I showed up to Patrick's all levels Ashtanga class at Big Apple Yoga on Saturday at noon nursing a mild cold and sore throat, so I had with me my trusty nalgene full of water. If you've done yoga for a while, you know that Ujjayi breathing dries the shit out of your throat, and it's especially nice to wet your whistle during yoga when your throat is already a little scratchy. We started off with some deep breathing exercises, so just after I went to my bottle for a sip... and then came the 3 minute lecture about why we shouldn't be drinking in yoga class. We had just stoked our fire, and we were putting it out with water, and what's the point, etc etc. Whoa. Dude.
The funny thing is, this wasn't my first lecture from a male French teacher. I got one a few weeks ago, a bit longer, about why I maybe shouldn't be doing Vinyasa yoga with a (formerly) broken wrist. And I kind of get it. I don't look like the typical French wispy yogi. I've got some meat on my bones, and neither of these teachers have ever seen me in class, so they may think I'm a newbie and I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing. But... instead of the lecture of why I (vous) shouldn't be drinking in class, perhaps he could have explained why normally, in an Ashtanga class, they generally don't drink water because they believe that it puts out the fire, and that's how he chooses to practice. Love and Peace and Acceptance, isn't that a yoga thing? Maybe I just made that up, but so you know, that's how I strive to teach. Please call me out if I don't!
Now that you know not to bring water to his class, I can critique the rest of it properly. It was truly an all levels class, as it was apparent that he knew some of the students, and others had never taken yoga before. It also included French, English and Spanish native speakers, some of which didn't understand the other languages, and I can tell you first hand that juggling all that is not easy and he did it impressively well. His instruction was clear even though he taught in French and he kept it simple but gave up-levels when possible. When I didn't know a word (underarms=aisselles) he kindly translated for me. His adjustments are more a gentle and calming hand to focus the attention on a specific area, than an attempt to get you into a fuller expression of the pose, but hey, he at least touched his students. According to his bio he is/was a comedian, and his humor did help to keep the class light, especially after a lecture, but it was a little snarky. Ahhh, the French. He may have been right about the water though, because despite being sick, I didn't sweat much in his class, so either it wasn't that flowy and difficult, or I had already put out my fire. Damnit.
Teacher: Patrick Frapeau
Studio: Big Apple Yoga
Class: Ashtanga, All Levels
Feel Good Vibe: ★★
Spiritual Lesson: I'm not sure if stoking the fires is considered spiritual, but it was quite a lesson. Also, lots of pranayama for an all levels class.
Would I pay 20€ to take a class with him again?
Nope. Because I have a home practice, his class didn't make me relax more fully or give me a better workout than I give myself, nor did it give me useful alignment tips. But if you don't have a home practice, it's a great all levels class for a Saturday. Also, that isn't to say that he couldn't do some of the above things (for me) in a more advanced class.
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!
I've just gotten back from another class at Rasa Yoga where it seems they too have raised the price for a single class to 22€. And even though my mind is now fine with Euros, I sometimes shock and awe myself with the price in USD (29.81). So if you're looking for reasonably priced classes in Paris, and you have a flexible schedule, might I suggest you check out Yoga Solidaire. Well trained and experienced teachers in Paris have gotten together to offer you lovely Parisian students cheap yoga! They've organized studio spaces at odd hours or random locations, created a website, and show up at least 4 times a week all so that you can do more yoga for cheap. I attended a class at Yoga Village last week, and loved it. It was expertly taught by a perfectly bilingual teacher, the studio is fantastic, and the students were super happy to be bending for cheap. Top notch all around.
Yoga Solidaire Schedule Here
Like you, I'm discovering the world of yoga in Paris. Perhaps unlike you, I can teach myself a decent yoga class. Yes, it's great for me to get to a studio class with a really good professor, who gives me a different perspective on alignment in a certain pose, or who does a great sequence that I can 'borrow' for my classes, but I'm loathe to pay 20€ for a class that isn't as good as the one I can teach myself, and it really is hit or miss here. My solution to this problem is to check out different studios and teachers in Paris with introductory rates. At some point, I will have used up all my trial classes or 'cours d'essai' and will have to pay (but will probably have figured out the yoga scene, and with whom I'm willing to pay to take classes with) but for now, I'm still milking it.
