New Studio Opening: Woom Center Stimulates All The Senses
At first glance, yoga at Woom Center starts as many yoga classes do -- seated on two blocks for supported virasana with the instructor sharing a story that relates to the upcoming class theme.
But then the eye masks go on. And following that comes the experimental humming, rhythmic syllable singing, and call and response chanting. So then you are blindfolded amongst others, crooning MA MA MA which morphs into AY YI YI YA to WE ARE IN THIS, WE ARE HERE. After 10 minutes, it becomes clear The Woom Yoga Experience is its own thing.
“We like to call these ‘experiences’ because we hope you will have an experience with yourself, and with each other that allows you to open up in a way that brings you closer to your truth,” said Yoga Director, Francesca Bove in her opening talk at the beginning of a recent class.
The experiences are designed to stimulate the five senses. They are accompanied by digital visuals, hands on assists, vocal meditation, aromatherapy, a freshly mixed elixir served at the end, and sound which was the original inspiration behind the center.
“I was sitting on the subwoofer at (the party) Zero in Brooklyn, feeling the massive vibration of sound that came through. Then two questions came to my mind. Number one, what are the effects of sound on the skeletal muscular, nervous system and the brain combined with movement similar to the dance floor, but more targeted yoga movement? And number two, is there an expert on this, who is he, and can I learn from him?” said Elian Zach-Shemesh, co-founder.
The answers arrived when Elian discovered the work of ethnomusicologist
Alexandre Tannous. Newly wedded to co-founder David Shemesh, the two had already decided to create a wellness center so in lieu of taking a honeymoon, they chose to study under Tannouse at the NY Open Center for sound practitioner certifications.
“When we realized that sound was the modality for our wellness center we felt we had found something we could work with that is not a trend. It’s rooted in deep truth. It resonated, first on the dance floor and then on the yoga mat. The day after our wedding I fell down the stairs, and injured my tailbone. I was told that my tailbone injury could last 6 months. Then I went to Alexandre’s sound meditation a month later, and the next morning I was better. Something took place, a change on a molecular level. It’s very mysterious. Sound is very mysterious. The brain is also very mysterious. And spirituality is also very mysterious. They are all connected,” said Elian.
This idea of using sound to explore consciousness is the foundation for the Woom Sound Experience, a bi-monthly 2-hour session offered at the center by Elian and David.
And while sound is inherent in everything at Woom (and can be felt and heard seamlessly around the room through the 3D audio setup), the primary offering at the center is yoga, specifically their signature vinyasa, Woom Yoga Experience.
There is also fundamentals, Woom Yoga Essence, Woom Rest (restorative) and advanced, Super Woom Yoga along with Community Woom (donation based) where new teachers experiment with the format. Other teachers on the schedule which features 5 - 7 classes daily include Ali Cramer, Aby Gonzales, Felipe Gonzalez, Jordan Ashley, and Mariah Betts.
On a recent Sunday evening, the experience with Francesca and Elian took place in an almost packed to the 35 person capacity room, or Woom as they like to call it.
“We are trying to create a container similar to a spaceship or mothership. Nothing comes in and nothing comes out. It’s like a lab so you enter one way, and you exit transformed in some kind of way,” Elian said.
When you first enter the yoga room, it’s sparse. Bare walls lead to padded, cream colored tufted fabric coverings over the closets which house props and cubbies for personal belongings. But once the eye masks come off, after the vocal meditation, the room is digitally enhanced with an assortment of imagery that dynamically illuminates the space.
“Dive into the clouds,” Francesca said to students rising to their tip toes for diver’s pose as they hinged over the blue skies and puffy white clouds streaming along the walls. The asana portion is based on repetition so the sequence builds upon itself adding new postures along the way.
Elian met Francesca while taking an advanced training with her at Laughing Lotus.
The two developed the overall experience together, but it was Francesca who came up with the physical sequencing. “Every experience starts with the joints and the spine. Then we go into key shapes where we introduce the physical language we are going to be using. And then on that physical language we start developing, and by the end we do a restorative that undoes everything we’ve done before. So if we have done a lot of external rotation, the restorative will be internal rotation using the props to support,” Elian explained.
In savasana, the blindfolds go back on. The room then fills with inviting scents (a combination of multiple oils including rose, geranium, sandalwood, frankincense and myrrh) that are spritzed on each person to the tune of overtone emitting instruments such as gongs, singing bowls, tuning forks, chimes, ocean drums, rain sticks, and rattles. Underneath the blindfold, an inner and outer awareness develops as the distractions that sight normally creates aren’t present.
And when it’s time to rejoin regular life - with the five senses in tact - there is a tasty shot served after class. Students convene in the cafe where vegan bites such as coconut yogurt, avocado toast on multigrain and lentil quinoa kofta can be purchased and enjoyed at the family style table, or cozy couch in the corner by the big window overlooking the Bowery.