He said that he tried a couple poses from some online videos, and it was really hard. On the other hand, meditation was a part of his daily life. “Meditation for me is about designating a moment away from the noise and allowing myself to experience and identify the love and light within me that the world sometimes makes hard to see,” he said. “Questioning my thoughts during this time is off-limits.” 

The Future of Yoga Blends Ancient Roots and Modern Science

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Alison West, founder and director of Yoga Union and Yoga Union Center for Back Care and Scoliosis, believes there is room for both ancient wisdom and modern science and kinesiology in today’s world of yoga. Having studied multiple traditional lineages of yoga and as well as anatomy, she has built a therapeutic program for healing. With the knowledge we have access to on both ends of the yoga spectrum, she hopes to continue to see the two worlds intertwining in a way that benefits our lives.

See also Alison West’s 5 Simple Poses to Relieve Back Pain 

Want more stories from the Live Be Yoga team?

Live Be Yoga at the Be Time Mobile Meditation Studio in New York City
Greg Brenton

Follow the tour and get in-real-time updates from @livebeyoga on Instagram and Facebook.

See also Introducing the 2018 Live Be Yoga Tour Ambassadors