Move Your Mood
Sweating (a lot). Together. Boosting your body and your mood. Lyons Den Power Yoga is built on community — on people coming together to practice a powerful, physical vinyasa flow.
The studio began in TriBeCa 10 years ago and now operates in Chelsea — Lyons Den classes are also offered here (for free) as part of Seaport Fit. The challenging workouts and the classes’ welcoming atmosphere mean that both venues often have waitlists. “We’re kinda the Cheers of yoga,” says Bethany Lyons, Lyons Den Founder and CEO. “If you come, we will know your name.”
Prior to opening the studio (to create what she could not find in the New York fitness world at the time), Lyons was a fitness manager for Crunch, was the first instructor hired by SoulCycle, and a Master Trainer for Hard Candy (Madonna’s international gyms). She comes from a professionally trained classical dance background, but instills Lyons Den yoga classes with a strong sense of hospitality. Not surprisingly, these feel-good vibes draw just as many Lyons Den followers as its infrared-heated yoga sessions do.
Here, Bethany talks about the relationship between physical movement and mental health, and offers some quick tips on how a few simple yoga poses might introduce a feeling of calm and wellbeing into our day.
What do you love most about New York City?
I’ve lived in NYC for 23 years and in Chelsea for the past 14 years. What I love most about NYC is the constantly changing energy. I think people either feed off of the energy this city emanates or it takes them out. I eat it up, and I miss it when I’m gone. Just look at the amazing experiences you get to participate in that are only really available here, like an epic outdoor yoga class on Pier 17. (Hello, Seaport!) It’s like nowhere else.
May is Mental Health Awareness month. What are some ways you recommend people attend to their mental health on a regular basis?
Everyone needs tools. They are essential to staying present and being able to move from reaction to action — and that is essential for mental health. Breath is our most potent, life-sustaining tool; one that is inexpensive, available 24/7, and does not require that much effort. Try this when faced with a challenge: Take 10 deep breaths with some sound (think: big sigh), and see how much clearer you become after that tenth breath. I am also a big believer in meditation and movement. At our studio, you’ll often hear me say that I never regret getting on the mat and taking a yoga class. Find a community. Commit to something. Move your body.
Are there things you do personally for your own state of mind?
Well, the obvious — yoga. I walk my talk. I also walk my rescue dog, Josie, at least a mile daily (we are lucky enough to walk to work), and I do breathwork daily. I also take the time to connect to my partner and my close friends every single week.
Why is movement so important for mental health?
If you don’t use it, you lose it. It’s a catchy phrase, but it’s also true. Our bodies want to be in motion and need to be in order to function properly. Just getting off the couch and taking a five-minute walk outdoors is bound to shift your perspective and mood. Now, apply that mentality to a practice that is an hour, 75 minutes or 90 minutes a day. You are a different person, period.
How can people approach fitness so that it’s manageable rather than overwhelming?
“Some is better than none.” My dad says this phrase in reference to a P&L sheet, and I think it applies beautifully to movement, too. Take the stairs. Walk around while talking on the phone. Take a forward-fold between Zoom calls. Stretch during commercial breaks. The little things add up.
My #1 hack for getting on the mat, no excuses, is to make a date. If I tell a friend I will be there, or even announce my intentions on social media, I am not going to flake. Peer pressure, it works! Human beings thrive on community. We need each other. Get yourself to a class and you will find your people. People need people. And, as Babs said, “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.”
Here are two quick yoga poses Bethany recommends that are easy to incorporate into your day, to improve your physical and mental wellbeing. Yes, even if you don’t have time to work out!
Downward Dog: An upside-down V, with hands shoulder-width and feet hip-width apart. Take 5–10 deep breaths in this position. Down Dog effectively counteracts all the sitting we do, engages pretty much the entire body, and stretches the back of the legs that get so tight.
Rag Doll Forward-Fold: Take feet hip-width apart, spread the ten toes, bend the knees, and drape the ribcage down onto the things. Let the head drop. Take 5–10 deep breaths. This pose stretches the hamstrings, releases tension in the neck, and allows the practitioner to drop their brain (in a literal sense).
Sign up for free Lyons Den classes as part of Seaport Fit all summer long. Classes take place on Saturdays, from 10:30am–11:30am, on the Heineken Riverdeck at Pier 17, 89 South Street. Sign up in advance to secure your spot. See the schedule and RSVP here.