UPPER WEST SIDE — A local resident is launching a yoga class just for men with the help of a booking agency specializing in non-traditional fitness classes.
As an Orthodox Jew who puts a premium on modesty when it comes to contact between men and women, Daniel Kronengold was willing to go out of his way to take a men-only yoga class.
Not finding any such classes on the Upper West Side, where he lives and was raised, the 36-year-old resigned himself to making an hour-long trip each way to Crown Heights to take an all-male class.
After it was recently canceled, Kronengold started taking private lessons in his apartment as a way to continue his practice, as there really weren't any suitable options nearby, he said.
Now he's looking to save money, form a community and offer a service to other men — Jewish or otherwise — who want to take yoga classes without women present.
Kronengold is working with Sarede Switzer, who previously ran a fitness studio in Crown Heights and specializes in yoga for Orthodox Jews who, for religious reasons, want to abstain from the prayer and devotional side of most yoga sessions, separate the sexes and emphasize modesty.
Switzer, 35, has since launched a start-up, Bring the Gym to Me, that works as a kind of fitness booking agency. More than 500 instructors in various practices work with Switzer, who helps them book classes in people's homes and offices, at birthday parties and at other events.
This "virtual" gym model serves as a way of connecting busy instructors, who don't want to set up or run their own businesses, with people seeking to exercise outside of the traditional gym structure, Switzer explained.
"People have this notion that you have to go the gym and be around all this fancy equipment," she said. "As long as there’s a nice space that can accommodate however number of people you have, you really don’t need anything fancy."
Once Kronengold nails down a space — he's looking at local synagogues and existing yoga studios — Switzer's company will handle the logistics of assigning a male instructor. Kronengold will collect payment from however many participants he attracts to join the weekly class, and then pay a lump sum to Switzer, she said.
It's ironic that so many city yoga classes are filled only with women, because "originally yoga in India was a very male activity," Switzer noted.
Beyond the religious motivations behind single-sex classes, "there’s something nice about that separation... there is a certain comfort and a certain lack of self-consciousness," she added.
And there's also more of an opportunity for connection among participants, Kronengold said.
"Friendships can be made," he explained. "In general in male groups, there’s a type of bonding that takes place there."
Kronengold anticipates a lot of interest in the class given the large population of Orthodox Jews in the neighborhood. But he also expects the turnout to include yoga enthusiasts who would go to a mixed class but still may find an all-male class more attractive.
"I think the privacy is appealing," he said.
Anyone interested in the class or with information about a possible location can reach out to Switzer at firstname.lastname@example.org.