AS PUBLISHED IN GAIA MAGAZINE
Mala Yoga sits on the second floor above a corner real estate office in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, at arguably one of the cutest intersections in the neighborhood. With coffee shops, restaurants, a Montessori school and a small independent bookstore nearby, this could be Main Street, USA. The church spire rising in the distance completes the picture.
But it’s Court Street, a bustling, residential part of Brooklyn. Run by three yoginis, two who left white-collar careers for yoga, Mala has only a sandwich board outside to mark its presence. It gets most of its students from walk-ins and word of mouth.
Opened in November 2007, Mala bucks current trends of expansion and franchising as one of the smallest studios in the city, at just 700 square feet–including the bathroom. Space is used efficiently: students’ bags and shoes go in one small closet, props in the other. Subs for the week are posted on the bathroom door, and the sign-in desk is tucked up next to the wall inside the practice space.
Such a vibrant place doesn’t feel small. In fact, there’s a bit of a love-fest going on at Mala. Students praise the smart, down-to-earth teachers, and teachers adore their students.
“We have really fantastic students here,” says Angela Clark, of of Mala’s co-founders. “They’re really into practicing, really into knowing who they are.”
Mala’s warm community of professionals, freelancers, and new parents is also remarkable.
“People are gregarious here, we all talk to everyone,” says Robyn Sklarson, VP of Library Content and Development for Sony Pictures Television who assists classes as a part of Mala’s new-teacher apprenticeship program. “If it’s a really packed class, everyone gets cozy and squishes up next to each other.”
Popular classes sell out at 26 – 30 people—when there’s an inch or less between mats—and so students get to know each other. Teachers walk through the class before it begins, learning names and discussing injuries or issues.
“You never have to worry about not getting an adjustment or getting lost in the shuffle,” says Sklarson.
Mala has done exceptionally well in its first year of business thanks to its location and handpicked staff, but also to the founders’ pre-existing popularity at other studios. One Mala fan, Rick Jakobson, a professional cook, had practiced with all three founders at Area Yoga just a few blocks up Court Street. “I’m teacher-centric–I like to hear the same voices,” says Jakobson.
Co-founder Stephanie Creaturo explains the vision that infuses the studio. “Practice is a thread — the beads on the mala are your life.” All three founders wear mala beads that have been blessed by Amma, the hugging saint.
“You come to the practice in your 20s, keep practicing into your 30s, as you go through family life, and get older,” says Creaturo. “Yoga can be with you through the stages of your life. That’s how we approach it.”
Mala Yoga 162 Court Street, Brooklyn, NY, 11201 718 237 9642 malayoganyc.com