I'm Terrified of Heights, but I Decided to Live Life on the "Edge" at Hudson Yards
As someone with a lifelong fear of heights, I pulled myself together to take a yoga class with Equinox at 6:30 a.m., 101 stories above New York City at the Edge in Hudson Yards, the highest outdoor sky deck in the Western Hemisphere. For some reason, upon hearing about this class, I thought it would be off the fifth floor of the building, but I quickly realized we'd be 1,100 feet in the air.
The weekly 45-minute yoga class, taught by an Equinox instructor, includes admission to the Edge, 15 minutes of after-class pictures, a tote bag with "curated wellness products," and a preplaced Equinox-branded yoga mat to be used for class. Equinox gifted me a ticket to take this class, but classes are typically $50 (Hudson Yards EQX+ members can RSVP for this class as part of their membership at no additional charge). Tickets tend to go quickly, so if you want to practice on the Edge, be sure to reserve your spot. Keep reading to hear about my experience, from entering the building to the relieving step off the elevator after class, and find out which of my fight or flight instincts kicked in during this Sky-High yoga class.
Getting Myself on the Edge
Before I get too far into this, I want to mention that I have seen a psychiatrist for my fear of heights and have been prescribed an as-needed anxiety medication that makes me incredibly drowsy. I chose to not take my medication early that morning because I thought it'd make me too drowsy to pay attention during class. (We'll get back to how that turned out for me toward the end of this class experience.)
Entering the elevator was the beginning of the Edge experience. As we went up, I was surprised with the audiovisual experience that was the seven-foot-tall animation covering three sides of the elevator. The animation detailed the journey of the creation of the Edge as we went up to the virtual 101 floor. Seeing the numbers go up exponentially, I placed my hand on the side of the elevator and immediately tapped into my deep belly breathing so I wouldn't pass out.
Arriving at the 101st floor, I stepped out into the indoor lobby, looked out of one of the windows, and saw that we were higher than the tip of the Empire State Building — yes, that high. Rounding the corner of the lobby, I stepped through the revolving doors, out to the top of the stairs to take in the breathtaking views before walking down the stairs onto the Edge. With each step down toward the yoga mat, I could feel every breeze more than I've ever felt a gust of wind and the sun felt warm like a spotlight hitting the stage.
For the beginning of class, the instructor cued us to lie on our backs. Lying on my back 101 stories in the air, I felt the most anxiety I'd had all morning. I couldn't stop myself from visualizing the emptiness beneath the edge. It made me so paranoid that I rolled onto my side to check the spaces between the slabs of concrete to make sure I couldn't see the ground below. Luckily, the instructor wasn't the type of person to call out people for making personal choices to customize the practice for their own needs. Once we got onto hands and knees, I felt much safer and my heart rate calmed down from what I could see on my Apple Watch.
Quite fitting for the experience, the 45-minute practice mainly consisted of Sun Salutes A and B. As we saluted the sun, I felt so much more sensitive to the elements. I could feel the sun rising from over my left shoulder and the breeze passing over my bare shins. If those subtle sensations weren't enough to validate the uniqueness of this experience, Warrior 2 definitely did. Opening into Warrior 2 facing the left side of the edge, in the not-so-far distance, I saw a helicopter fly by at eye level. Right away, I kept repeating the mantra "I am safe" to myself as I peeked over my right shoulder and saw the entry to the building's lower lobby, knowing that if need be, I could run inside.
Keeping my attention on the mat, I turned away from fear and toward the music that was playing in the background. Throughout the class, a soundtrack of wordless music played that gave me the feeling of being in a futuristic spa in outer space, a choice I assume was made to help the students relax.
Throughout the rest of the class, it felt like a brain game of keeping myself calm while seeing the view at different angles. For example, at one point, we were in a wide fold and I could see an airplane fly by upside down. Toward the end of practice, we did a Camel pose, which is already quite a heart-opening pose, but nerves wouldn't let me lean back too far into the pose, and I felt most comfortable upright or folded in. As class closed, we were asked to lie on our backs like we did at the start of practice, but once again, all of the calm I gathered while practicing went over the Edge as my anxiety crept back in. Instead, I closed class in a fetal position facing the lower lobby as that made me feel the most safe.
At the official end of class, I snapped some pictures with a friend and of the scenery once more and made my way to the elevator.
Overall, the actual yoga sequence itself felt very approachable for a wide range of students. While I'm not sure if the sequence is the same each week, our practice that day played into the fact that we had a unique view of the city and that we could take in the view from every angle available during the flow.
Looking back on the entire experience, I'm proud of myself for facing my fear of heights to take on this (possibly) once-in-a-lifetime experience, but my personal piece of advice to myself is that I should've taken my prescribed anxiety medication.
Now that you've taken in the written form of this experience, grab your tickets to try this one-of-a-kind Sky-High Equinox Yoga class at the Edge this summer.