Modo Yoga NYC’s new Williamsburg location is a carefully curated space crowned with living greenery and sleek white air purifiers silently expelling their vapors. There are cubbies made from repurposed wood from a mushroom factory, and guests can sip complimentary fragrant tea from white porcelain cups while browsing the studio’s selection of yoga clothes, kombucha flavors, and loose-leaf teas. Presiding over this little slice of sustainable Yogi heaven is co-founder Sarah Neufeld, a musician and violinist for Arcade Fire.
For Neufeld, the studio is a perfect addition to the original Modo location in the West Village, which opened four years ago. “We were looking in this neighborhood for several years,” Neufeld said, adding that she originally wanted the first studio to be in Brooklyn, but that it just “made sense to do it in Manhattan first.”
Neufeld, who is a Canadian native but divides her time between New York City, Montreal, Vermont, and various tour stops, said she was always drawn to Brooklyn, and particularly to Williamsburg. The former garage space on Metropolitan Avenue allowed her and her partners, along with the architects at DXA Studios, to create a space almost from scratch. “Here we were able to create our dream aesthetic, from the front door all the way to the back,” she said. “The use of symmetry and flow, the different ceiling heights– I find it really exciting.” The opening weekend earlier this month, which Neufeld described as “epic,” featured a live music class, catering from a local Brooklyn restaurant, and kombucha imported from Vermont.
Although the decor is tasteful and for the most part restrained, some quirky wall art helps break the neutral scheme of the space. A large black-and-white print of a “unicorn-wolf” (yep, that’s a wolf with a horn on its head) keeps watch over the reception desk. A large tree, drawn on a wall covered in black chalkboard paint, represents the values of the Modo community, which put a particularly strong emphasis on sustainability (the entire studio is green).
Reclaimed wood, cork floors, non-toxic cleaning products, and LED lighting are all standard fixtures in Modo’s Williamsburg home. In the two studios, the cream-colored walls are blank except for a painted elephant and a tree, both created by artist Sam Messer, associate dean at the Yale School of Art.
Although it seems like Modo couldn’t get be any more quintessentially Williamsburg, it’s actually a Montreal import. Together with her partners Rebecca Foon and Guillaume Brun, Neufeld became acquainted with the hot yoga practice known as Modo (or Moksha, as it’s called in Canada), and eventually decided to bring it to New York after she and her two partners became certified teachers in 2009. “Rebecca and I were dreaming and scheming to open a Moksha studio in New York,” Neufeld said. “When you find a community like that, you really want to share it.” She added that the challenge of bringing the hot yoga practice to New York added to the incentive: “It’s almost a dare to start a business in New York.”
Modo yoga, like other forms of hot yoga, makes use of raised temperatures to allow practitioners to safely engage in deep stretches while also promoting the idea that sweating helps the body release toxins. In comparison to practices like Bikram yoga, which uses temperatures of about 105 degrees Fahrenheit, Modo yoga is flexible about temperatures and usually keeps them a bit below 100 degrees. Modo yoga is also defined by its strong sense of community and its emphasis on environmentally and socially sustainable values.
It looks like Neufeld will have plenty to keep her occupied this year: her solo album, The Ridge, is set to drop in the next three weeks and a couple of Arcade Fire shows in Spain and Portugal are lined up for the summer.