Where Breath, Art And Community Come Together
When two creative types open a yoga studio, lots of new ideas come into play. Henry Cross, co-owner of U Studios NYC, has been a professional ballroom dancer, a professor, and teaches yoga to children, seniors and everyone in between. He is an advocate for the benefit of movement and the importance of safety and breath in yoga over attaining that perfect looking pose.
“Maya was my ballroom student. We began a dialogue about business last December and the rest is history. I loved her art and she loved dancing. Working together was a result of our mutual respect for our art form. Our core values are the result of Maya's interpretation of yoga and my interpretation of yoga in New York.”
Maya Malioutina is an artist with gallery space in DUMBO. Some of her work hangs in the studio, and she encourages people to reach up and feel the textured paintings which are made of things like rust, acrylic paint, paper, milkweed, wax and rubber. She is warm and approachable as an artist; her passion and enthusiasm for sharing her work is written all over her face. “I price my paintings cheaply, I want people to take them.”
The variety of experiences and strong philosophies of these partners are evident both in the studio mission and types of classes they plan to teach. Henry says, “We won't credit a specific lineage, but I can tell you our the concept of a Vinyasa practice with restorative elements had a deep impact on my teaching philosophy and motivation for opening. We trust our teachers will keep classes fun, diverse, and adequate for all levels and all ages.” The class listing currently includes Yoga Basics, Vinyasa, Hot Vinyasa, Intermediate Yoga and Sweat & Restore and, of course Henry gives ballroom privates. The rooster of new teachers includes Julia Monosova,Emily Hyland, Rebecca Merritt, Christina Rufin, Sadia Bruce, Dina Smirnova, Catherine Engh and Dayle Pivetta.
Organized with specific goals in mind, Henry and Maya have a philosophy that will be the foundation of U Studios throughout each class. The first is the importance of breath. “It is the point to the practice,” Henry says, and their teachers will always emphasize breath over form in both their yoga and pilates classes. He adds, ““We remind teachers to keep our core values in mind. Push, hold, and go farther is something we really want to minimize. Yoga as a process for a practice, not a one day bootcamp.”
Second, they believe in accessibility. Absolutely everybody can benefit from yoga and the other movement classes available, so they’ve set the price at $10 for regular yogis to drop in with bulk discounts available. Students and seniors pay $5 for a drop in, mat included. There are also daily Community Classes open to all for $6.
The third and most elusive philosophy is the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi, which has fueled and inspired Maya first in her art and now in her yoga. “I used to find yoga so boring!” she says, but then explains how embracing the wabi-sabi way of life has led her to change her entire worldview, yoga included. “It is finding beauty in things that are imperfect. Looking at this dirty concrete floor and seeing the completeness and perfection exactly as it is.”
It can be a hard idea to wrap your head around, but yogis are no stranger to committing to intangible ideals. Western thought generally promotes consumerism, wanting things to be brand new. Maya explains, “That isn’t a bad thing, I like new things! But in this mindset, an old cracked vase would hold more value than a brand new vase. That crack is part of the experience, it is perfect in it’s imperfection. Older things carry a different, more perfect energy. It is a deliberate and meditative way to slow down and experience everything that happens to you more fully, exploring the feelings that come up and finding the balance inside of yourself.”
Their final idea is thinking of their studio as a community center. To start, all teachers will open their class by asking each student to quickly introduce him or herself. The idea is not to come and stay squarely on your mat and in your space, it is to look the person on the mat next to you, in the eye, and begin to build a relationship within this blooming community The large, airy studio with lots of natural light studio has a long hallway with changing rooms, cubbies and a kitchenette.
Who knows you may find yourself having tea with the person next to you after class. U Studios NYC has plans to open a DUMBO location later this summer. With their ambitious goals and genuine intentions, not to mention the reasonable rates, it is hard to argue against trying out U Studios NYC located at 264 Canal St 5th Floor (Between Broadway & Lafayette).