I wasn’t sure what to expect as I stood at the bottom staircase of a picturesque brownstone in the East Village, mesmerized by the sway of a little red sign that read: New Vibe Yoga.
The sun was just beginning to rise as I walked up the stairs and entered the building’s foyer. The only indications of a yoga studio were a few pairs of shoes outside the door entrance, on the left. I followed the lead by taking my shoes off and slowly turned the doorknob with caution. Stepping directly into the studio, there were two people already deep in their practice, acknowledging my presence with a welcoming head nod.
Beautiful hardwood floors reflected the natural light streaming in from the front window. No music. No props. No fancy Ganesh murals. It was like walking into a blank canvas of colorful movement with strokes of presence.
I was quickly greeted by an experienced student who directed me to the back lounge area where there was a stack of familiar asana book references and a friendly kitty prancing around. The kind woman—glistening with a layer of sweat—pointed to the sunny back patio, just off the lounge, and told me that I could wait outside until the teacher arrived at 7:15am to lead the mantra.
Just as the clock read quarter past seven, Alex walked onto the patio with bare feet and a coffee mug in hand. He introduced himself with a bright smile and asked me a few questions about my practice. I admitted being fairly new to Mysore yoga and the Ashtanga lineage, so he assured me that he would guide me through about 30 minutes of the sequence to start.
I asked a few questions about how the studio operates and he shared his journey of becoming a classically Ashtanga-trained yoga teacher and eventually opening New Vibe Yoga in the fall of 2014. “When I say ‘the studio’,” he said, “I really mean ‘me’ because I’m the only one running the show here.”
While his dedicated students remained present in the flow of their own practice, Alex’s teachings involved leading a short mantra at the front of the room, and then sitting at the sidewall to observe, stepping in occasionally for Ashtanga-style assists.
I unrolled my mat in the back of the room and Alex led me straight through a few rounds of Surya Namaskar A, with very direct and concise cues. He kept his voice at a whisper not to disturb surrounding students breathing through intense balancing and binding poses. After a few rounds of Surya Namaskar A, we moved into Surya Namaskar B. He continued reminding me to root down through my foundation to rise up.
In Warrior 1, he brought my palms together and dropped my head back, opening the throat. “Breathe,” he whispered. As I stayed here for about five breaths, he glided over to another student holding Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana and extended her leg out to the side for a much deeper stretch.
Alex returned to my mat and directed me into the standing sequence portion—including Trikonasana, Parsvakonasana, and Parsvottanasana—using his well-trained vocabulary to move me into better alignment rather than hands-on assists.
Next up: the seated sequence. Alex sat at the side of my mat mastering the orchestration of keeping one eye on my structural movement and the other on his students, calling people by first name to direct them further into a pose or to come out and realign. I practiced a few forward bends, like Paschimottanasana and Janu Sirsasana. Then he had me move into Padmasana and use a combination of breath and strength to lift up into Utthita Padmasana. As my arms trembled and my lips tightened he grinned and we took a deep breath together. “Smile,” he said, “and pretend like you’re actually enjoying this.”
His smiling reflection became contagious, and, as I closed my eyes and released my body into Savasana, I felt an overwhelming sense of calm and expansiveness. He told me to rest for about 10 minutes, and then his spirit silently disappeared into the distance.
As I reached toward the final limb in the eight limbs of yoga, Samadhi, I felt the experience of bliss and the sensation of connection to everything around me. A new vibe, indeed, from the uncertainty I had been feeling upon entering this charming abode of insight.
—Ashley Rose Howard for Yoga Sleuth
Drop-in classes are $20 for Mysore and led Ashtanga classes,.