Over Labour Day weekend 2017, we paid a visit to New York City to seek out the new and upcoming trends in fitness and wellness – like meditation studios, wellness lattes, athleisure collabs and more – and bring them back to our Toronto community. We’re no good at keeping secrets, so we’ve put together an NYC Guide series to report back on all the amazing stuff we found.
In a city of eight million people, where simply commuting to work tests your patience, sanity and overall will to live, it makes sense that group meditation studios – aka little zen oases – have soared in popularity.
We grabbed cushions at several meditation studios for our moments of zen: MNDFL, Inscape, and lululemon’s mini meditation hub.
With meditation studios in Greenwich Village, Upper East Side, and Williamsburg, MNDFL offers a chance for a city reprieve just a few subway stops away from wherever you may be.
Each sit at these meditation studios focuses on a different topic (Intentions, Breath, Mantra, Emotions, Heart, and Sound) and range from 30-45 minutes. There are also occasional special events like sound baths.
We tried out the gorgeous Greenwich Village studio for an Intentions sit. From the moment you step into the studio, you’re welcomed with brief instructions on navigating the space, the class setup, and what to do before class (turn of your phone, grab some free Rishi tea, check out the wide selection of meditation books, chill) and after (spend as much extra time in the room as you need).
Our class crew shuffled in, snuggling cups of hot tea, and found our assigned cushions.
To begin the class, our instructor Kevin talked about how to find our comfortable seated position which included taking as many cushions and blankets as needed. He then began to explain how our meditation would go and what we would focus on. When it was time to close our eyes, the meditation was a mix of narration and silence which helped us focus but allowed enough time to go deeply into the meditation.
Post-class we snapped some photos in front of the stunning living wall (in the name of journalism of course) and Alyssa picked up a book penned by MNDFL’s Chief Spiritual Officer, Lodro Rinzler, called “The Buddha Walks Into a Bar.”
And now for something completely different. Short of the fact that you sit quietly and mediate in both meditation studios, MNDFL and Inscape could not be more different.
When you walk through the doors of Inscape, you step first into a lounge/merchandise area with some of the most incredible, enviable meditation and wellness products you never knew you needed. Spirit animal tarot deck? Check. Class bottles with inlaid crystals for crystal-charged water? Of course. Candles, coloring books, cookbooks, incense, oils? In spades.
Past the check-in desk and juice cooler, and the massive lounge area with huge beanbag chairs that would make even the fanciest university student jealous, are the two meditation studios. On one side is The Alcove, with its rope art installation that wouldn’t be out of place at Burning Man, and its long mats for meditation sessions with the option of laying down.
Across the hall is the spot we’ve come for: The Dome. An architectural masterpiece, The Dome is all curved beams and purple hued lights, hovering over a hard wood floor dotted with soft mediation cushions, luxe blankets, and various props.
A facilitator greets us at the door, offers a dab of UMA essential oil, and instructs us to take any cushion or spot on a bench. Once inside, the facilitator takes a spot at the center of the room… and then doesn’t say another word. Instead a recording comes on to guide us through our practice in an accent that we can’t quite pin down (Australian? British?). The 33-minute session (the studio offers, 44- and 66-minute sits as well) begins with exercises to put us in a more relaxed state including breathing techniques, and eventually leads us to complete silence.
To close the session, the lighting becomes a bit brighter and the facilitator informs us that we can remain in the room for a few more minutes until we are ready to end our practice.
Outside, we spend an inordinately long time perusing products – if you don’t own a $60 meditation candle, do you even really meditate, bro? – and Eme leaves with a small tub of Brain Dust, a powder from the creator of uber-wellness brand, Moon Juice.
The 5th Avenue store (the largest lulu in the country) is a stunning space with winding staircases and gilded railings, but the meditation area was our favourite part of the store. The walls are lined with huge canvases reminding you to “Meditate” “Breathe” and “Practice,” and the floor is covered in soft grey rugs. Lush green plants in white pots are placed throughout. There is even a small row of lockers where you can place your things in order to avoid stressing about having your purse swiped while you find your zen (this is still New York after all).
Next to each comfy chair is a small white end table with a pair of white headphones and a little white touchscreen. A series of prompts help you find your perfect practice. Choose from a 5-minute or 10-minute session, focusing on “Beginning,” “Tuning In,” “Reseting,” “Gratitude,” “Authenticity,” and “Neuro Plasticity.” You’ll then choose your level of calm from a scale that ranges from “I’m not @$#% calm at all” to “I’m so totally chill” before clicking “start my meditation.”
Stay tuned for our next installment of our NYC Guide, coming soon!