It’s no secret that mindful movement is in the future of fitness. From spin to HIIT and yoga, top studios and instructors have incorporated moving meditations into their workouts — or, should we say, experiences. That’s at least what it felt like when I took a Vinyasa yoga class at the Woom Center in New York City.
Their signature yoga class isn’t your typical flex-and-flow routine. Instead, they’ve created an experience inside the woom (room) that combines sound therapy, vocal meditation, visual installation and aromatherapy. All of these forms of therapy bring awareness to your senses of sound, sight and scent. Then, there’s the sense of taste: Every experience ends with a complimentary shot of an anti-inflammatory elixir that you take in their café after class, because taste is also part of the mind-body experience.
Incorporating both eastern and western holistic practices with yoga and meditation, the Woom Center promises to “raise your vibration” with an offering of 12 different “experiences.” Their classes includes restorative yoga, sound baths and breath work, Kundalini, sacred singing and dance.
I thought now that I’ve tried downward dogging in a room filled with Himalayan salt, what can I do to take my yoga game to the next level? So I signed up for a class. Here’s what happened.
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Woom Center: The Sound of Healing
The beginning of the signature yoga class focused on sound therapy — also known as a sound bath — which includes sitting in a lotus position blindfolded. (Nope, no peeking.) Wearing the eye mask provided to us, we were instructed to tune into the different sounds. Our instructor, Jeanette Doherty, played the harmonium (a small instrument with a keyboard that sounds like an accordion) and led a kirtan (devotional chanting).
While chanting isn’t necessarily my thing, the sound of the harmonium was soothing and helped me relax. The perfect primer for meditation.
And apparently it’s not just in our heads. Studies have shown that sound therapy can help lower blood pressure and help reduce symptoms of insomnia, mood and headaches.
Sound baths have been popping up all over New York City, including NTM Sound Healing and Breathe Salt Rooms (where I took their salty yoga class). But the Woom Center is one of the first yoga studios to have sound therapy incorporated into their yoga classes.
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Photo by Asi Zeevi
Soothing Sights, Guided Imagery
After the sound bath, we began to start the yoga practice with cat-and-cow poses and that’s when the visual installations began projecting around the blank white walls. As we repeated the asanas, the screen projected neon lines (a la Dan Flavin) to peaceful clouds — all to the beat of our flow. I felt like I was in a trance-like state, or almost lucid dreaming through series of warrior one, two and three. Triangles and supine twists helped release the knots on my back and sides.
We slowly transitioned through each pose and held them for a few breaths. With the room slightly heated, I was able to work up a sweat. The neon lines on the walls formed helixes and spirals as we moved from downward dog to plank. When we held a pose, the guided images would ripple, creating a pulsating effect to help us concentrate on a spot on the wall.
The visuals helped me concentrate on the poses, but they didn’t draw attention to nailing them down. Instead, they brought greater awareness to my breath and showed me how to use it through the asanas.
There’s some science behind the moving lights, too. Some research has shown that guided imagery can help people living with chronic pain manage their symptoms. Focusing on images that evoke feelings of relaxation or relief can also help people living with arthritis or joint pain improve their outlook and emotional state, according to some experts.
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Sensory Immersion: The Future of Fitness
While the Woom Center caters to a wide range of wellness seekers (and the impact of the experience will vary considerably), for me, taking in the floating clouds and strobes of light had a powerful effect. Each ray shot a dose of positive energy my way and jolted me into a sort of outer-body experience — sans mood-altering drugs, of course.
This type of immersive workout can be found at other fitness studios in New York City, like IMAXShift in DUMBO, Brooklyn which uses immersive visuals of exotic locations, solar systems and epic adventures; and Monster Cycle, which uses music videos. I’ve tried classes at these studios, but their visual effects are meant to challenge your physical limits. In the Woom, they’re meant to be transcendental.
Photo by Asi Zeevi
Woom-Sah: Finding Our Zen
We ended our yoga practice with savasana, but it wasn’t your traditional corpse pose. Instead, we used blocks to hold up a bolster, which would become our place of rest. We placed one blanket beneath our head for support, and another over our legs to keep us warm. This was a restorative savasana. We were instructed to put the eye masks back on, and lay with our palms face up for the next five minutes.
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During savasana, our instructor sprayed the room with their signature blend of 13 pure essential oils: rose for relieving anxiety, sandalwood for better sleep, geranium to uplift mood, and Petitgrain sur fleur, frankincense, myrrh and rosewood for relaxation. While aromatherapy has been used for centuries to help with reducing anxiety and stress, only a few yoga classes I’ve taken have used them in their practice. The calming scents helped me relax so much that I wished savasana were longer; I didn’t want to leave the Woom.
After class, we moved to the café, where we each took a complimentary shot of an elixir that was made with apple cider vinegar, honey, turmeric and cayenne pepper. I had reached a sleepy state of zen during savasana, but the elixir quickly snapped me back into reality. The bright and peppery flavors danced around my tongue as I experienced a heightened awareness to taste. It was like my internal alarm clock finally went off, and I felt more awake than ever before. It was just the right time to exit Woom.
For more information on the Woom Center in New York City, or to try a class, visit WoomCenter.com. Newbies pay $10 for their first experience; single experiences are $25-30.