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New York is a big, brash, beautiful city full of big, brash, beautiful people. It’s only natural in a city this wild (and sleepless, if you believe the old saying) that mindfulness and meditation have caught on big time. The city is bursting with some of the finest classes and experts in the world and we’ve dedicated our time in The Big Apple to finding them.
We love New York’s attitude to stress-relief: it’s deep, cleansing and highly effective. From the holistic peacefulness of WOOM’s inspired philosophies, to the more modern approach you’ll find at The Path, New York has something to suit every beginner and every practiced meditation devotee. Enjoy.
Currently our favourite go-to mindfulness studio when we’re in town, MNDFL is a beautiful, airy, industrial styled haven in Greenwich Village and is the home of one of Manhattan’s newest mindfulness centres. Like SoulCycle, you’re encouraged to book your 30, 45 or 60 minute session online. These sessions are led by one of their renowned mindfulness experts and prices start from $10 a sit.
What they cater to really well is the busy, stressed-out New Yorker (or tourist) who needs to unplug and unwind. We’ve been here a few times already and we can confirm that this place is awesome. The classes are set up to deal with what you really need in the moment. It’s been very carefully thought through and is incredibly welcoming and down-to-earth; the teachers pay you ample attention throughout and genuinely create a supportive environment. This is all very conducive to establishing an effective mindfulness technique.
They’ve broken up their classes into several modules:
- MNDFL 101 for those who want to get started
- BREATH to get you grounded and in the present
- INTENTION where you set your intention for the class and is your focus
- SOUND uses crystal singing bowls
- SLEEP a solid guided meditation that takes place while lying down in Savasana (every yogi’s dream pose) and is ideal after a hard day, or when you’re in need of some extra TLC. A Voyage & Soap acquaintance attended after a particularly stressful time at work and he swears by it.
- And finally, their BODY class which is about getting your posture and body ready for the ideal mindfulness practice
We’ve tried pretty much all of these and found both the SOUND and SLEEP classes just phenomenal. Getting started with mindfulness can be daunting and even a bit intimidating, but this place definitely breaks down any doubts you may have. We highly recommend it and wish there was something similar in London.
WOOM centre is in the Bowery neighbourhood of Downtown Manhattan and is quite unlike anywhere we’ve ever been – and not just because walking into the space feels more like entering a chic Manhattanite’s loft than a yoga studio! Inspired by both eastern and western philosophies, neuroscience and their own personal experiences, founders David and Elian Zach-Shemesh, along with yoga director Francesca Bove, have created a multi-sensory experience that is non-denominational, unbiased and (crucially) completely unpretentious.
In fact, they see it as the holistic lovechild of east and west, tradition and innovation, the personal and the communal. Seamlessly blending the ancient practices of yoga and meditation as well as the universal expressions of dance and movement, WOOM recognises the need for fresh, plant-based, organic nutrition and, most importantly, the power of sound and music.
WOOM is inspired by many philosophies, yet follows no one in particular. It is nondenominational, unbiased and intimidation-free. It’s about what brings us together and makes us realise how undeniably connected we are. They see it as a comprehensive mind, body and spirit experience based primarily on the therapeutic properties of sound vibration.
What did we think of it? While we didn’t try their vinyasa yoga classes, we were there for the sound and restorative experiences mostly and – get this – most of what we experienced required blindfolds (you can borrow one or bring your own). We signed up for their signature WOOM SOUND EXPERIENCE, an immersive sonic journey inwards that includes 5 chapters:
- TALK: all about the therapeutic properties of sound and how to use it as a meditative tool.
- VOCAL MEDITATION: using your own voice, you explore the delicate balance between contributing to collective and personal receptivity.
- BREATH WORK: inspired by Stanislav Grof’s Holotropic technique, you practice a powerful form of breathing that enables you to disconnect from the ‘monkey mind’ and reach heightened states of awareness and a deeper state of meditation.
- SOUND: you get to play a variety of overtone-emitting instruments including gongs, Himalayan singing bowls, tuning forks, bells and chimes.
- CONNECTING: an opportunity to share musings, thoughts, feelings and poetics about your individual experiences.
We totally enjoyed it. The class was packed and the atmosphere very experimental and open – something we generally love about New Yorkers. We liked how they had carefully curated the sequence to achieve a certain level of mind stillness and resonance.
The way they integrated the power of music and its ability to change your mood and state of mind was also unique and welcome. Put it this way: if you’re someone who’s naturally drawn to music and sounds, this is an accessible way of developing a deep meditative practice. We loved it and we’ll certainly be back.
