Throwdown: The Best Yoga Studios in Syracuse
Welcome to Throwdown, a continuing series on the best of Central New York. Past stories have compared the best pizza and wineries in CNY. In this edition of Throwdown, we take a look at the best yoga studies in Syracuse, NY.
Whether you are a student, a working professional or someone enjoying your retired life, you’re probably looking for a way to mix relaxation with your regular workout routine. Yoga seems to be the right answer for those who feel the need to relax their brains and stretch out those stiff muscles. Yoga forms a harmonic symphony between the mind, body and soul.
I went around town trying to find the yoga place that offered the perfect blend of spiritual insight combined with tranquility of mind, body, and soul.
Well, let’s just say I tried my best.
O Yoga is a popular premium yoga place in Central New York and has two branches, one at 1003 West Fayette Street and the other in Dewitt on 4467 E Genesee St.
O Yoga caters to all age groups and its mission is to facilitate different stages of a yogi’s journey. This was my first experience doing yoga in the United States and it wasn’t a bad one. I wasn’t disappointed, but I was definitely hoping for more.
I attended Meghann Burne’s class. Burne began her yogic journey in 2008. She says her teaching stems from two different schools of thought, which address the body anatomy, merged into one.
Burne begins her Yoga class by asking everyone where they have the most problems, so they can be addressed during the class. She effectively incorporates the block instruments to support the body alignment. However, what was disappointing was that very little attention was paid to correcting the body alignment and breathing techniques, especially for a newcomer.
Yoga with Dara
Let’s talk about the next contender, Yoga with Dara. Dara Harper is bubbly, charming and has been passionate about yoga for the past 20 years. She currently conducts classes in four different locations: the Miron Room at Syracuse University; the Everson Museum of Art; Cazenovia College; and Wacheva Cultural Arts.
Dara specializes in “pose precision” and takes great pride in anatomical alignment skills. Being a newbie to yoga in Central New York, Yoga with Dara turned out to be a surprise. There weren’t any fancy props, but Dara’s keen eye for body precision is commendable and makes the entire exercise routine enjoyable and nearly painless.
Last but not least is Morningside Yoga, owned by Michael Smith, whose keen eye for detail doesn’t go unnoticed when you meet him for the first time. Smith says his spiritual connection with yoga goes back to when he was 10 years old, but he became an official yoga instructor and opened Morningside Yoga in 1994.
Smith’s training is not only limited to hatha yoga practices. He’s also trained in dance and martial arts, and is a competitive cyclist. He incorporates his diverse group of skills into the classes he teaches at Morningside.
The yoga practices at Morningside stem from an interesting mix of traditional yoga and martial arts, as well as the grace and precision of dance. Smith conducts classes in a studio located at 1134 Westcott St.
Set-up and ambiance
O Yoga’s spacious studio—at West Fayette—creates the perfect mood and can easily accommodate 20-40 people. They also offer spare yoga mats, blocks used for support while performing various poses, and supporting cushions and blankets. This makes the journey of a beginner, as well as a seasoned yogi quite comfortable as well as exciting.
The Healthy Monday class with Dara at the Minor room in Newhouse is a simple studio, facing a beautiful array of red flowers, easily accommodating 20-25 people at a time. Even though it lacks the fancy props or the arrangements of O Yoga, the energy of the place is far more calming. With soothing background music, the hour-long class on Mondays sets the right tone for a long week ahead.
Even though Smith’s studio at Westcott Street is located in a simple house, don’t be fooled. The inside has a lot more to offer and undoubtedly holds a distinct character. The first thing that caught my eye was a drum set in the center of the class. There was also an altar in one of the corners, topped with various gods and goddess from different religions, all gifts from his students.
Morningside Yoga also offers its students free weights, ankle weights, pull up bars, and other devices to keep the training exciting as well as active.
If you’re not afraid of experimentation and want to take your yoga practice to the next level, then O Yoga offers an eclectic mix of various yoga instructors hailing from different parts of the country. Each has a specialized set of learning.
If you are looking to correct your body alignment, perfect those poses, and are willing to test the strength of your muscles, then Yoga with Dara is the place for you. One of the key features of the class is bringing in an awareness to the happening in the world and an awakening of the consciousness—an integral part of a yoga practice.
Morningside Yoga not only trains beginners and the general population…it also provides one on one training for elite teen athletes. Michael’s expertise ranges from a variety of body trainings, so if you are looking for an interesting mix of tradition combined with modern nuances, you should definitely give this one a shot.
The winner normally takes it all, but in this case there is no doubt a tie. I’m torn between Yoga with Dara and Morningside Yoga. Both are good in their own respects. If you are looking for a workout focused on body alignment, then Yoga with Dara is what you need. But, if you’re interested in exploring the untapped area of the body and soul, and are prepared for a roller coaster ride, then Morningside Yoga is the place for you.