I would like to start this blogpost by saying, I love this class! But these reviews are not about telling you which classes I like and which I don't, they're about the teachers, so you can make your own choices. Riight!? Ok. Here we go. I didn't get the best impression the first time I met Amanda in the lobby of Big Apple Yoga in Paris. I said bonjour in my signature cheery American way, followed by the Anglo smile, and in response, I got the obligatory, no intonation, I have better things to do than say hello to you' bonjour. Amanda is not warm and fuzzy. She does not speak with a soft voice and she does not tell you to listen to your body. She tells you to start class with 12 vinyasas -in a row- and forget about those extra breaths in downdog. She keeps you in chair pose for 10 minutes (hello thighs), and I am not exaggerating. And she doesn't ask if you even know what a vinyasa is.
She is tiny but tough, and if you're just starting out your yoga practice (you're probably not reading this blog) you maybe shouldn't go to her class. If, however, you've been practicing for a while, and you want to drip sweat from all over your body, and you can manage to keep the breath deep and long in a 10 minute chair pose (with variations), or you can let go of your ego and (gracefully?) drop into childs pose because you've lost the breath, I highly recommend this class. Don't get me wrong, despite the matter of fact manner in which she teaches, she's a good instructor. I almost never have to look up because she teaches with her words while she walks around the room to make minor adjustments (hello quickie backrub, thank you) and hardly ever does the poses herself unless it's an inversion. The thing about this class, though is it's hard, but it's generally not complicated, so it could be a decent class for a relatively flexible strong beginner who knows how to listen to her/his body. Yes, that's a lot of ifs. There are no crazy arm balances or inversions, unless requested, (you heard that right, she takes requests!) and she gives a couple of 'well done's or 'nice work's in class, which is always good to hear when it's cold out and there is not one dry spot on your body.
Did I mention, it's also in English, so I can take off my glasses, find my drishti, breathe, sweat and zone out! Also, unlike Anne, I don't think she looks anything like the picture above in real life.
Teacher: Amanda Dates
Studio: Big Apple Yoga
Class: Bhakti Flow
Feel Good Vibe: ★★★
Spiritual Lesson: There's a bit about Mercury in retrograde, and dedicating your practice, but she doesn't talk for 15 minutes, and even though I don't really care about Mercury, she at least knows what she's talking about.
Would I pay 20€ to take a class with her again?
Yes, anytime I need a good ass kicking with a little dose of be where you are.
You know how people take the best photos of themselves and post them online, the ones where you can see the joy radiating from their smile and you can just tell they are loving life in that very moment? Sometimes you don't even recognize them when you see them in real life. I may be guilty of this very thing. I've often had people tell me I had 'the bitch look' on my face, usually when I'm trying to concentrate on something, and I certainly don't post those photos online. Anyway, I took a class with Anne today, it was actually, kind of my second class with Anne, since she co-taught a superbly fun class with Marc Holzman at the yoga festival a few weekends ago. Well, she's not one of those people. Her smile, demeanor, aura, whatever you want to call it, is just as beautiful and joyful and welcoming as it is in the photos.
She is French and she taught in French. And it was an Anusara class with lots of words, directions and alignment and it was all very scientific, as they usually are, but she managed to make it light, comfortable, welcoming and accepting. Not at all like the classes I've taken with other French teachers that seem to have been trained in military school before learning to teach yoga. For a while there, I thought it was just because it was in French and it wasn't my native tongue, and I didn't get the jokes, but now I know that's not the case. Thanks Anne!
She showed up on the mat today at Big Apple Yoga with colorful wrist warmers and a few tinctures of smelly good rose something or other that made the whole room smell like a garden. Mmmm. She taught with clarity and ease, encouraging us all to go further, but to listen and to wait for our bodies to give us the green light before bending more deeply. She was like a loving accepting mother to all her students, and as many good Anusara teachers do, she gives excellent adjustments. What's that, you say, adjustments?! Yes ladies and gentlemen, she gives masterful adjustments with warm and kind hands. What's not to love!?
