Lululemon’s Community Class: A Chance to Ride With Ryan Steinman At Soul Cycle

On a ridiculously cold day, I bundled up and made my way up to the Soul Cycle Studio on 63rd and Lexington for the very first time. It’s been almost a year since I was on a bike at Soul Cycle but thanks to one of Lululemon’s awesome community events, I got the chance to ride with one of Soul’s newer instructors, Ryan Steinman.

Ryan Steinman Soul Blog Photo

When I got to the front desk to check in for my class, it turned out that I’d gotten moved from the random bike I had signed up for in the store. For a brief second I thought somehow I’d gotten knocked off the list and trekked out in the freezing cold for nothing – but it turned out I had been moved to the front row. Eek! I am not the most coordinated person, so in Soul classes with their notorious on-the-bike choreography, I usually try to hide in the back.  After a brief moment of front row panic, I sucked it up, initialed by my name and asked for some cycling shoes for class. Turns out that because we were there with Lululemon, they were free! Free class AND free shoes at Soul Cycle?!? Score!

Soul Cycle’s studios are always ridiculously pretty, with their clean white spaces, dark slate floors and bright yellow logo accents – the 63rd Street studio is no exception. I changed and headed into class to get ready for the ride. Thankfully, I managed not to bust my ass on the slick slate floors as I made my way into the studio– they really are so pretty design-wise but SO impractical! It’s been so long since I’ve ridden with Soul that this was my first time on their “new” bikes. I was shocked by how much better I liked these bikes – they are smooth, easy to adjust and had a better angle than the ones before… I was seriously surprised. I didn’t have any problems adjusting my bike but the Soul staff rushed around the room helping everyone who looked even slightly confused.

Ryan introduced himself to the group and proceeded to get us started as he put on his cycling shoes – turns out he was a corporate lawyer before finding Soul and changing paths. Almost immediately, he was on the bike and launched into the Soul pushup choreography and I was briefly concerned that I wouldn’t be able to keep up. Turned out, though, that Ryan was so easy to follow that I forgot how ridiculously uncoordinated the choreography normally makes me feel and just found myself grinning like crazy and having fun. Ryan’s music was great and eclectic –by far my favorite was a mash-up by DJ Robin Skouteris that included almost a full minute of opera. It was shocking and strangely, went perfectly with the isolation move he called out. The idea of the isolation is to use heavy resistance and to only have your legs move while keeping your upper body perfectly still – a brutally challenging move. Then, as the opera faded into a faster more kickass tempo, he called out for us to let it go. It was awesome. The ride flew by and was filled with talk of finding your soul, making choices, deciding to push yourself, and taking ownership of what you do in every moment; the exact kind of thing I’ve come to expect at Soul and love every time I hear it. I totally get why people love Soul Cycle. Last Sunday, Ryan’s class was exactly what I needed – a sweaty reminder that following you own path can truly be amazing.

Soul Cycle SayingTop image from Soul Cycle’s Blog, bottom image from their FaceBook page.

Aerial Yoga at OM Factory NYC : A Blissful Treat from Lululemon

One of my favorite things is to always keep an eye on the Lululemon community calendars for each of the stores in the city, because sometimes you find a gem in there. I DO wish all of NYC’s different Lulu calendars were combined but really, a little leg work never killed anyone! My favorite free “community sweat” classes, though, are always the ones they occasionally hold in the featured studios. This week, Lululemon Union Square’s class turned out to be an Aerial Yoga class at OM Factory! Score!

I have been dying to try out OM Factory’s Aerial Yoga for a while. The studio was already 3/4 full by the time I filled out my waiver/newcomer form and made my way into the room. The room was set up with 15 (or so) bright orange silk “hammocks” – I grabbed one of the mats hanging on the wall & took a spot in the back of the room under one of the silks. The class filled up quickly and a few people had to be turned away since with any Aerial class, once the hammocks are filled, that is it. No squeezing in at the last minute in a class like this! While I waited for class to begin, I sat in my hammock and swung, taking in the bright pretty space. OM really is a lovely little peaceful gem in the craziness that is Union Square.

