The Common, A.K.A. The Blue Building, located steps off the Jefferson L stop in Bushwick at 2 St. Nicholas Ave., has recently added a wellness space, CommonBody, to its list of multi-use offerings.
“I see us as being the body of the building, providing the circulation and the flow of the space,” said CommonBody co-founder and director, Bailey Cooke.
Situated on the ground floor of the two-story building, the oblong studio features a soft-toned Merkaba mural, which represents the vehicle for spiritual ascension, and the new studio plans to offer tarot card and astrology readings, past-life regression, Reiki, and acupuncture.
“The idea is to connect to your body, mind, and spirit so that you can access your full potential, which, I think, is the rightest way to world peace,” explained Cooke.
If you arrive early for class, there’s a little library with books on Sivananda and Kundalini, a deck of tarot cards, and a crate of records to browse that boasts an eclectic mix, including Calexico and 2Pac.
Cooke, a songwriter and musician who also worked as a freelance designer and writer before opening the studio, explained the recent additions to her record collection.
“I was walking here, at 5am, and there was a stack of records someone had put up against the building. We have production suites in the basement for music producers, so maybe someone was moving out, but I was like 'wow'! I found Biggie Smalls and 2Pac. I’m grateful for the free things. There’s always some free thing at 5am on the side of the road.”
Another early morning eye-opener for Cooke was that the Bushwick crowd wants a later start.
“This neighborhood likes 7:15am or 7:30am. They don’t want 6:30 in the morning. Williamsburg, however, wants 6:30 in the morning, because they’re more go-get-it corporate jobs. Here, they’re more like freelance artists that don’t have to be into their film production suite until 10am.”
In terms of the schedule, there are three different types of yoga: CommonBody Flow, a vinyasa and hatha-based class; Balance and Burn, a hatha and Iyengar-based class; and CommonBody Restore, a typical restorative class.
As for the departure from the more traditional class names, such as hatha, Iyengar, or
vinyasa, Cooke said, “Most people don’t even know what that means, and we’re not going to help them learn what yoga is if we’re constantly making it more confusing. So by speaking their native language, instead of trying to impose our native yogic language onto them, that’s going to help people come to know what yoga is.“
Also offered on the schedule is Pilates, known for its lengthening and strengthening effects, and Body Verticality, a wellness and fitness method founded in the Netherlands, which is a slow-moving class that targets the bones, and could incorporate props, like a tennis ball placed under the sciatic nerve. Or Reitman, a professional dancer, teaches both those classes. Other instructors on the schedule include Jen Diaz, Kat Castro, and Leslie Graves.
Cooke, a practicing yogi for years, never took a teacher training. (“I’m a musician, so whenever I’d have a couple thousand dollars for teacher training, I’d buy another guitar.”) She sees her role with the teachers as the person who provides feedback on how students absorb information. This could refer to the teacher’s cues, how they move around the space, or their speaking tone. “We get to have a lot of play by creating new styles of teaching, different ways to cue people, and the way we use our words and metaphors,” she said.
One of the instructors, Raquel Griffin, is also a Reiki master. In addition to teaching Balance + Burn and Restore, she offers 7 Vibrations, a class of yoga postures based around the chakras and the Chinese meridian system.
This fusion approach to yoga is something Cooke will expand upon.
“We’re going to start lunar astrology-based yoga, with Lindsay Myers, where she builds a class off of what’s happening around us. Like the blood moon had a lot of tendencies for impatience and anger. Or it could have encouraged acceptance and perseverance. So, doing postures that teach you to persevere, to stretch yourself, and to be patient could have grounded us during that time.”
Bundling the services is also part of the plan on certain days. For $15 you could buy a class, or you could pay $35, and have an astrology reading after class.
“It’s really hard to access those self-care services and experiences in the city, because they are so expensive. Self-care is number one, and if you’re not getting that, then you can’t help anybody," explained Cooke.
To help get people in the door, there is a donation-based class that currently sits in the Friday morning slot.
“There’s such a 'barrier-to-entry' with yoga and wellness studios—even myself, there are so many studios that I’ve wanted to try, but just getting through the door for the first time was the biggest challenge. So offering free classes is a great way for people to try it before putting more of an investment into it.”
In addition to getting people in the door, Cooke wants to create community, and, with the event spaces upstairs, she has room to do this.
“You can go to a studio for years and never meet anyone. But the thing is—especially at a boutique studio like ours—people who are coming are going to be as like-minded as you. They’re going to be in your neighborhood. You probably have a mutual friend in common. So, without providing space for people to actually meet each other, all that stuff swipes by. Who knows, the love of your life might be in the yoga class, and you don’t even know it because there isn’t a place for you to talk.”
And, while she is definitely looking for more exposure, Cooke said she’s not willing to sacrifice the integrity of the studio.
“Quality is the most important thing. I’ve really enjoyed sitting into the intention of not rushing, and not having to feel behind on anything, because, when you launch a business, no matter how prepared you are, there’s always a million things you can be doing. And, when you think about the kind of experience you want to have as a business owner, I can choose to be scatterbrained and constantly living with the perspective that I’m behind. Or I can have the perspective that everything is on time, which is what I’ve decided to go with, so that our experience overall is a little healthier, happier, and filled with more joy.”