[Editor’s Note: Four years after publication, I have written a response to this piece. Read it here. 5/15/2016]
The first things a yoga snob will say is “I am not a yoga snob.” That being said, I’m kind of a yoga snob. The commercialization of the practice and self-promotion of some teachers is enough to make me cringe sometimes, but you know what? It is what it is. You get what you can out of the practice, and if doing down dogs on your Manduka in a pair of Lulus with a $108.00 mala round your wrist gets you any bit closer to your authentic self, then so be it.
Corepower Yoga is one such establishment that requires this sort of attitude. It just goes against everything I’ve learned about the practice; it’s a franchise, for God’s sake, peddling enlightenment right alongside promising to sculpt the yoga butt of your dreams. (Have you even SEEN BKS? Not quite the hot yogi bod, but shit, his asana pics in Light on Yoga are insane.) The teachers are taught scripts as to preserve the integrity of the brand. Brand of yoga? “But yoga is everyone’s!” says the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed instructor in me. Screw Bikram Choudury, who studied with his guru a measly two months before creating his own brand of punishing yoga that doesn’t even include twists!, this yoga snob says. Ask any instructor that has been trained by a local yoga studio about Corepower and their response will involve a small knowing smile. “Corepower is a great form of yoga,” they’ll say nobly. But really, they’d never be caught dead in a franchise studio.
So it’s with this attitude that I bought a Groupon for a month of unlimited Corepower yoga. And I will say I love it so much. I’ll get to the actual classes in a minute, but I’ll start out by mentioning their facilities are so incredibly beautiful. Such is the magic of studios with millions of dollars under their belts. Among the many amenities: Fully equipped lockers rooms with fantastic little cubbies and benches; clean showers with body wash, shampoo, and conditioner right in there for everyone to use; mouthwash and tiny cups, hairspray, mousse and a little bowl of hair elastics line the sinks; there’s even a basket of tampons in each stall. They really make you feel at home ferreal. They have a complex, space age system allowing for even heat and humidity throughout each practice room, and ever-so-slightly squishy floors for maximum impact absorption. Something else I’m not used to: Mirrors! What better way to check if you have neutral pelvic tilt in Virabadrasana II! The cherry on this delightfully sinful yoga cupcake? After you’re soaked to the bone in your own fluids and finally resting in savasana, they come around with cold lemon lavender face cloths to gingerly place on your forehead. Cue third eye opening, and throbbing Alex Grey illustrations.
Being covered in sweat really does make you feel like you’ve accomplished something. I don’t know if doing yoga in 90+ degree heat plus humidity makes you burn more calories than if you did it in a regular room, but it sure seems like it does. That being said, the teachers are really hit or miss. Classes really are very similar; I’ve stuck to mostly C2 classes (their level two vinyasa style) which does switch it up in terms of poses and sequencing, but the general flow is always the same: warm ups, static poses, flow, ab work, back bends, restorative poses, savasana. Hot Yoga Fusion classes, though, are painfully similar. They’re modeled after Bikram’s 26 postures and incorporate some generic vinyasa–it’s pretty much the same class, every class. I understand that’s the same deal with Bikram yoga, and they’re trying to appeal to the Bikram student, but personally I need to switch it up a little bit. Going to class often has allowed me to pick out my favorite teachers, ones that stray from the prescribed Corepower script that sets the seasoned teachers apart from the newer ones (that they’re churning out conveyer belt-style, by the by).
Would I ever count Corepower as “practice?” No. To me, it’s more like a workout that just happens to incorporate poses. There are so many aspects of yoga that are missed in those classes; where’s the pranayama, meditation, mudras and bandhas? There are gaping holes in just an asana-focused practice. But some people don’t want that–they want the workout, the sweating, the exertion. And that’s totally cool. If anything, maybe it’ll get those workout-minded dabblers to get their asses to a real yoga studio and deepen their practice.
Just kidding. Corepower’s totally legit. Like everything else, it is what you make of it, right?