The ancient yogis believed that practicing up in the mountains was essential to elevating their spiritual practice. New Yorkers have rooftops to escape the hustle and bustle and potentially bring us closer to ourselves. The difference is that most of the rooftops lack the component of being in nature. While the ancients could look down at trees and foliage, we have cabs and concrete. That is until a partnership formed between yoga teacher Sarah Capua and Anastasia Cole Plakias, one of the founding partners of the Brooklyn Grange, a commercial urban farm that grows hundreds of thousands of organic vegetables for New York restaurants.
Plakias had come to Sarah because she heard that yoga could help alleviate some of the pain from working on a farm. Once Plakias found relief, she thought it would be a good idea to bring Sarah to the farm so other workers could benefit. Then the idea spiraled. Why not invite everyone to the farm to benefit from the calming effects of nature and yoga?
When I asked Sarah what makes these different from other outdoor yoga classes, she said, “what feels different is that when students walk through the door, their eyes widen, everything gets softer when they take a step onto the farm, and suddenly everyone is friends with everyone else. It's very special.”
There’s a kind of quiet up there, unlike any other. It is like stepping into the clouds. Part of that magic comes from the surprise of being on a farm without leaving the city; it’s almost other worldly with all that greenery. And in some ways it’s a metaphor for the practice that Sarah leads.
Her classes are in the style of Krishnamacharya which emphasize coordinating breath and movement. The class builds from a particular theme or focus, such as heart opening or letting go, and all the poses are offered to the individual practitioners to meet them at their level, so they can go deep into their own experience. It is slower than your typical city vinyasa because “the sudden shift from city world to natural world immediately sets the students in a calm, open space, and I try to capitalize on that in our practice” says Sarah.
Going to class is like a mini-retreat in itself, and just the shift in space - that of leaving the city and going to the farm - reminds me of the way internal space and can shift and a new awareness of something I hadn’t noticed or thought of becomes clear. Through my breath, I can find new ways to access different parts of my body. Sarah purposely doesn’t bring music so students can work with the breath and listen deeply to internal soundtracks while the birds join in the chorus, and the breeze rustles through the trees adding another melody.
Even though summer is ending, The Farm at the Brooklyn Grange, above the Brooklyn Navy Yard, will be offering rooftop yoga through October. Sarah's classes, which cost $15, are on Tuesdays at 7:45 pm. For more information, click here.