This weekend was no exception. Ashtanga Yoga Paris had an open house on Sunday, and I took the opportunity to check out their studio. The vinyasa 'class' I took was a little less than half an hour, and although it wasn't bad, I won't attempt to review the teacher, it just wouldn't be fair.
The studio itself is very cute. They have 2 useable rooms with nice wood floors well equipped with all the necessary accoutrements, blocks, straps, wedges, blankets, one of which has a glass ceiling to let the sunshine in. It was clean and not at all smelly after non stop all day use -a good sign. Like many of the studios, it's key code accessible, and has its own ground floor courtyard entrance. It's not super luxurious, but that just makes it all the more attractive for us normal yogis. It's created and run by an extensively trained husband wife couple who, in addition to teaching classes to the public, offer teacher trainings. I had seen their studio mentioned somewhere before, but never made it to a class, mostly because their pricing scheme seems complicated. A 20€ yearly subscription to buy multiple class passes or a monthly/weekly/yearly unlimited pass, mats are available for an additional weekly/monthly/yearly fee. Beginner classes are priced differently than Restorative, which are priced differently than 1.5hr classes, and they even offer 1hr classes, but the prices for those aren't found on their 'tariffs' page. Sounds complicated!? I think so too.
If you've been practicing mysore every morning, and just moved (are moving) to Paris, this is likely a great place to practice. Make sure to find an apartment near the Bastille. If you're visiting Paris (or just moved here) and want to take a class or two (a week), it's probably not the most flexible place to take a class, though, if you're in the same building, and it's convenient, they do have 'visitor' pricing. They also apparently have classes in English, but I couldn't find them on the schedule.
Ashtanga Yoga Paris
40 Ave de la Republique
+33 1 45 80 19 96 or +33 6 20 38 25 72 or +33 6 22 32 52 16
Metro: Parmentier (Ligne 3)
Price: 22€ for a 1.5h visitor class (otherwise complicated)
Yoga Styles: Ashtanga, Mysore, Yin/Restorative, Vinyasa
Languages: English? and French
Changing Rooms: yes
Secure Lockers: no
Mats: 2€ supplemental
Water: (and tea) 2€ a bottle (cup)
Pros - Two practice rooms, very well educated teacher co-founders still teaching at their studio, seemingly not stuffy or elitist with a neighborhood-y feeling.
Cons - Complicated pricing that requires yearly 'dues' and encourages unlimited class pass purchases and classification levels.
I purchased a 10 class pass at Rasa Yoga when I first started doing yoga in Paris, and since they don't expire, I've been using it ever since. I feel a bit bad that I've had it so long and haven't used it up, so I'm making an effort to get out and do some non-home practices now that it's 'la rentrée' and the regularly scheduled teachers are back. I decided to take an Iyengar class at Rasa. BKS Iyengar is responsible for bringing modern yoga to the western world. His 'Light on Yoga' book is the bible of asana (pose) yoga and Iyengar classes are great for making sure your alignment is in proper order. So I found an Iyengar 2 class at Rasa with Alex and was on my merry way. According to the bio I found on Alex, he has a humble and precise style and an absolute respect for his master BKS Iyengar (translation). After having taken his class, I would say that's an accurate description.
We started with some seated breathing and Iyengar centric spinal alignment and diaphragm work, then, first pose -tadasana (mountain pose), second pose 'hop' -sirsanana (headstand). Nice! I've been doing headstand since I was a kid and my crazy Uncle Dado taught me how to do a tripod headstand, so I did mine in the middle of the floor. 'Descends' he said to me, "top of the head on the floor." My vinyasa headstand on the front of the crown of the head was not appropriate for Iyengar class, and my wrist was bent in the wrong direction, so he manually straightened my (broken) arm, and 'hop', I was back up. The remainder of the class was similarly strict (from the stories I've heard, this is typical French instruction) with magnificent direction focusing on alignment of the pose via the center axis of the body. I admit, I didn't understand all the directions he gave, as they were in French, and they were an Iyengar vocabulary that I'm not accustomed to, but he was excellent at getting students into the correct alignment with only his words and a few pokes and prods. Iyengar is all alignment, with no flow in between. We did maybe seven poses in the entire class, one being downdog. There were no vinyasas or chaturangas, so this class is probably not so interesting for those lovers of Vinyasa, but if you're looking to sweat, get your alignment more precise, and grit your teeth a bit, this was a good class, especially if your french is better than mine.
