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Vision quest: How blindfolded yoga classes are improving focus


In studios around the city, top yoga practitioners and instructors are trying to shift the focus inward, by way of blindfolds and strict closed-eye directives.
blinfolded yoga
Matt Lombardo practices blindfolded with his girlfriend, Cristy Candler, at Jivamukti

It can be hard to focus in yoga class.

One minute you’re watching your breath, and the next your gaze drifts to someone’s perfect handstand or to a super cute tank across the room. It’s really easy to forget the yoga.

So some top yoga instructors at New York City studios are trying to shift the focus inward by wearing blindfolds in class or teaching their students to practice with their eyes shut.

Distractions abound, says Matt Lombardo, a popular teacher at Jivamukti. “A lot of the time, yoga classes are like high school cafeterias—they’re very cliquey.” So, as a joke at the start of a class, he tied on a bandana to shut out the visual noise around him.

Matt Lombardo
For Matt Lombardo, what started as a lark became a regular practice

“I did one class blindfolded, and it was so great,” says Lombardo. “It totally revitalizes one’s practice.” Now, he’s practicing blindfolded on a regular basis, and so is his girlfriend, Broadway actor Cristy Candler. With mats side-by-side, the two flow from chaturanga to upward dog, invisible to each other.

Uptown, at Pure Yoga, Marco Rojas’ students know that when they get to his 90-minute evening vinyasa class and he tells them to close their eyes, it may not be just until they shift into downward dog.

Rojas, who was inspired by a blind woman in his yoga class, decided to challenge his students to understand her perspective. He soon realized how effective it was as an exercise.

Marco Rojas
Yoga teacher Marco Rojas asks his students to keep their eyes shut throughout his 90-minute vinyasa class

“You’re forced to have a dialogue within yourself,” says Rojas, “and all of your thoughts and judgments are coming in. But you can’t escape to distraction, you have to confront them.”

This is especially true in Rojas’ class, because without the use of a blindfold, the urge to open your eyes is almost overwhelming. Especially during balancing poses and transitions.

I was worried that my alignment would be radically off with my eyes shut, but Rojas says it can be even more effective to sense where you are on your mat and make adjustments.

He might be right: For me, the class was a crash course in what my body feels like in each pose and a test of inner focus—especially for a journalist trained to look outward.

But when I opened my eyes after savasana, I really did feel like I had been transported somewhere inside myself and had just awakened after a long time away.

Rojas wasn’t surprised. “Welcome to the new you,” he said. —Lisa Elaine Held

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