Yoga Montclair’s Amazing New Space is Perfect for a Practice Open to Grace

Anusara students flock to the spacious new studio on Forest Street.

This coming weekend, Anusara Yoga’s founder, John Friend, is conducting workshops at Montclair State University, so I thought it would be a perfect time to write about Yoga Montclair’s new quarters. The studio moved from Upper Montclair to its spacious new location at 107 Forest Street in late September, and since then the place has been hopping (http://www.yogamontclair.com).

            In case you’re not familiar with Anusara (though if you practice yoga in Montclair, you probably are), the style was founded by Friend in l997 and has spread like wildflowers. Based on specific principles of alignment and a belief in the intrinsic goodness of the universe, Anusara combines the study of asana with a compassionate, openhearted philosophy. In fact, my very first yoga teacher (who has since moved to Colorado) did her training at Yoga Montclair. (She studied with founder Vishali Varga, who then passed the torch to Hillary Cohen who tended it for a time, and now on to owners Omni Kitts-Ferrara and Daryl Ferrara).

            When I arrived for Omni’s class, I was astounded by the studio itself, which fits as many as 80 mats! You read that right—80 mats! The ceiling of the place—which used to be a warehouse (aware house, get it?) for making lacrosse nets, is 30 feet high. One wall is constructed of cinder blocks (with two large windows that welcome the sunlight in to dance on the bamboo floors).  There is industrial piping, exposed wooden beams, and a sense of amazing space. The room seems to perfectly reflect the spaciousness and generosity of the Anusara practice itself.

            I attended three classes at Yoga Montclair last week and understood immediately why so much space is needed. All three teachers were fantastic (and I’m sure the rest are great, too!) Omni’s pre-asana talk about letting go and being in the current of life was inspirational. I even found myself doing a handstand (with assistance) in the middle of the room. I learned not to “cling” to my self-imposed limitations. I came back a few days later for Hillary’s class. Hillary, I learned, held Yoga Montclair together during its growing period. She is a phenomenal teacher, vibrant, fun, and challenging. There I was again—doing Wheel—something I usually resist even trying.

            In Joe Gandarillas’ class on Saturday morning, there were “only” about 40 people. Hello? I’ve never been to a yoga class with 40 people in my life, except at special workshops. But here, usually more than 50 show up, I was told by students. I could see why. Personable, authentic, and knowledgeable. What’s not to like? Plus, he talked about the law of attraction, one of my favorite topics. Then, he asked us to envision someone we greatly admired; of course, Liz Aitken, my first yoga teacher, came to mind. What do I so love about her? Her positive nature. Her belief in goodness; so Anusara-esque. It was no coincidence that the universe had helped me find my way to the very roots of her training.

            But back to Yoga Montclair’s new space, which Omni describes as a “labor of love.” In fact, she and her husband/co-owner Daryl worked and fell in love at nearby Egan & Son’s. “This space was like a dream come true; it helps you feel your own light. Every detail has been thought over and picked from our hearts as an offering to the students,” Omni says.

            You can sense the love, care and grace that has gone into creating this new studio as soon as you enter, and as the Om’s echoed and resonated, and the Anusara students chanted their beautiful invocation, I actually felt chills (and not just because the heat wasn’t yet on!). There is something special about Yoga Montclair that was no doubt there even when it was in its former “cozy, small space.” In the new center, however, that special quality of openness, love and light is magnified. Stop in some time (but not this weekend—the studio is closed because everyone is at the Friend workshop). You’ll see exactly what I mean.

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