Don’t call it a yoga class. A new mind-body wellness center in NYC is breaking down sensory walls for the most immersive, transformative yoga experience we’ve ever heard of. Get the full scoop on WOOM from our Manhattan lady, Katie Horwitch, who we sent to try this hotspot for herself…
WOOM Center in The Bowery neighborhood of Downtown Manhattan is unlike anywhere else you’ve ever been – and not just because walking into the space feels more like entering your BFF’s chic NYC pad than a yoga studio. Inspired by both eastern and western philosophies, neuroscience and their own personal experiences, founders David and Elian Zach-Shemesh – along with yoga director Francesca Bove – have created a multi-sensory experience that is non-denominational, unbiased and completely devoid of fear or pretension. Don’t be surprised if you walk into the studio and are greeted by their friendly pup, Shapiro – this is a place to feel included, not excluded.
And the experience. Oh, the experience. Tapping into the senses from the very start, WOOM’s experiences (they’re so much more than a simple ‘class’) involve things like blindfolds, trippy yet calming lights and graphics, deep beats and vocal meditation. Think of it as the love-child of Burning Man, a delicious yoga flow and that kind of freedom you feel when you’re belting out your fave tune alone in your car and can almost feel the wheel vibrating (…or is that just us?).
Lucky for you, you don’t need to be a New Yorker to get your WOOM on. We’ve asked the founders to share a bit about how they utilize each of the five senses at their revolutionary center – and how you can make a WOOM-like oasis all your own no matter where you are:
Sound effects our bodies and minds in a variety of ways and most are still quite mysterious. What we do know is that sound waves travel over four times faster in water than they do in air. The human body is made of over 70% water, making it the perfect receiver for sound vibration. As with traditional medicine, the receiver holds most of the responsibility in regard to the effectiveness of sound therapy. Research shows that overtone-emitting instruments have a powerful affect on quieting the mind, and making room for emotional exploration and self-observation. It’s easy to choose a reductionist approach and claim that X frequency can heal this or open that chakra, but it’s not that simple.
At WOOM we get to explore the magic of sound in a variety of ways. First, with our own voices, practicing our special form of vocal mediation. Second, through the use of overtone-emitting instruments and, thirdly, through our immersive 3D sound system, which envelops our yoga practitioners in beat-driven music. We’ve all experienced the effects of music on our physical bodies, as well as on our moods; whether on the dance floor or in our headphones – one song can easily make us or break us. Sound work is a more neutral, purified version of that.
Exercise: Hum. It’s so good for you! Unclench your jaw and let your tongue hang behind your bottom teeth, so that the hum isn’t muted and can reach your lips comfortably and give them a little buzz. Take a deep breath into your belly and release a soft hum (‘hmmm’). Repeat this between 10-20 times, changing pitch, volume and dynamics. Try a few different notes, create melody – have fun! This has a very calming affect on the nervous system – it can reduce blood pressure, and promote clarity of thinking.
At WOOM, we explore the touch arena by means of deep physical adjustments. Though vibration is also quite tactile, as the waves arrive at bodies and quite literally penetrate or touch them, we offer a lot of hands-on assists in order to enhance our students’ experience of the physical practice, as well as to allow them to achieve a deeper understanding of the postures.
Exercise: Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your heart and feel yourself breathe. Take a moment to feel your heartbeat and appreciate your inner rhythm. During your asana practice, bring your hands to different parts of the body (joints, lower back, neck, hips, etc.) and observe the mechanics of your own body. That may shed some light on your strengths and weaknesses, and highlight what to pay closer attention to in order to avoid injury and advance your practice.
The WOOM visual installation is custom designed to simultaneously inspire creativity and distract the mind from the incessant daily chatter. The audio-responsive feature manifests visually that which it detects audibly. Translation: Sounds become visible. This creates a cross-reference, almost like a computer-generated synesthesia, that is both interactive and exciting. For instance, if the entire room sighs together – they can actually see it! We also use blindfolds for the beginning and ending of each experience, in order to facilitate a deeper inner connection.
Exercise: Put an eye mask on and try to go through a few rounds of cat/cow and perhaps some simple breathing exercises. Witness if anything changes when you concentrate on sensations rather than of the visual physical shapes. Also, watch The Sacred Geometry Movie on YouTube by SpiritScience – it is enlightening.
Scent is the sense most directly linked to memory and the most immediate in evoking spontaneous emotion, yet it’s often the most neglected and under-activated. Our essential oil blend, WOOM SCENTER, is designed by bio-alchemist Michelle Gagnon and includes over 15 notes including rose for soothing comfort, sandalwood for grounding, bergamot traditionally used to fight depression, and geranium for balancing. We diffuse our scent all around the café and communal areas, and lightly mist students’ faces during final relaxation of yoga and signature sound experiences.
Exercise: Try smelling things more often. Be a weirdo and start sniffing things, identifying and analyzing them. This can strengthen your self-confidence and sense of wellbeing in a non-traditional way.
Aside from WOOM Café that serves vegan and organic lunch and dinner, each yoga experience ends with a complimentary elixir shot. The elixir fulfills not only the desire for something delicious after a good sweat, but also offers a seasonal remedy or booster. You’ll often find lemon juice, cayenne pepper, turmeric, local honey or even garlic in the mix. Nature’s medicine!
Exercise: Meditate on your food. Sit and look at it first. Smell it. Think of where each ingredient came from and the people responsible for producing it. Take a small bite and dissect the different textures, flavors, aromas and sounds that accompany your dining experience. Perhaps this will bring about a true sense of gratitude. Mission accomplished.