My Experience at Karma Yoga Center
I attended many classes at the Karma Yoga Center Denver in north wash park during the month of September, 2014. The studio, run by Katrina Gustafson, offers moderately paced vinyasa classes that primarily employ standing Anusara Yoga poses which they call "Anusara Flow Yoga." There is also a sprinkling of Gustafson's version of new-age style Bhakti yoga classes. Overall, the energy at the center is low key and relaxed, and the slower pace nearly always allows enough time for breathwork. The studio itself is decked out in Hindu religious chachki. In a couple classes, the choice of poses and teacher talk left me feeling that the teacher was unaware of the presence of men in the room.
All Levels Vinyasa Flow (1 with Sharyn Greenberg / 2 with Joe Minnis / 1 with Andrew Frasier)
These "Anusara Yoga Flow" classes are the mainstay of this studio and are offered at the most popular times. They are not physically demanding (relative to other vinyasa styles); they move slow enough and hold poses long enough to get at least a few breaths in. As such, these classes are great for beginners or those who are simply more interested in deep breathing with movement rather than a sweaty physical workout. AYF is taught under other names like "Candlelight" or "Sunset" flow as well.
Advanced Level Vinyasa Flow (with Lisa Theis)
This class consisted of standard kick-ass strength-building poses from the Anusara and Power Yoga repertoires. Of all the classes I attended, this one was the most packed. Sardines in a can, anyone? Unless you are in great shape and very flexible, you'd have a hard time maintaining a calm breath throughout this class. Though competently led, it felt like a workout at a gym, and it took me a full day to rid myself of the vata aggravation / rajas that this sort of class tends to generate. Of course, it may have been just what was needed for the Kapha-dominant people in the class.
Yin Yoga (with Sara Wolfgram)
I'm not sure when Yin Yoga classes came to involve physical effort and a lot of talking from the instructor. I long for the "lie low and glow in silence" days of old.
Restorative Yoga (with Sara Wolfgram)
I'm not sure when Restorative classes came to involve physical effort and a lot of talking. The biggest crime in this class, though, was the lack of the requisite big, fluffy bolsters. Without that strong support, it simply is not restorative.
Live Music Bhakti Flow (with Katrina Gustafson)
Katrina likes to talk and share. The evening I attended, she had just returned from some Bhakti event in California and was psyched to tell us about it. I used the 15 minutes for some stretches I needed after a rather stressful day. The drum music was indeed live, and sounded like African drums and we were asked to shake about / dance to it for a portion of the class. There was also a segment where we stood in a circle holding hands and took turns throwing some negative habit into the imaginary fire at the center of our circle. In between the talks, the dancing, and the circle, there were some yoga-like movements, always accompanied by Katrina's take on some aspect of general Yoga philosophy or her brand of Bhakti yoga.
Chant and Chill (with Lisa Theis)
This was a seated mantra chanting class, in Sanskit, straight and simple. Unfortunately, the night I was there, a "freight-train" mantra to Laksmi was used. These very, very long Sanskit mantras are not appropriate for beginners, which almost everyone in the room was. Laksmi is also a goddess specifically for women, though 2 of the 5 in attendance were men. Note that before they will work, mantras need to be energized, primarily though repetition and an intense attitude of devotion or desire. Correct pronunciation of Sankrit counts, too. None of this was addressed, and I found the session uninspiring. Several of the young women reported strange goings-on in their arms or other body parts, however.
Compatible with 3Gems Principles?
For the main-fare Vinyasa classes, yes. They are slowish, uncomplicated, there is time to breathe, and they avoid the pitfall of excessive talking. Many other classes, unfortunately feature non-stop talking that hinders an internal focus. Many teachers have just the basic 200-hour level of yoga training, which is not necessarily a problem if you are a seasoned practitioner and know how to make adjustments for yourself. The teachers did, however, allow me to deviate from their instruction from time to time without complaint. The new age take on Bhakti did not do much for me, but who knows? You may like it.