The studio, which occupies a loft space with ample mood lighting, was opened this September by Spencer Brisson, previously an instructor at Daya Yoga.
“I, like many, first started yoga’ing at Yoga to the People, or YTTP, which is entirely donation-based,” explained Brisson. “I loved it, but also found that it was difficult to grow there, because the classes were all around the same level and very similar. Plus, you never knew what teacher you’d get; many were beginner teachers. That’s why I moved on to Daya.”
While teaching at Daya Yoga, Brisson found a sense of deep connection with the community that Daya offered. “It was a very important place to me, almost holy. It was the temple that got me through a lot of rough times.”
When COVID hit, Daya, like many other yoga studios, was faced with a difficult choice: shut its doors or adapt to the ever-changing pandemic landscape by offering online and outdoor classes. Daya owner Ania Lesniak found a way to do both.
“Ania decided to shut down [Daya] and move during the pandemic,” explains Brisson. “But I couldn’t let Daya close, so I proposed to buy and run Daya.”
Opening and managing a yoga studio had been a longtime dream of Brisson’s. However, he and Lesniak “struggled to make an agreement.”
“How do you price a business that’s shut down and isn’t legally allowed to operate at that time?” asked Brisson.
Nevertheless, the pair knew they wanted to keep the community of Daya alive together. “B[x] coworking space allowed us to use their rooftop to teach yoga all summer and fall, which was amazing,” said Brisson.
But the pandemic peaked once more, as did confusion around the state of yoga studios across NYC. Brisson’s proposition to purchase Daya’s Bushwick location halted yet again, but the uncertain COVID climate didn’t prevent Brisson from seeing his vision through.
By Summer of 2021, Brisson began searching for a space of his own. A multitude of potential studios were considered, including the former Yoga To The People spot by McCarren Park. “But I kept thinking back to this quiet spot on Thames Street, with its hardwood floors, big windows and tall ceilings,” said Brisson. “The day that deal [for the former YTTP location] fell through, I called about the Thames Street location and signed the lease the next day, by myself.”
“I was also ready to let Daya go,” said Brisson. “I also realized that what I was creating wouldn’t be Daya, it would be something new. So much of Daya was Ania, and now, this is me.”
Brisson signed the lease for the building that Baby Cobra now occupies with 30 days until his planned opening.
“I had tons of ideas but no name, no logo, no business plan, no website, nothing,” said Brisson. “I worked nonstop and made it happen, though! Up until last week, we were still using cardboard boxes to hold the props. But that’s yoga!”
It was clear to Brisson that Yoga to the People’s highly popular donation-based model was great for making yoga accessible to those who might otherwise not be able to try it.
“YTTP proved that the donation based model could work,” said Brisson. He’s instilled a $10-$20 suggested donation for Baby Cobra, but no one will be turned away for lack of funds. “We are very affordable and welcoming!” emphasized Brisson.
Live music during many classes will also be a key offering at Baby Cobra.
“Jason Lindner, keyboardist from David Bowie’s ‘Blackstar’ album, will be improvising live electronic music for a series of classes with Nikki Ortiz, an incredible teacher and performer,” said Brisson, a musician himself.
“We’ll be increasing class times as soon as the current offerings start to fill up, so if we don’t have a class time that works for you, please check back in. Talk to us and let us know what you want! We’d love to offer as much as possible,” said Brisson.
Baby Cobra’s current class selections include vinyasa yoga, slow flow with yoga nidra (a deep state of meditation/conscious sleep), and candlelit vinyasa. You can stay up to date with Baby Cobra’s schedule on its website and Instagram.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Brisson was once an instructor at Yoga to the People. The correction was made at 9:26 p.m. on September 29.
All photos courtesy of Spencer Brisson.
For more news, sign up for Bushwick Daily’s newsletter.
Join the fight to save local journalism by becoming a paid subscriber.