Teacher: Alex Onfroy
Studio: Rasa Yoga rive gauche
Class: Iyengar 2
Feel Good Vibe: ★
Spiritual Lesson: N/A
Would I pay 20€ to take a class with him again?
Nope. It was a little too much like what I imagine military school to be like and didn't have enough flow for my taste.
I am pleased to announce the first public yoga class with Denise. This Sunday at 11 am (weather permitting), we will meet in a park not far from Metro Sèvres Babylone/Saint François Xavier at 11. The class is free (donations accepted, but NOT encouraged). Try not to eat a big meal 2 hrs before, bring your own mat, a coffee/tea/water if you like, and a friend. The more the merrier. Contact me for more details and the exact location.
CLASS CANCELLED due to rain.
I've signed up for the yoga class along the Seine a couple of times but didn't make it the first few times (it's at the shockingly early 10am Sunday slot). This past weekend I finally made it with my mug o' joe in hand. It seemed a bit disorganized, as apparently no one is accustomed to waking at such an ungodly hour on Sunday morning in Paris. If ever you're jet lagged, and get up before 9 AM (on a Sunday) to visit Paris, you (and the runners) will experience a crisp nearly silent morning in Paris in all its glory. Anywhoo, I made it, got myself signed in and put one of their half mats under my full mat to even out the wood planks in preparation for a few downdogs and warriors. The teacher Anna showed up all in white with a groovy matching headband and, low and behold, an assistant(?) in even groovier John Lennon sunglasses to teach a Kundalini class. Could it be true? My first yoga class in Paris with an assistant to do adjustments?! Quality, Les Berges, quality!
Class started with Anna and her assistant on their mats in front of the class and a 10 minute warm up, then 10 minutes more of warm up with loud music so even though I was in the 3rd row I couldn't hear the teacher. Then 10 minutes more of warm up, then there was 15 minutes of savasana (corpse pose), then some chanting to music, which Anna seemed to enjoy but the rest of us were unaware of what we should be chanting, because, well, we couldn't hear. The 'assistant' never once rose from his mat, nor did Anna. She never attempted to make her voice heard over the loud music and the passing boats, nor did she open her eyes much to check on her students, to see if they could understand or were performing the poses correctly. Wow! ...quality lacking, Les Berges, quality lacking... At least I had a common subject to discuss with my fellow classmates afterwards and there was agreement that it was a less than stellar class. I had decided somewhere in the second 10 minutes of warm-up that I was going to get my own practice in that day and invited a few of my classmates to join me. So just after class, we laid out our mats on the lush grass on the floating island at Les Berges and had an impromptu practice. Lemonade from lemons, people! One of the lovely women I met has offered to find a more secluded, just as lush grassy place to have another impromptu class with a few friends next weekend!
And there it is, my first not so great review. Being a yogi I realize I should be more positive about it all, being a human, I think I did a pretty good job. Plus, if I were all zen yogi, this would be a really bad review site.
Les Berges -YogaPort du Gros Caillou
Metro: Alma Marceau (Ligne 9)
Bus: 42, 63, 80, 92 / Arrêt Bosquet-RAPP -or- 63 / Arrêt Jean Nicot-Eglise Américaine -or- 83, 93, 63, 28 / Arrêt Pont des Invalides
Yoga Style: Kundalini
Changing Rooms: None
Secure Lockers: None
Mats: Very thin half mats provided.
Toilets: Public toilets can be found along the banks of the river.
Former San Francisco DNA wrangler and current Paris yoga teacher and mom. Sharing. Caution: Possibly too much.