When Eddie Stern, the founder of Brooklyn Yoga Club, first began studying yoga with Ashtanga master Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, it was in his teacher’s home. Now, almost three decades later, it’s fitting that his own center is located inside a multistory brownstone house, on the border between Fort Greene and Clinton hill.
Down in the basement is a meditation “cave”, steam room, and a gently lit studio where 80–90 students perform their daily Ashtanga practice under the watchful eyes of Hindu Gods—ornate statues and pictures, perched on a shrine at the far end of the room. On the ground floor there’s a health food café, communal table and spacious outdoor deck, and on the level above, a beautiful Airbnb bedroom for visiting yogis. The very top of the house is reserved for Stern and his wife Jocelyne, as their private residence, making it easy for them to interact with the community throughout the day.
In New York—a city where, unfortunately, loneliness is a fairly common state—yoga studios are filling a sweet spot. More than a place to exercise or stretch, they provide access to a ready-made likeminded community and the possibility to develop a spiritual practice.
“This feeling of being separate and being alone is one of the great illusions they talk about in yoga—known as avidya—but when this idea that ‘I’m separate’ begins to weaken, then things like anxiety, depression, malaise, or being lonely begin to evaporate a little bit,” explains Stern. “To be able to come and practice in a room filled with people every day […] creates a different kind of connection and intimacy.”
And Brooklyn Yoga Club isn’t the only studio in the borough making community a central focus of their operation. New Love City, in Greenpoint—also situated in what used to be an apartment—offers a yoga and co-working package. Freelancers can utilize 1,100 square feet of space with squishy sofas, a communal table, and a drum kit (just in case yoga isn’t doing the trick to de-stress them).
A little further South, in Williamsburg, you’ll find SHAKTIBARRE—a wellness lifestyle space comprising a café, work area and exercise studio, with a loyal fanbase of local women. Co-founders Corinne Wainer and Shauny Lamba have just successfully crowd-funded their second studio up in Harlem, continuing their mission to bring “large numbers of women together to close gender gaps with accessible, sustainable wellness education, which is why our SHAKTIBARRE workouts begin meaningful dialogues and our community space allows those conversations to extend into the real world.”
In a city where an estimated three million residents are foreign-born—possibly living thousands of miles from their families and friends—the local yoga studio has truly become a home away from home.