Jivamukti Yoga is a style of yoga and way of life created by former dancer and musician Sharon Gannon and former artist and cafe owner David Life. Jivamukti was created by Sharon and David in 1984, who studied and learned from prominent Indian teachers including Sri K Pattabhi Jois. Described as “a path to enlightenment through compassion for all beings”, Jivamukti is based on five central tenants and can be explored through six different class formats (all asana classes begin with a standard warmup, the Magic Ten). David and Shannon are also animal, environmental and political activists, which is prominent throughout Jivamukti and their studios.
On a recent trip to New York City, I visited their original centre, the Jivamukti Yoga School in Union Square (you can also find Jivamukti centres and teachers around the world). Here is my breakdown:
- Location: Union Square in New York City on Broadway between E14th and 15th street (map). The location is ideal for those living and working in Manhattan, but being located at the Union Square subway hub it is easily accessed by the NQR or 456 lines.
- Studio: the Jivamukti Yoga School was built with compassion in mind, using eco-friendly and non-toxic materials as well as water-saving fixtures. The 12,000 sq foot space touts three large studio spaces, an organic vegan cafe with food creations by Sharon Gannon, a retail space as well as a massage and wellness room.
- Style: Non heated classes are offered in the signature Jivamukti style (more about the six different class types here). I attended an Open class taught by Advanced teacher Sandhi “Gayatri” Ferreira.
- Schedule: Given the three large studio rooms dedicated to asana practice, the schedule is loaded with classes. For consistency, the same class type is generally offered at the same time each day.
- Price: A drop-in will cost you $20, but there are a number of packages that make practicing at Jivamukti more economical (including a $25 one-week unlimited pass for new students that reside in NYC, or a 30-class pack for $345).
I was quite intrigued to try a class at Jivamukti, given the prominence of the school and its founders (over 500 people practice here per day!). I was embarassingly early for class, so I took some time to check out the retail area, which was stocked with eco-friendly and organic clothing, jewelry, books and DVDs. Once the front desk settled down from the previous class sign-in, I checked in and was offered a tour of the studio area and change rooms by Charlotte, who was incredibly friendly and kind.
The class was held in one of the large studio rooms featuring high ceilings and large windows. The room was full, but not-overcrowded. After completing the signature Magic Ten warmup (yes, I made it through the 25-breath handstand, but it was close!), my body felt ready for the challenging, flowing class we were about to embark on. We first listened to a quirky and light-hearted recording for children about Ganesha while sitting in virasana (or hero’s pose), then the heat-building practice began. Sandhi lead us through complex, yet fun and accessible, sequencing that really opened the hips, spine and hamstrings. Her lightheartedness and sense of humour was enjoyable and she took the time to adjust each student throughout class, regardless of their level of practice (afterwards I learned that Sandhi is also a certified acro-yoga teacher as well as a professional fire, hula-hoop and aerial dancer, which really shone through in her teachings).
I wouldn’t recommend the Open class to a beginner, but to those ready to take their practice to the next level. I received a deep adjustment from Sandhi in paschimottanasana (seated forward bend), and with my chest firmly pressing into my thighs I thought, “yep, this is undoubtedly the deepest forward fold I have even been in.” The class ended with a well-deserved savasana, and a message from Sandhi about the importance of ethical vegetarianism and veganism given the in-sustainability of our current way of living.
I wish I had time to visit the cafe for a snack after class, but with limited time to enjoy the sights and sounds of the city I was off to Williamsburg to visit with friends. I hope to visit Jivamukti again the next time I’m in town.
Have you been to Jivamukti or another studio in NYC? Tell us about it in the comments below.
About 8 years ago I came to yoga looking for a way to improve my strength and flexibility for a snowboarding season in New Zealand.Little did I know that the practice would become an instrumental part of my life.Yoga is now the foundation for all things that I value – my personal relationships, singing and songwriting, my day job at an airline, and all the physical activities I enjoy outdoors.
Having completed my teacher training in the Iyengar style of yoga I love classes that focus on critical alignment, particularly those that explore movement in fun and creative ways.My favourite classes are lead by down-to-earth instructors who safely challenge us to try something new and have a laugh while doing it.