Tuesday, February 11, 2020
A Visit to Stanton Street Yoga
Text and Photos by Stacie Joy
The people at Stanton Street Yoga, 196A Stanton St. between Ridge and Attorney, welcome me with hugs to what is billed as a kirtan love feast on a chilly January Friday night.
It’s my first experience with kirtan, which I’m told is a “dynamic form of chanting meditation with sacred mantras in a call-and-response rhythm to unite mind body and soul.” This is to be followed by a house-made Ayurvedic vegan dinner, which features cauliflower pakora, and is open to all levels of yogis and meditators.
I arrive early because I’m not sure what to expect. The yoga studio is kitted out with bolsters and blankets, people are drinking spiced chai made by sanctuary director of operations Mario Cornejo, and there is a candlelit space set up for the facilitators to play instruments (the harmonium, karatalas cymbals and mridanga drums) and chant.
Cofounder Dhyana Masla and studio manager and senior teacher Ira Ruiz answer my questions about the studio and its community before Ruiz sits down to lead the event.
What is Stanton Street Yoga’s history, and why choose the Lower East Side for its home?
Masla: In 2011, my sister Syama and I moved to NYC to start Stanton Street Yoga. Invited by the owners of Sanctuary Guest Suites, the accommodations above Stanton Street Yoga, the vision was to create a retreat center for traveling guests — a sanctuary to come home to after a day of touring NYC where you can rest, attend yoga and meditation classes ... a real spiritual oasis.
The foundation of the studio was built upon the desire to offer the culture, lifestyle, and deep teachings of yoga that, if applied, bring about life transformation and actual happiness. We live in a society where most people approach yoga as exercise, though it’s so much more than that.
Syama and I taught every class on the schedule for the first year, before launching yoga teacher training (which happens twice per year in the studio) and gradually built the team of teachers we have now.
[Yoga instructors Alexis Zaccone and Naushin Rahman]
How do you describe the community of people at Stanton Street Yoga?
Ruiz (who answered this and the rest of my questions): All-inclusive and deeply rooted in building lasting relationships, something that in NYC is hard to find as everything is always changing and people are always coming and going.
Throughout the years we were gifted with steady seekers that are invested in their own personal journey to health and healing. From their desire and commitment to find connection, we have been able to step forward into our dharma (purpose/duty) of sharing not only the physical practice of yoga, which gives us so many benefits that improve our emotional, mental and physical health, but also the deeper teachings, which offer spiritual growth and transformation.
Do you see an influx of people in search of health and wellness at the start of the new year? Do people usually stick with it, what help can you offer to encourage folks to stay, and what do you tell someone who believes they’re just too busy to try yoga?
Every new year brings a desire to complete what one wasn’t able to the year before. New Year’s resolutions bring a lot of new faces through our doors as people are perhaps reconsidering their patterns and habits that may no longer serve them.
I encourage realistic goals! Setting yourself up for success means that you meet yourself where you are, and our tribe is devoted to meeting you where you are in order to build a sustainable practice that allows you to stay committed. We believe in progress not perfection, therefore I encourage individuals to always set long-term goals, but focus more on the little things we can do each day to move forward toward the best version of ourselves.
Do you find yourself competing for people’s time and attention who could be swayed to try the increasingly popular HIIT (high-intensity interval training) and CrossFit classes as well as the plethora of fitness apps?
While there is a large group of fitness classes and offerings all over NYC, we believe each individual belongs somewhere, and your vibe attracts your tribe. At Stanton we offer more than just physical and alignment-based classes, we offer an opportunity to connect to something deeper and beyond the external.
What’s next for Stanton Street Yoga? Any expansion plans?
We are soon to inaugurate our brand-new healing and treatment space, which will be used for Ayurveda consultations, private healing sessions such as reiki, sound baths, breathwork and bodywork. We also have further teacher trainings including breathwork facilitator trainings in Florida, and 300-hour teacher trainings in India.