The instructor for our class, Sarah Sadie Newett, came around to each of us before the class started and had us stand by our silks to get measured. The hammocks, when pulled taught, are supposed to be at your hipbones. That way when you fold over it, the hammock will support your weight in various poses. Our class was billed as a “foundations class” – which meant that there was a lot of stopping to have the next thing explained to us. While we listened, Sarah often had us swing in our hammocks, which is really just a seriously soothing way to have anything explained to you. Ages ago I took some Aerial Yoga classes, so it didn’t really bother me that I couldn’t always see what was being demonstrated up at the front of the room. We did a lot of moves with one leg suspended out in the hammock, which is a fun way to explore your balance and go far deeper into the poses.

In every Aerial yoga class though, I just am chomping at the bit to do my absolute favorite thing – hang upside down. Almost every other pose is just what I have to do to get to flip upside-down in those awesome hammocks. I could be really happy hanging upside down every single day. In an “Aerial Silks” class, the fabric is in two sections and being upside down is a feat. but because the silks in Aerial Yoga is a one piece hammock, the upside-down move is awesomely easy. It cradles as you flip back and you can either straddle your legs out or my favorite, to wrap them around the silks. It is so oddly comfortable and freeing. While we were upside-down, Sarah also had us try a handstand – I was stunned when I pushed right up into a full handstand and could hold it! The silks wrapping around you give just enough support to keep you steady and straight, which is sort of the key in a handstand. So freaking cool. The class wound down with a few supported down dogs and then it was finally time for Savasana. Aerial Yoga’s version is amazing – you spread the fabric out, sitting on it and pulling it up around your shoulders before laying back and sort of inchworming yourself out to a fully extend position. It is like being in a cocoon, swinging freely in the air. It is so weirdly freeing to not feel the ground beneath you, like bobbing on your back in the ocean, just very calming and centering.

Shaking up your routine is such a very good thing. I wouldn’t suggest replacing your favorite yoga flow class with Aerial Yoga, since every one I have ever take has stopped and started a lot – but the special magical moments in those classes really are truly amazing. I am so grateful to Lululemon for their community sweats program that finally got me to a class I’ve been meaning to go to for ages! I’ll definitely be back at the OM Factory soon to get to see the world upside-down again….

Photos of Aerial Yoga from the OM Factory NYC Facebook page. Bottom photo just a little bit of internet goodness.

THE GOOD, THE BAD &THE UNFORTUNATE OF FREE YOGA

I love Lululemon’s free classes that they offer at all of their locations. In the best cases you find teachers you LOVE and can seek out again, and in the worst cases you spend an hour with a teacher you never, ever want to take again.  The worst cases are still pretty good though, since Lulu uses teachers that someone there has taken and loves. So even if they aren’t your cup of tea, they are almost always pretty solid. OH and yeah, they are FREE. At least during a free bad class I am not spending my whole time being pissed about the money I spent to try someone out. Which leads to this: I hated today’s class at Lululemon Brooklyn.

The Shala Yoga House opened a new yoga studio in Brooklyn, but it is really pricey. It is an offshoot of a beloved Manhattan studio that I had been hearing raves about for years.  So when I heard about the free Ashtanga class lead by Shala BK today at Lulu, I knew I had to go. I love a hard, challenging yoga class and Ashtanga classes always fit that bill, but I knew I was in trouble from the moment this class started. I am not very chant-y. A couple of ohms is totally fine, but much more then that I am just not into. At the very start of this class we were told we were going to start with ohms and a “Call and Response”, all I could think was damn. That Call and Response thing? A Long Sanskrit chant that went on forever. Then when we finally moved into the poses, she did them all with their “proper” names. Ugh. I really don’t do enough yoga to know what a chair pose is, unless you actually say chair pose. Sorry. I am just not yoga cool like that. I hate the wholier-then-thou vibe of thinking that anyone who doesn’t know the proper name just isn’t yogi enough. Luckily, we did every sequence 5 times so I was only clueless for the first pass. The good part though was she did some great really physical corrections – I love having my hips pushed down during downward dog and then in shoulder stand she pulled up my feet allowing me to get into a deeper expression of it then I have ever managed before. So great but then there was more chanting. So MUCH Chanting. Seriously, how do you chant that much in only an hour?? It was a good hard class just not remotely for me. I can see why people love this style of teaching, it makes you feel like a part of something special, however it makes me feel like banging my head against the floor.

After, I meet up with the fella and we went out for a seriously amazing, fresh and cheap burrito! I would have chanted for THAT.  Thankfully, I didn’t have to.