We also tried their WOOM REST EXPERIENCE which involves their signature restorative yoga experience and borrows elements from sound therapy such as vocal toning and use of overtone-emitting instruments. WOOM REST focuses on the intelligent and creative use of props like blankets, bolsters, blocks and straps to perfectly facilitate stillness, in order to find full relaxation of body and mind. The experience also includes blindfolded segments, aromatherapy and a complimentary fresh elixir shot. If you love Savasana (like we do) then this is the extended, blissful version. Perfect for a total off-think.
Shambala Meditation Centre
Shambhala’s vision is rooted in the principle that every human being has a fundamental nature of basic goodness. This nature can be developed in daily life so that it radiates out to family, friends, community and society. The Shambhala Meditation Centre in Chelsea offers drop-in, by-donation public meditation sessions. The silent, sitting meditation is typically hosted by a timekeeper and is interspersed with brief periods of walking meditation.
They also do drop-in, by-donation meditation instruction for beginners or anyone looking to refresh their understanding of meditation. This one-hour basic instruction session is taught by a highly practiced Shambhala meditation instructor who is available for individual questions or on-going meditation support for those looking to form a regular practice. Their ‘Learn to Meditate’ course is an excellent resource for anyone looking to gain a new or further understanding of meditation.
We’re also fans of their various one-off events, from under-30s gatherings to various workshops that deal with anxieties and fears. The ambience here is welcoming and peaceful.
Sharon Salzberg is a New York Times best-selling author and teacher of Buddhist meditation practices. In 1974, she co-founded the Insight Meditation Society at Barre, Massachusetts with jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein. Her emphasis is on vipassana (insight) and metta (loving-kindness) methods and she’s been leading meditation retreats around the world for over three decades.
Sharon teaches at various venues across New York and all are available to stream live so you can check them out wherever you are in the world. She runs a 28-day meditation challenge every February that follows the program outlined in Sharon’s New York Times best seller, Real Happiness and this will be its seventh year in action. It’s free and a powerful way to explore what meditation has to offer, whether you’re brand new or a long-time devotee. Since 2011, thousands have participated in this challenge and it continues to foster a beautiful sense of community. For the 2016 Challenge, there were over 13,500 participants taking part from around the globe.
The Path teaches meditation for the modern mind. They host weekly sits, courses, workshops, retreats, social events and a certified teacher-training program. Their aim is to help you become more aware of yourself and your impact on others while making you feel happier, more relaxed, more focused and better able to make smart decisions in all areas of your life.
They have weekly sits currently on Tuesdays at The Standard in the East Village. They also run community sits every now and then so worth checking out when you’re in town. We’d say The Path is very accessible; the focus is more on switching off your phone and allowing yourself some space as opposed to following a tradition like Buddhist meditation. They do attract a young professional crowd and it’s an easy ambiance, very open and welcoming. Go check them out.
A former attorney and fitness professional, Ben Turshen is an expert in performance enhancement and a qualified independent Master Teacher of Vedic Meditation. Ben was born and raised in New York City. A lifelong athlete, he started working as a personal trainer while attending Boston University Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, where he graduated magna cum laude with a B.S in Athletic Training. Ben returned to New York City to continue his career in fitness, training elite-level athletes and obtaining a M.A in Exercise Physiology/Human Movement from Columbia University Teachers College.
Ben regularly runs introductory meditation classes. These are free one-hour lecture and Q&A sessions designed for anyone interested in learning more about Vedic Meditation, a simple, effortless and highly beneficial practice that absolutely anyone can learn. An intro class usually addresses:
- The technique’s origins
- Overview of the mechanics of the practice
- How Vedic Meditation differs from other forms of relaxation and meditation
- What science says about the practice
- Benefits (including reduction of stress and an increase in energy and peace of mind)
- How to learn and integrate this technique into your daily life
No prior experience or knowledge of meditation is necessary. This is an opportunity to meet Ben and have your questions answered. There is no commitment to join the course, which is run over four weeks, so if you’re in town for a while this might be a good option to get you started.
Kadampa Meditation Centre
Located in the heart of Chelsea, Kadampa Meditation Centre NYC provides meditation classes and teachings throughout New York City and the greater New York area.
Drop-in classes are available on every day of the week, with guided meditations and teachings on how to apply Buddhism to daily life. All of the teachings and meditations available at their centre assist you in connecting to a stillness within.
They also offer monthly introductory classes like ‘Meditation for Beginners’ and ‘How to Meditate’ as well as a variety of weekend workshops and retreats. When classes are not in session, their meditation room is open to the public for self-guided practice.
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