AFM Yoga Review: Black Swan Yoga

By paige@austinfitmagazine.com – November 5, 2013

Having lived in Austin for the last ten years, I have downward-dogged through more than my fair share of yoga studios. I practice yoga for a variety for reasons and take different classes to fulfill all of my fitness needs, although my primary need is physical fitness and strength. Coming from that angle, my studio reviews may differ from those who prefer more of a focus on flexibility, meditation, and so on.  My intention is to give readers a personal, comprehensive review of yoga studios in the Austin area.

Studio: Black Swan Yoga

Cost: Donation based; suggested donation is $10-$20

Locations: south, north, and downtown Austin; online classes are also available

Black Swan was rated as the best yoga studio in Austin Fit Magazine’s Best Of 2012. It has three locations, making it convenient to find a studio near you. They have one of the best selections of class times among the yoga studios I’ve frequented, offering classes all day and well into the evening, even on Saturdays and Sundays (the downtown location has classes available until 10:30 p.m.!). Classes are organized into beginner, mellow, flow, sweaty, and power versions, allowing a decent variety of options for all yogis.

Studio Classes

The downtown location has an inviting lobby with cubby holes for shoes, a fridge full of water with smiley faces on the caps, and a sign in desk. The studio is donation based, and you can conveniently donate with cash or a credit card. Yoga is practiced in one large room with mirrored walls (useful for checking your alignment) and laminate floors. The floor is sectioned off by tape, making yoga mat placement easy to figure out and facilitating proper spacing between people.  Water is available for purchase ($1) and towel rentals ($2) are available.

I recently took their sweaty, candle sweaty, and power classes. All of their classes are taught  in a 90-degree heated room, which is a little cooler than other hot yoga classes I’ve taken, which are set at about 100 degrees. I personally love that all the classes are heated, but, for those who prefer a more temperate room, this might not be the studio for you.

All classes are practiced with music in the background, an instructor-chosen playlist. The sweaty class is a heated Hatha practice with a set series of repeated postures similar to Bikram. The sweaty candle class, as the name suggests, is the same as the sweaty class but done in a darkened room with candles lining the perimeter. These classes are held at the end of the day (candle power and candle flow are available at the South Austin location). I found this class to be wonderfully relaxing, and it added a nice, calming introspection to the end of my day.

The power classes are great for all levels, with modifications provided throughout the session. I have taken these classes with instructors Reiko and Joy, and both of them are excellent teachers, offering personal adjustments throughout the class. They also do an effective job of teaching you how to incorporate your ujjayi breathing into your power class (Reiko especially).

Classes Outside the Studio

I am a subscriber to Black Swan TV, which is a paid subscription service offering on-demand online classes. It’s great for during the week when I don’t have time to make it to the studio. I am currently subscribed to classes taught by Reiko and have also tried Melanie. Reiko’s channel has a wide variety of classes to choose from for all different styles and levels. Subscription is $8 a month per channel, and each teacher has his or her own channel.

Some caveats: Switching channels is not a seamless process: You must wait until the end of your subscription period and sign up for a new one, or pay for two separate channels. Also, I experienced difficulties in streaming specific videos and found it difficult to get a response to my request for help. A representative from Black Swan recommended users having difficulties with video streams should either utilize the comments function on the video itself—which gets routed to the instructor directly—or email hello@blackswanyoga.com.

Instructors

For the most part, I have enjoyed all the yoga instructors I have practiced with at Black Swan. They are all easy to follow, have a great attitude, and seem well versed in yoga instruction. Obviously no one teacher will be for everyone, and I have liked some more than others.

Why You’ll Love Black Swan Yoga:

  • Wide variety of class times
  • Multiple locations
  • Challenging power classes
  • Quality instructors
  • Community/social atmosphere
  • Online component (BSY TV)
  • Tons of hot yoga!

Why You Might Not Love Black Swan Yoga:

  • No class is practiced in a room below 90 degrees Fahrenheit
  • No showers/amenities (downtown studio)
  • Limited selection of class types (only four), as well as workshops/events
  • Difficulties (in my personal experience) with contacting studio about specific issues, such as online streaming (Note: Black Swan recommends using hello@blackswanyoga.com for issues that are not addressed on their frequently asked questions page.)
  • No mat rentals (you may purchase one for $15)
  • Not a sufficient enough focus on meditation (in my opinion). The rep from Black Swan explained that this is because classes last only 45 minutes to 1 hour. She recommended that students interested in meditation participate in one of their workshops, which typically have a larger focus on the practice.

 
 

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