Fans of Arcade Fire may recognize Sarah Neufeld as the indie-rock band’s violinist. But the musician is also a devoted yogi.
A trained teacher in the Toronto-based, socially-conscious hot yoga practice Moksha (known as Modo in the States), which has more than 75 studios worldwide, Neufeld co-founded an NYC outlet in 2012 in the West Village. This week, the studio’s local presence expanded with the opening of a second location from Neufeld and her team, this time in Williamsburg.
amNewYork spoke with Neufeld about Modo Yoga and how she stays healthy as a touring musician.
How did you come to co-found Modo Yoga NYC?
It was a style of yoga that I felt most at home with. I developed a daily practice, became really into it and did teacher training in 2009 [in Kerala, India]. I opened with a longtime friend of mind and some newer friends from the Moksha community and launched the first studio in 2012. We were the first Modo/Moksha studio in the Northeast. Every studio is independently owned, and it’s really a matter of people falling in love with the practice and becoming teachers themselves. It’s really incredible to watch a really tight-knit community that started in Canada expand so organically worldwide.
Why do you think it has caught on in this way?
There’s something really unique about a hot yoga practice, right? It just feels so good, it’s so refreshing and satisfying and detoxifying. I think it just keeps growing by word-of-mouth, and the fact that it provides such a beautiful and high-quality experience to the practitioner. We’re so much more than practicing or teaching yoga — we do tons of community work. There are lots of different aspects to our community that allow people to thrive off their mat as well as in their community. People are learning a lot through the studio — it’s a platform for shared knowledge and passion in terms of progressive culture and progressive ideas, in terms of sustainability, equal-access opportunity to health care and education in the world. We do a lot of amazing work with local and international charities.
What charities do you work with?
We offer yoga in schools in the West Village. We’ve partnered with and supported God’s Love We Deliver for many years, which is a charity that delivers meals to the sick. Internationally we’ve partnered with Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust, which works to preserve land in Kenya. We started our own charity called Junglekeepers to raise money to purchase a large swath of one of the most biodiverse areas of the rain forest in the Amazon. This is a really exciting project. We’ve been able to raise awareness in that we are all connected on the planet, and that the environment really does impact everybody. To help raise awareness to New Yorkers on this level, we’ve been bringing people down there to do retreats.
What are the classes like at your studios compared to other Modo studios?
There’s a ratio of consistency and diversity within the studios. About 80% of the studios are employing the series-based classes, which are Modo and Modo Flow. Most of the studios offer a certain amount of Yin classes. One we curated ourselves, Freestyle Flow, is a more dynamic vinyasa, with an emphasis on a particular theme or pose given the teacher’s preference. New York loves vinyasa, and we offer a lot of vinyasa classes.
Why did you want to expand?
I actually always dreamed of opening in Brooklyn. I’m not a native New Yorker but I spend a lot of time here. I always had an affinity for Brooklyn, and most of my own community is in Brooklyn. I thought it would be amazing to see a studio there. We spent the last couple of years doing research and just trying to find a space. This space was just the right size. It allows us to have two practice rooms, both are bigger than the ones in the West Village.
Will you have more students per class then?
We’re keeping the capacity around the same in both studios — 60 capacity in each room. It allows for a lot more personal space [in the new studio].
What are the green aspects that went into building out the Williamsburg space?
We used green building design and green building materials. Everything, from the installation to the dry wall to the paint, is as sustainable as possible. We’ve got an incredible living wall, it’s kind of the first thing you see when you walk in. It’s really exciting to have this super-integrated, cutting-edge-type living wall. Living walls are not only beautiful but improve the quality of the air. It represents a lot of what we’re passionate about.
How often do you practice yoga?
I practice all over the place. I’m a touring musician — I practice on stage, in hotel rooms, at home, in the studio. When I’m in New York I practice in our studio almost every day. Sometimes I like to go for runs and work out as well. Yoga gets to be a little bit more restorative. It’s all about the balance and not overworking the body in a way that’s unhealthy or unsafe, but giving your body the strength and nourishment you need and the restoration that it needs.
How else do you stay healthy?
I’ve been getting really into HIIT training. Kettlebells is my new nerd-out thing, which is super fun. And I just try to eat a lot of vegetables. Balance out what I’m taking in. I’m a coffee drinker and I love my wine, so I try to drink a lot of water. I put citrus in my water, and try to drink a lot of herbal tea, especially in the winter. It’s all about adding healthy, beautiful things, as opposed to taking away.
Any favorite healthy destinations?
Two blocks from the West Village studio is this incredibly special cafe called O. The food is so healthy, has such a passion for eating whole foods and a plant-based diet. They make gorgeous, gorgeous stuff there. I love the juice bar explosion in New York City. We have a very special juice bar near where I live called 3 Roots. They do incredible juices and smoothies.
Any news with your music?
I have a new solo record that’s coming out Feb. 26 called “The Ridge.” I’m touring around that. This is getting a bit more in the pop realm, I’m singing a lot more. But it’s still very violin-centric — that’s my main tool. I’m also playing a dual show with my husband Jan. 15 at Winter Jazzfest at Judson Memorial Church. I played there in 2007 with Arcade Fire during our warm-up show for the “Neon Bible” tour. It’s the only time I’ve played there. I’m expecting to have some memories.