160 Montague Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Sun, 2:00 PM To 3:15 PM
Burnt out from the holidays, yet determined to start the year off right, Sleuth headed to Yoga People in Brooklyn Heights for “Bliss Out – Restorative” with Julia Haramis the first Sunday of 2013. “First let’s do a little ‘blanket Tadasana,’” joked Julia as she showed us how to fold the blankets in the standard symmetrical position.
With properly arranged blankets bolstering us from beneath, Julia coached us into a mild version of Supported Fish. “Notice how your breath has changed, if at all, without assigning a value to it,” she said after we had rested here for several minutes. “There is a direct relationship between the breath and the mind. Relax the breath, and your mind will automatically respond.” I felt loads of accumulated tension unraveling as my mind slowed down, following my deepening breath.
Then we rolled our shoulders and stretched from side to side. “In a restorative class we start by releasing areas where we commonly hold tension so your body can feel comfortable in the poses that we hold for a longer time,” Julia explained. “The secondary breathing muscles are in the neck,” she added as we circled our head from side to side.
“Place your hands on top of your head. Now press your head up into your hands and rotate your torso left and then right,” she directed. I felt space snap-crackle-popping along my spine as my head rose up and my spine gently twisted.
“Cat and Cow creates movement in the main energy highway along the spine, to prepare our bodies for the deeper restorative postures,” Julia told us. After this we did one Downward Facing Dog (with the option to stay on hands and knees) and a few Plank/Cobra transitions to warm up a bit more.
Then we moved into Supported Bridge with a bolster or block under our sacrum. “If this doesn’t feel luscious just call me over,” said Julia, scanning the room.
This prepared us for a clever preparation for Viparita Dandasana that I had never seen before. We looped a belt around a bolster suspended over two blocks. We slipped our ankles into the loop so our legs wouldn’t bow outward as we reclined with elevated hips and legs. I felt my breath cascade along my extended spine and circulate in my throat chakra as my heart draped over the bolster and my shoulders and head rested on the floor. To counter the gentle backbend, Julia had us roll carefully onto our left side, snuggling the bolster under our right leg and arm. She gave us ample time to rest here before moving us along to our next blissful encounter.
We set up for a prone Savasana with our torso resting on a bolster and a blanket and/or block supporting our forehead. Julia treated me to a soothing fragrant oil massage at the back of my neck and I felt my breath release like a river breaking through a worn-out dam.
It can’t be easy to coordinate such a large class with so many props, but Julia made it seem so. She seemed to make it to everyone for each pose, offering subtle adjustments if needed, or placing a folded blanket on us for deeper relaxation. “The weight of the blanket on your torso allows your nervous system to relax,” she told us.
Julia gave very specific directions for entering and emerging from each pose, which helped my mind let go. I felt cradled and supported throughout the class. Nothing felt abrupt or jarring so I kept going deeper into a place of ease. “Gently begin to deepen the breath,” was our cue to begin to stir from each pose, allowing our consciousness to bubble up just enough to pay attention to the next stop on our journey. Her music was well-chosen, with soft ethereal mantras that didn’t distract from her spoken instructions.
In the transitions she invited us to keep our eyes closed and sit quietly for a moment to notice the effects of each pose. “Lower your chin to your chest. Now flicker your eyes open,” said Julia to gently move us along.
After each pose I felt more and more spacious, until finally we arrived in Savasana and my consciousness surrendered into the open-ness inside. “Notice how you feel without any idea of right or wrong,” said Julia. My mind felt more like a still calm pool than like the raging torrent I had come in with.
Finally we sat on our well-folded blankets while Julia told us to “make a fist with your right hand and cup your left hand over it. Press your fist into your lower abdomen as you bow forward, for re-grounding.” Like a swan descending from the sky, my consciousness settled back into a more relaxed version of myself. “Happy New Year,” smiled Julia.
Single class $20; new student special: one month for $45.
-Lauren Tepper for Yoga Sleuth