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April 2014
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Finding the First Floor with Abbie Galvin
Katonah Yoga
267 West 17th Street, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10011
212-255-2188

Fri, 10:00 AM To 11:30 AM
Open

Yoga Sleuth had read about Katonah Yoga and had heard other yogis speak highly about the studio, so she thought she knew what to expect heading to Abbie Galvin’s class for the first time on a brisk autumn morning. The studio was very easy to find (as a bonus, it’s only three blocks from my favorite coffee shop, Café Grumpy), and even with my getting-up-in-the-morning issues, I arrived right on time.

As I placed my things in a cubby and made my way into the bright, clean studio, I wondered if I was in the right place. The room was full of students in a deep supported back bend as if they’d been in place for several minutes. I checked my watch: 10:01am. (After the fact, I saw on the website that they ask all students to arrive 10 minutes early to class).  

Abbie was adjusting a student in the corner, showing a group of people what was good about her form and what needed to be corrected. I set my mat down in the middle of the room and decided to wait until someone noticed me. I felt like I had wandered into the middle of a teacher training that had been happening for weeks, and thought for a moment about stepping back out to the front desk to make sure this wasn’t the case!  

When Abbie finished with the demonstration, she walked past me and stopped, asking if she knew me. When I told her it was my first time at the studio, she asked another student to switch places with me so that I could be at a wall. Speaking to some other students who appeared to be acting as assistants, she said “let’s get her in a back bend.”  

I was immediately a little trepidatious, as I was not warmed up in the least and I tend to overdo it in my back (my flexibility and strength don’t always match up). But I needn’t have feared. Abbie had me sit in a Baddha Konasana. She pulled my feet further out in front of me, so that the pose became more like a Tarasana and told me that I need to balance my weight better and that previously I was leaning forward, not balanced on my perineum (which she called the “first floor”).

She said that my “second floor (heart, chest, shoulders) is ok, but that I tend to dwell in the “third floor” (the head, i.e. the imagination).  Examining my feet, she told an assistant that I have “beautiful heels” and nice arches, but the calluses on my big toes meant that I am a worrier (I am.). As she noted each part of the foot, she connected it to another part of my body, but all of this happened so fast that I was unable to remember which. At any rate, once she had my “first floor” set up properly, she took a strap behind my back and helped me open my chest. This was the back bend, and it felt glorious. My observers concurred that it looked better.

Once Abbie was done with me, she said, “ok, we should get started.” Class hadn’t even started yet! Wow!  I knew I was in for an interesting 90 minutes.

We “began” in Downward Dog with our knees deeply bent (“butt up in the air!” Abbie said energetically). She urged us to press through our palms, but not to put weight on the pinkie fingers. This tiny adjustment did make a big difference, changing the distribution of the weight and the muscle work. This was a common theme throughout class. Abbie would lead us into a seemingly basic pose, and then with her precise alignment corrections, the pose would change completely.  

In every pose, at least one student was selected as an example. Abbie would help and adjust them, explaining exactly what she was doing, while the rest of the class looked on. It was extremely informative. I felt that in this 1 ½ hour class I learned more about alignment than I would in an expensive workshop that would last a whole day or a weekend. I learned a lot. And my fellow students seemed just as hungry for knowledge. Almost everyone seemed very eager to be “the example.” In fact, as Abbie laid out several straps, mapping out the “points” of Pigeon Pose in the middle of the room, one man actually raised his hand and asked if he could demonstrate.

At one point in the class, the student next to me got up and adjusted me, helping me to open my lower back. For the rest of class, she continued to help me get deeper into my poses. In the thousands of yoga classes I have attended, this is the only time a fellow student has jumped off of her own mat to adjust me!  

No, there is certainly no hiding in Abbie Galvin’s class.  She seems to have an eye on every student in the room, in equal parts praising or correcting. She imparts a tremendous amount of information, and everything that I was able to absorb made a lot of sense. I have been practicing yoga very steadily for the last eight years, but in Abbie’s class, each familiar old pose felt brand new. And before class was even over, I could feel a change in my body. It felt…aligned!  

Class continued to flow on past the end time, and students began to filter out while many of us were still in a supported Supta Virasana.  I had to leave while those who were left began to settle into Shoulderstand.  As I packed up, Abbie came over and checked in with me (as I said, she seems to have an eye on every student at all times!). I got the sense that she would remember me next time, even if it were months from now. As I left the studio, Abbie was continuing to adjust and explain, and I left the room much as I had found it.

Single classes are $20. New students can purchase 3 classes for $30. Mats can be borrowed free of charge.

-Abby Payne for Yoga Sleuth


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