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Bethany Lyons on Opening Manhattan's First Baptiste Yoga Studio

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Welcome to a special edition of Better Know a Store Owner, a weekly Racked feature focusing on the people who run our favorite boutiques—in this case, boutique fitness studios—around the city.

Photos by Driely S.

Between Bikram yoga, surf yoga, hot yoga, postnatal yoga, candlelight yoga, outdoor yoga, and broga, it didn't seem like there could possibly be another niche New York City yoga scene to fill. That is, until Bethany Lyons came along (and swept our 2014 Best New Yoga Studio Poll) with Lyons Den—a Tribeca space offering Baptiste-style classes (the first of their kind in Manhattan).

And while Baptiste can be a bit intense, as far as yoga practices go (an offshoot of Power Vinyasa, it's a favorite of professional athletes) Bethany herself is not. She bans mirrors in her studio, lets her pooch Josie have the run of Lyons Den, occasionally plays music during class, and starts her day with coffee—not green juice.

We caught up with the former ballerina (who claims she can have yoga beginners in a handstand after just a few sessions) to talk about what makes her stay present in class and how success on the mat translates to success in life.

You started out as dancer! How did you get into yoga?

I was dancing with a small ballet company in 2001, and I had a rehearsal that was cancelled one day. I was all suited up and ready to go, and someone said, "there's a yoga studio around the corner, you should check it out." I was totally that girl who walked in late, in full ballet regalia. It was a hot Vinyasa class in the Baptiste style, although I didn't know that.

At the time I was dancing about 40 hours a week, and this just kicked my ass in a totally different way. The space was warm and there were no mirrors. I was used to staring at myself in a mirror and figuring out what was wrong as part of my job as a dancer. So to be in a space where wherever you are is great and perfect was really beautiful for me. I also thought it would be great cross-training.

Did it click for you immediately?

Two months in I felt this big shift happening in my world. I didn't go in searching for something spiritual. I was like, "This will give me great abs." And I ended up falling in love.

And how did it become your career?

About two years, the studio where I was practicing asked me if I wanted to do a one-on-one teacher training. At the time I was kind of back and forth between L.A. and New York. I got a job teaching yoga at Crunch in New York, and I had short stint in L.A. When I moved back to New York I took a job in marketing and I was teaching yoga on the side—but the yoga is what was really feeding my soul.

Every morning on my way to my day job I would turn the subway corner—and I remember this part—I would be like, "Ugh, I'm slowly dying." I would teach at lunch and before and after work.

How did you do all of that? Squeezing in one or two yoga classes a week with a full-time job is hard enough.

I felt like if I didn't I would go insane! So, to get back to your question, I ended up transitioning full-time into Crunch, and became a coordinator for them, and eventually their regional manager. At the same time, SoulCycle approached me because I had taught a class at Crunch that was sort of yogic cycling, so I started working at both places. I ended up doing a bunch of yoga DVDs and dance DVDs, too. You can find me in Walmart. I also became one of the master trainers for Hard Candy, Madonna's gyms that are opening all over the world. I'm sort of a Jill of many trades. But yoga is my love.

So, what is Baptiste yoga?

Baptiste Power Vinyasa yoga is a style that Baron Baptiste—well, actually, his parents—started. They really brought yoga to Westerners in California. Baron worked with a lot of athletes, he used to train football players. He trained the Eagles and developed this system, which is a very straightforward flow that's done in a heated room. It's not as hot as a traditional hot yoga room, which is done in 105, usually. This is between 90 and 95. It's a warm room, you'll definitely sweat, but it's not a wall of heat.

What does the heat do?

It gets your muscles warm and ready to move. It also focuses you. When I'm in the heat, I can't be anywhere else. There's nothing else I can think about at that time. I'm not making a to-do list for later, or thinking about something that happened prior, because the conditions are so that I have to be present. And so it forces presence. The style of yoga embraces meditation, asana, and inquiry.

Asana?

Asana being the physical practice, meditation being meditation, and inquiry being asking more of students. Not just physically on the mat, but empowering our students for possibilities they can take out into their world. If they can conquer crow pose on the mat, they can go to their board meeting and totally shine.

Is Baptiste high-energy?

People definitely hoot and holler in class. We have a good time here. That's what I think is drawing people—it's really accessible and fun. I often say, "Let's play hard." Do the work, but play within that. For sure there are serious moments in class, and quiet moments in class. But there's a nice balance. You leave here feeling really good.

How "yoga" do you have to be to try one of your classes?

We speak in normal, real world language. The practice itself is very straightforward. It's not Cirque du Soleil yoga. It's accessible and adaptable. We go in stages. If you don't practice, and you come in, I can have you doing a headstand by the end of the day. All of our classes are all-level, because the poses are so adaptable and modifiable.

What was your opening day like?

The Sunday before we opened we had an underground class here. We packed the room. It was only people that knew about us, or members of the Baptise community, or former students of mine. They had to have a secret password. It was like Fight Club. When we officially opened in November 2013, we were blown away by them number of people who came. I thought we would have a good two weeks before students started showing up—we didn't have toilet paper holders yet! But we had people come for 36 of the 40 classes in that first week.

How do you find your instructors?

Word spread through Baptiste centers. It was a combination of people I sought out, and people who sought me out.

Who's your most difficult instructor?

We all have our days. All of the instructors have their own individual personalities and styles. I will say that I'm definitely not known for being an easy teacher.

What do you think about when you're teaching?

I think about what's going on in the room. I have to be 100 percent there and present. I am there for the students—is there a distraction in the room? How is the energy in the room? Did my cue land? Or was there confusion? That's what I'm thinking about.

When is your earliest class?

During the week it's 6:30am.

Is it difficult for you to get up?

Yes! I'm really a night owl. I only teach one early morning class a week. Waking up is horrible for me. Ask me to do a project at 3am and I'm like, "let's go!" When I have to get up early I drink a bottle of water and then a black coffee.

Is broga in your future?

I think this practice attracts men because of its accessibility. It's a strong practice. It's not sit-around-and-sniff-incense yoga. But I think our classes are accessible to everyone.

Any tips for absolute beginners?

I would take an hour class here, rather than an hour and a half, if you're new to heat yoga. Eat something, like a Kind bar or a banana, an hour before class. And throw some lemons or limes in your water—natural electrolytes!

Okay, time for the lightning round!

8am or 8pm?

8pm.

Beer or wine?

Wine.

Whiskey or tequila?

Tequila.

Beach or mountains?

Beach.

Cats or dogs?

Catdogs. I cannot choose! We have and love both.

Favorite vacation destination?

Savannah

Favorite lunchtime spot?

It was Pastis. (So I am currently searching for a new one...)

Beyonce or Rihanna?

Beyonce for fun, dance music. Rihanna when I'm feeling soulful.

Scandal or Homeland?

Homeland.
· Lyons Den Power Yoga [Official Site]
· Warm Up With a Hot Yoga Class at These Twelve NYC Studios [Racked NY]
· All Better Know a Store Owner Posts [Racked NY]