A few weeks ago I read about a series of free events taking place at a New York City yoga studio that I’d heard a lot about: Pure Yoga. With one location on the Upper East Side and another on the Upper West Side, the studio was celebrating its third anniversary with classes, workshops, and giveaways. Although there were a number of activities I wanted to sign up for immediately, there was only one that fit in with my schedule: 108 Sun Salutations. Without giving it a second thought, I enrolled.
It never occurred to me to be nervous about what the event entailed. Instead, I felt a bit worried about going to the yoga studio itself. I’d heard a lot about Pure, but the only thing I knew definitively about it was that I couldn’t possibly afford to attend classes there with any sort of regularity. Because I’m really self-conscious about my income, I was concerned that somehow, everyone else at the workshop I was attending (not to mention the staff at the studio) would be able to recognize that I was an outsider, some kind of socioeconomic interloper. Totally in line with yoga, right?
To my relief, the environment was nothing but welcoming. The interior of the studio is beautiful, and evokes elements of the outdoors that you rarely get to experience in the heart of the city: water features, stones, woods, and greenery. When I checked in for the workshop, the staff member I spoke to suggested that I go to the location on the west side, saying that just going in would make me want to start taking classes there. What I wouldn’t give to be able to do that! Being at Pure Yoga for a one-time workshop was a treat, I can’t imagine how incredible it would be to go consistently!
Once I’d been given the information I needed (location of the locker rooms, where the water fountain was located, etc.), I stowed my shoes and other extraneous objects in a cubby and headed into the studio itself, where roughly one hundred yoga mats sat waiting for their yogis. I couldn’t wait to get started. Not too long after I picked a mat and got settled, the studio manager came in to tell us a little bit about what we were doing and why. Pure Yoga had chosen for us to do 108 sun salutations so that each one would correspond to a bead on a mala. The sun salutations would be led by ten instructors, nine of whom would take us through eleven salutations each. He would be the last instructor and would lead us through the final nine.
We started off with a pretty standard salutation, and warmed up quickly. Each instructor brought their own style as well as their own variation on the sun salutation to the practice, so each set of eleven that we did was different from the last one. Some were energizing, some were calming, and all of them underscored the power that yoga has to unite people in a common practice, even as it honors the differences that everyone brings to the mat. This balance of uniqueness and union showed in the teaching styles that were on display as well as the way in which we all moved through the poses. It’s not often that you get to be part of something like that, and I really appreciate having had the opportunity.
We moved through two and a half sweaty and satisfying hours of yoga, cheering at the end in celebration of having pushed through chaturanga after chaturanga, and countless downward dogs. In spite of all the sweating I did, I felt hydrated and alert, proud of what I had just accomplished. Because I had to stop occasionally to reposition the towels I was forced to place on my mat (and I want to apologize to Pure Yoga for sweating SO MUCH on that mat), I missed some of the salutations, but I’m pretty sure I did over 100. My body had stayed strong throughout the duration of the workshop, the only hindrance being the amount I was perspiring.
After the event, I was so sweaty that I chose to bypass the free granola and yogurt parfaits, and mimosas that were on offer right outside the studio, and go straight to the showers which, once again, made me long to find an additional source of income in order to spend more time at Pure Yoga. The showers were large and luxurious, the towels were soft, and the locker room experience was almost as relaxing as the yoga practice itself. I left the studio feeling amazing, vowing to keep my eyes peeled for any more free events I could take advantage of.
I’m obviously a huge fan of having an at-home yoga practice; I love being able to pop over to YogaVibes, and have complete control over what sort of practice I do and when I do it. But doing 108 sun salutations at Pure Yoga reminded me of the power (yes, I said it) of practicing yoga alongside others, of engaging in this individual and meditative, yet shared activity. Although yoga is a strongly unique and individualized experience, there is value and comfort to be found in being surrounded by others, even if you never speak to them or see them again. It’s just another one of those things that makes yoga so great, and one of those things that I wish I could be a part of more often. Special thanks to Pure Yoga for making that possible for so many on Saturday.