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When new mega-studios woo top yoga teachers from tiny ones

Bright interiors and colorful cushions reference Indian saris

Pure Yoga just unfurled the mats and rang the reclaimed temple bells (a prominent design motif) at its brand-new 20,000 square-foot location on the Upper West Side. The amenity-laden space follows on the heels of YogaWorks SoHo, which opened this summer with 11,000 square feet, as the city’s latest yoga mega-studio. Both use a membership business model, which means for about $140-$160 per month at Pure (and $110 at YogaWorks), you get unlimited access to classes and locker facilities with steam rooms, soft towels, and fully stocked showers like a gym. An Equinox gym, in fact, thanks to a recent brand partnership.

While iterations of studios have opened around a style of yoga, the size and scope of Pure Yoga and its 100-item class schedule (as of January), which includes everything from anusara and hot yoga (sorry, no ashtanga) to acroyoga and hip hop yoga, is a sign of the times:  Indeed with six large studios, a room for reformer Pilates, two for yoga privates, plus several seating nooks for pre- and post-practice socializing, Pure Yoga has more in common with a community college campus than petite studios like the Shala.

In a move that surprised downtown yogis, teacher Sadie Nardini left Fierce Club for Pure Yoga

These mega-studios aren’t just attracting students, they’re also pulling in headlining teachers. Yoga Journal darling, HuffPo contributor, and NYC yoga bigwig Sadie Nardini recently left Fierce Yoga Club, an intimate Nolita studio she co-founded, to work with Pure and others. This made us scratch our heads in wonder. Is Sadie selling out or are we in the middle of a seismic shift in the city’s yoga scene?

“I think there’s room for both the neighborhood-y yoga studios and the larger corporate ones,” explains Nardini. “Just like some people love Starbucks, and some love their corner café. Both types have an energy and offerings that appeal to a different market. And that’s good: the more people we can attract to the mat, the better!”

Even as yoga becomes more professionalized, it’s still the case that it’s difficult to make a living as a teacher. (Hence the yoga-celebrities releasing DVDs.) So the mega-studios help some instructors looking to reach a wider audience, says Nardini: “It’s helpful to have the marketing power and support that comes with a larger studio that has multiple locations. Often, smaller places simply don’t have the financial backing or the energy to focus on promoting their teachers.”

But what’s the benefit for students? They have nearly unlimited access to amazing classes, stellar teachers and traveling gurus. “People go off on one or the other,” says Nardini. “That studio’s too small! That one’s too slick and corporate! But I think good yoga is good yoga…whatever the package.” Nardini might be right, since it’s been the case that good teachers—and not the (often unsavory) location—is what fills classrooms and provides a studio’s soul. We’re about to see just how true this mantra is.

Have you or would you join a mega-studio? Tell us, here!