Well... I realized today, that I have a totally different experience when class is French instead of English. I spend a lot of my brainpower repeating the French in my head... 'oh, that's left, and what did she just say about hips and pelvis, and what does basculer mean, and what am I supposed to do with the muscles in the what?' This is especially true of an Anusara class since there are so many specific instructions and micromovements involved, and it's why I love Anusara classes. The teachers are generally extremely knowledgeable and they are masters at getting students to refine the movements in poses. Spending brainpower translating the French means that I don't get to turn off the world around me and just breathe and move. It means I don't get that buzz. It also means that I probably missed a few of those refined movements. Normally when I take an Anusara class, despite not moving quickly, nor resting in the poses for a very long time (either of which will make me work my tail off and sweat like a monkey) I feel like I get a great workout. I feel like I've found a new muscles, and learned a little more about alignment. But sadly, I didn't feel that way after today's class. It was really lovely being in her presence, and it was really nice to have masterful adjustments, but it just wasn't the same as having an Anusara class in my mother tongue. So here's the skinny, classes with Anne are highly recommended, especially if your French is better than mine, and you're faster at figuring out left and right. Even if it's not, and you're not and you just want some motherly love, she's pretty awesome! And when I get that buzz from a French class, I'll know that I've finally mastered the language.
Teacher: Anne Vandewalle
Studio: Big Apple Yoga
Class: Anusara (all levels)
Feel Good Vibe: ★★★★★
Spiritual Lesson: Short and sweet and not wishywashy. Just the way I like it.
Would I pay 20€ to take a class with her again?
Yes, on a day I need a little healing love.
Paris' indian summer has begun and it's agreeably warm and sunny today, so I ventured out to Big Apple Yoga for a Bhakti Flow yoga class. It's been, what, 6 years since I took a Bhakti class with the man himself, Rusty Wells and phew, today was sweatier than I remember. More on that in another post. Since the husband is gone early next week, I decided to sign up for their introductory special, 10 days of unlimited yoga for 35€, and I plan on taking a class every day for the next 10 days. Now, all at once, send a little healing love because I think my husband has also shared his cold with me...
Their tagline is "Made in New York", and, well, it does feel very anglo. There was a lovely airy American woman working the front desk, and despite it being in a central neighborhood, they've managed to secure some ground floor space for the studio. No key codes and trying to find the right stairs = A+! They have top notch cushy sticky manduka mats (rental comes with your 10 day trial) and they even, sort of, have managed to have 2 yoga rooms, either one big L shaped room, or 2 littler rooms with a thick separator, but still not near soundproof. Plus they have a good number of the well known Paris teachers on their schedule. That's about it, though, in terms of perks. There is one toilet and an unmarked shower room, but the only 'changing room' is a teeny curtained off corridor, so prepare to bare all, possibly in front of the opposite sex, or show up geared up. There was one guy in class today, and he was super duper respectful and courteous. He showed up early, changed before the ladies needed to, and just as class finished, grabbed his gear from the corridor and changed back to his streetwear in the studio. Props dude. Props. Despite the crowded changing room, they've done a good job of efficiently using a small-ish ground floor space.
Big Apple Yoga
20 Rue DUSSOUBS
+33 1 42 36 76 11
Metro: Réamur-Sébastopol / Etienne Marcel (Ligne 4) or Réamur-Sébastopol / Sentier (Ligne 3)
Price: 20€ a class (excellent 10 day trial offer -35€ and reduced 10 and 20 class passes available)
Yoga Styles: Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Anusara, Jivamukti, Prenatal, Bhakti
Languages: English and French (check schedule for availability)
Changing Rooms: 1 but it's more like a corridor
Secure Lockers: none
Water: dispenser with glasses
Pros - They have lots of options if you like your yoga in English. They have only flowy fast paced classes (no Yin/Hatha) ***as of Dec 2013, one Yin -community- class has been added at 10am Thursday***. And they have some of the better known French teachers on the rosters. Plus, they have 10€ community classes in the mornings! (Tues, Wed, Thurs, Fri)
Cons - They only have flowy fast paced classes (no Yin/Hatha). They have a corridor instead of a changing room, and it gets crowded.
