When it’s cold in Boston, warming up with yoga is the perfect way to beat the winter blues!
364 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116
Back Bay (Public Gardens)
This studio is a bit hard to find so leave yourself a few extra minutes to figure this out for your first visit: The studio is hidden on the second floor of a long building and there isn’t a big sign on Boylston Street that points to the door you need to go into. If you put the address into Google Maps, it leads you to the right area on the block and from there, you’ll have to look carefully into each of the doors to find a standing black easel sign that says YogaWorks (I think this sign sits outside in the summer but they take it in during the winter months.) There are actually two doors marked as 364 Boylston Street and only one leads to YogaWorks so look for this YogaWorks sign.
Once inside, you have to check in for every class with the receptionist. I find this to be a slightly unnecessary bottleneck since many people sign up online but they don’t have a self-service check in for those who pre-paid. The space has two yoga studios, called Moon and Sun, so make sure you confirm the room with the receptionist.
The quality of the classes are fantastic–I have visited 5 different teachers and they all have a “get down to business” style of yoga. These are some of the most creative flow classes I have taken; teachers string together sequences that you wouldn’t normally think to put together so it feels like a dance on your yoga mat. Contrary to Ashtanga or Bikram yoga practices, the practice at YogaWorks rarely follows a pre-defined sequence of poses and you are sure to encounter new sequences and new variations on poses during each class.
In particular, I thought the Hip Hop Yoga was a fun usage of widely accessible music. Each instructor has his or her own playlist and you flow through a vinyasa practice to Jay Z, Mariah Carey, Beyonce, etc. I have always liked music in class and was happy when teachers also played music during the the Vinyasa Flow classes. The Hip Hop Yoga classes are held in a slightly warmer room (the room called the Sun,) but none of the classes fall under “heated yoga” or baptiste yoga since the heat is turned on only ever so slightly–it’s more to make the room feel comfortable because it’s often raining ice pellets outside. You will break out in a slight sweat in the Hip Hop Yoga classes since it is a faster paced class in a warmer room but I don’t think a hot yoga towel is required. A hot yoga towel isn’t going to be helpful for the Vinyasa classes since those classes are usually held in the room called the Moon, and it’s not heated higher than room temperature. You will get a workout but you won’t sweat much.
About a year later, I returned to YogaWorks in Back Bay and took a Vinyasa flow class with Renee LeBlanc. She has so much control of her body–it was beautiful to watch her demo. Even though this wasn’t her advanced class, she was teaching straddle handstands and one legged crow. I can’t wait to return and practice in her advanced class the next time I am in Boston.
I think my favorite part about the classes at YogaWorks is their varying styles. Each teacher feels at liberty to teach his or her own class and throw in fun and novel twists to challenge and humor you. At each class, I have felt challenged in some way. My favorite new pose thus far has been a tricep workout: Lay down on your belly, put a yoga block on your butt and lift your chest and your legs. Then squeeze the yoga block with just your palms (no fingers) and lift, lift, lift. Repeat. This aligns your spine and works out your arms. If your triceps don’t hurt tomorrow, it’s because you are squeezing or lifting the yoga block with your fingers–don’t use your fingers; palms only.
I would recommend YogaWorks to yogis who have gone to a few yoga classes before. The practice is within reach for all skill levels but sometimes, the yoga teacher will ask you to complete sun salutations on your own or queue slightly more complicated sequences that require a basic foundation of yoga first.
1.) Clean facilities and great location right by Arlington green line train station; showers available (lockers that require your own combination lock used to be available but have since been removed as of 12/26/16–you can bring your valuables into the practice room and store them in the cubbies.)
2.) Wide selection of classes to attend each day.
3.) Hip Hop yoga classes offer creative transitions, tuned to songs you want to sing along to.
1.) Lockers and changing area is outdated; not much bench space.
2.) Classes can be quite large even during the December holidays; I thought the rooms were full but the teachers kept saying, “spread out now that you have space” which makes me think that non-holiday classes are extremely packed, mat to mat.
