If you live in New York City and are wearied of the polished, downtown fashionista yoga scene, hop a train north (or south or west if you must) to the nether-reaches of our urban island to take a class at the folksy Inwood Peace Yoga Center.
So many yoga studios have gone bright lights corporate it’s refreshing to experience a studio the way I imagine they were 25 years ago: pared down, focused on the essentials of the ancient tradition and run with the intent to build peaceful individuals and community.
With studio windows looking onto Inwood Hill Park, the city’s second largest park and home to our last remnant of natural forest and only salt marsh, I can’t think of another NYC yoga studio that can boast such a peaceful, feng shui-friendly environment.
Classes are vinyasa-style hatha yoga, and depending on the teacher and their mood, may nod more to Pattabhi Jois’s ashtanga or classic alignment-focused Iyengar. All of the classes heat you up linking breath with movements and settle you down with a relaxing shivasana, or corpse pose. You leave feeling mushy, open, and able to deal with the barrage of modern daily stresses.
Director Michael von Stange is an unpretentious kind-hearted man intent on spreading peace through yoga and meditation. His classes are marked by humor. With an omnipresent Cheshire-cat grin, by turns goofy and earnest, he urges his flush-faced, sweaty students to smile and have fun while twisting and stretching their bodies.
“Isn’t that great?” he recently chuckled while his class contorted into awkward, unlikely poses. “It’s better than a strong martini, right? The students erupted in laughter. His humor is infectious.
The instructors are a mix of seasoned and fresh-from-teacher-training. All of them are good, some are excellent, and you are certain to find one or several whose teaching suits you.
They offer a full seven day a week schedule of classes for all level of practitioner, including babies, kids, teens and prenatal. And they offer free meditation classes three mornings a week and a pay-what-you-can, donation-only class once a week.
If you’re trekking to get to the studio I recommend making a day of it (or a half). You’ll feel like you’ve hopped the Metro North and spent the day Upstate. Before or after the class grab a bite to eat around the corner on Broadway at Park Terrace Bistro or the Garden CafÃ?Â©, take a stroll in the park, and visit the 207 Street Art Gallery, or maybe even The Cloisters Museum in nearby Fort Tryon Park.
Inwood Peace Yoga Studio
630 Isham Street (1 block north of 207th Street at corner of Seaman Avenue)
New York, NY 10034