As you may have previously read, I do lots and lots of home practice. I just got back from Stockholm where I visited a friend from Yoga Teacher Training, and despite having the same training as me, she prefers to join a yoga studio and take regular classes there during the hours that are convenient, even though she doesn't necessarily like the teacher. She finds that she doesn't hold the poses as long, and doesn't do the difficult ones when she does yoga on her own. To some degree that's true with me, but when I'm having a good day, I make sure to do all those poses that I don't much like because I know they're good for me in many different ways. When I'm not having such a good day, I do all the poses that I love. It works out marvelously. Plus, as I said in a previous post, I can do my practice in whatever clothes I want and with whatever music I like. Hip hop yoga playlist anyone?! Oh, right, and have I mentioned the studio prices? Gulp.
Though all of the above are good enough reasons, there is an additional reason that I do lots of yoga at home. Yoga in Paris is not reliable. What, you say, does that mean? Well, back in San Francisco, if I showed up for a yoga class and the teacher was sick, or on vacation, or had other plans or whatever the case may have been, there was always a replacement. I think once in the almost 10 years I practiced in San Francisco, class was cancelled because the teacher was super sick, and she couldn't find a replacement. That's a pretty good record.
Here in Paris, however, that is most certainly not the case. The summer in Paris (July and August) is a crapshoot. Many of the studios are closed, the others have reduced schedules, and almost none of the regular teachers teach. Don't get me wrong, I love that we have more vacation here in France, I just don't get why everyone has to take them at the same time. (Before I go on, I will admit that I have cancelled classes here without finding a replacement, but I'm working on that.) I tend to frequent studios more often than not because they usually have replacements. Where else would you take a yoga class, you ask? Well, that's the second problem. It's all willy nilly. People rent 'atelier' spaces to teach a class a week here or there, or a room once a week in the public gym, or they have a personal space they use somewhere twice a week. Also, websites suck, I got a flier at the local farmers market for Integral Yoga, so I checked out the website. Can anyone tell me when and where these classes are held, what kind of yoga it is, and are those classes still happening? I know there are (must be!) some great yoga teachers out there -not in studios, but I just can't keep track of who is teaching where this week, and when they're on vacation. There were a couple of studios that had classes all summer, and that was a godsend, I knew I could show up and there would be a class, the problem was that the style of teaching was nothing like the regular teacher. Why? How? It's all so bizarre. Maybe there is competition amongst the yogi's in Paris? (not very yogic) In the land of unions and protests, why can't we all just organize? I'm sure there are great yogi's out there that would absolutely love the opportunity to sub a class if a colleague can't be found that day.
Why, you ask, am I bringing up this subject now? Well, last week, I wrote an excellent review of Yoga Solidaire. I had taken a 10€ class at a local studio and it was stellar, wrote the review, and decided to try a few more classes. I went to a Monday evening Yin Yoga class at a room in a public gym (city space) and it was really nice. The teacher lit candles, burned some incense, had a lovely calming voice, and then it came time to pay, and everyone stood around chatting for another 30 minutes about how lovely the class was, and about an upcoming retreat, all the while waiting to put our money in a bucket and write our names down. It was like I had to join the group to go to the class again, and certainly allot more time than the 1hr30 the class should take. I fortunately wasn't in a hurry, and I'm happy they have found a great community, a joie de vivre, but it was not terribly accessible to outsiders.
Bon. I decided to try another Yoga Solidaire class the following week. This time a Vinyasa class, it was to be the first class at this location (since 'la rentrée' aka the end of vacation - in October!) and I was super excited about it. I showed up and found a few fellow yogis on the curb that said the class wasn't happening. What?! It's marked on the website updated for this exact day. But according to the studio owner, the lease had expired back in June, and no one had renewed it. I wasn't at all angry, again, I'm not a super busy person, and it gave me the opportunity to chat with the studio owner who was lovely and "the mother of anglo yoga in Paris" so only good things came of it. It happens all the time that things are closed midday or mid week or mid month in this city, and it doesn't bother me much anymore, but it makes me all the more a Paris hermit. Since I really want people to do more yoga because it's damn good for you, I'd like that to be the one thing in Paris that works. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is my new mission!
Former San Francisco DNA wrangler and current Paris pretzel. Musings, reviews and general information on Paris Yoga.