Barre & Soul
36 JFK Street, Cambridge, MA 02138
This is the perfect studio for those who are new to yoga and those who are traveling. For one, it is conveniently located in the The Garage “mall” at 36 JFK Street, right off the Harvard Square red line MBTA stop. I also love that the studio offers everything you need for your practice: The studio has high quality and new Manduka yoga mats (no charge!) which is amazing–studios always charge at least a few dollars for a yoga mat rental and it’s usually not as nice as a Manduka mat. Their mat cleaner smells amazing so you don’t have to worry about a stinky mat that might be covered in someone else’s germs and sweat. Their classes are pretty fundamental and easily accessible by people of all backgrounds; actually, most of the students in the three classes I stopped by were current Harvard Undergraduates and college students generally are beginners because very few people practice yoga in high school (they usually discover it in college and grow their practice post-graduation when they have more money to spend on expensive yoga classes.) Barre & Soul has two rooms: One is a yoga room and the other is a Barre studio. As with most other Barre studios, they offer everything you need for Barre class (weights, mats, props, etc.) They offer quite a few yoga and Barre classes each day so you can schedule around your busy schedule. The yoga studio space is also one of the prettiest spaces I have practiced in with a chic turquoise piano at the front of the room (that they don’t generally use for class.) Even though the classes are pretty basic, I plan to return here in the future.
1.) Convenient, clean, and well-lit (with natural sunlight) practice space with all the props you need (don’t underestimate how important this is if you are coming to and from work; you might not want to lug around a heavy yoga mat with you all day.)
2.) Efficient check-in processes and spacious studio hallway space allows you to feel calm from the moment you step into the space to the moment you step back out on the streets.
3.) Two types of classes in one studio allows you to have variety in your workout routine and the numerous daily classes fit in with most people’s schedules.
1.) Instructors don’t seem to have practiced for very long (e.g. 10+ years); the yoga sequences don’t vary very much (basic vinyasa poses) and teachers don’t switch up the flow amongst their classes (so if you go to the same teacher multiple times, you’ll wind up doing the same practice as I did.)
2.) The floor is tilted; most buildings in Cambridge are old and this one is no exception. The floors are oddly tilted in random spots, making some of the one-legged balance poses harder because you aren’t used to the floor being crooked. It is good practice for balancing though (because it makes it harder to balance.)
3.) No showers or changing rooms–just two bathrooms. I didn’t sweat that much in either the yoga or Barre classes here but it would be nice to be able to shower or change here. You can change but you have to wait for one of the two bathrooms.
Yoga studio room at Barre & Soul
Karma Yoga Studio
1120 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138
I didn’t use the Karma gym or get tea here but it seems like a great spot to take a break from the hustle and bustle of Harvard Square. I only attended a vinyasa flow class here over Memorial Day Weekend. The class wasn’t full (there were about 7 yogis.) The class wasn’t technically challenging and the teacher offered minimal adjustments so it was a great location to do a drop in class if you are in the neighborhood but probably wouldn’t become my go-to yoga studio if you wanted to grow and challenge yourself. This class seemed better suited for beginners since the instructor focused more on alignment, especially towards the beginning when she was teaching proper chaturanga alignment.
1.) Very convenient location, close to many shops and eateries in Harvard Square
2.) Yoga studio is a part of a gym and you can get a yoga + gym package, which can save you a lot of money
1.) Low-tech studio (you cannot sign up online and their credit card machine was down the day I went to the studio)
2.) The studio doesn’t offer advanced classes for more seasoned yogis
Karma Yoga Studio
(Third Floor) 338 Newbury Street, Boston, MA 02115
It was the Tuesday after Christmas and I was the only person who showed up to Cara Harley’s 12:15pm class. And it was wonderful–I got a private yoga class for $10! Cara asked me what I wanted to practice and I said handstands so she taught a Vinyasa class with some special handstand practice tricks to get me more used to putting weight into my hands & wrists and more aligned / less like a banana (yogis know what I mean by banana back.) Cara isn’t the most advanced yoga teacher I have practiced with (in terms of being able to do advanced yoga poses) but I did love that I got so much attention. She watched every single transition and adjusted my alignment, even if I was just a hair off–I really appreciated this. When you are a more advanced yogi or you are in a big class, you can feel a bit neglected because the teachers are focused on those who are confused about the next pose or they don’t have time to fix everyone’s alignment. Because I haven’t been to a full class here, I can’t comment on what a “normal” class with 10+ students feels like so I’ll stick to the facilities in my pros / cons report.
1.) Enormous facility (see huge practice room below); clean and airy feeling; individual changing stalls are available.
2.) Great value: $10 for a 1-hour long class and $15 for any class greater than 1-hour is a good price; at other nice yoga studios, 1-hour classes usually start at $18+.
1.) Small waiting area so if you show up early, there isn’t much room for you to hang out (there is a bench inside the sign-in area but there is also a sign in the stairwell before the sign-in area that tells you not to enter between classes.)
2.) There aren’t any showers (so if you get sweaty, you can’t fully clean up before heading to brunch or dinner on Newbury Street.)