With a wonky weekend subway schedule, it took this Yoga Sleuth a bit longer than expected to make it to Brooklyn’s new SYNCSTUDIO for co-director Karla Misjan’s Saturday morning offering, but it was worth the trip. Tiptoeing into the studio as the other nine students were comfortably exploring Supta Padangusthasana, I grabbed my props and set myself up, going through both sides with my belt hooked on my foot to open up each hip evenly, meeting up with the class once it was time to hug the knees in toward the chest.
Rolling up onto all fours, we Cat-Cowed our way up to Downward Dog, moving back and forth through Plank before playing with some lunges. Soon we were standing at the top of our mats, where Karla asked us to grab a block. Squeezing the block between our hands, our arms activating as we reached them out at shoulder height, Karla instructed us to reach down through the toes and pull up through the arches of the feet to help ignite our legs. Then we raised the block overhead, finding Utthita Hastasana.
With our legs still working, we took the arms up and down a few times, connecting the movement with the breath. After about four reps, we then took the arms overhead (still squeezing the block), then bent the arms at the elbows so that the block came behind our head, our forearms becoming parallel with the ceiling. Noticing a few pained grimaces throughout the room, Karla was stern yet sympathetic: “Do your best to stay with it,” she said. “It’s hard, but it will feel great afterward, I promise.”
Keeping the focus on the shoulders just a bit longer (in hindsight, foreshadowing what was to come) we ditched the blocks and took our hands behind our head for a few breaths, then took the elbows forward to hug them in toward the side of the face.
Then it was time to move. Gliding through different Sun Salutation variations, we eventually found a few Warrior I’s, some segueing into Devotional Warrior.
Karla next took her place at the side of the room, where we all took a wide stance to face her as she led us through concentrated movements that brought us through Padangusthasana, Warrior II and Trikonasana.
Once evened out, we came back to the top of the mat, where we twisted in Utkatasana, eventually stepping back into Parivrtta Parsvakonasana, then lowering the back knee to the floor to find a lunge. Sitting back to straighten the front leg with the front foot flexed we found a juicy stretch for the hamstrings.
Next, we came to the floor, where Karla demonstrated how to use our strap and a block to find Dolphin Pose. After giving special attention and modifications to one student with tight hamstrings as we played with the sea creature, she demoed how to make an L-shape at the wall while still keeping the arms bound, hands pressing into the block.
It wasn’t too surprising, then, what was to come next: Forearm Stand. Sleuth has to say here that, as someone who has struggled with this pose for years, Karla’s careful sequencing seemed to inform my shoulders in such a way that I was able to (finally!) kick up and find the wall, a first for me, without the assistance of a fellow student or teacher, that is.
After all that flying, though, it was time to get grounded once again. To do so, we first came into Child’s Pose with our forehead resting on a block. Then we came to sit on that block, our seat elevated for Paschimottanasana, Baddha Konasana and Janu Sirsasana.
Setting the block aside, we then rolled onto our backs for a couple of Setu Bhandas, bringing the block back into play for a restorative version before we took the legs up in what Karla referred to as a modified Shoulderstand (or a variation of Viparita Karani).
Finally, time to draw ourselves deeper within, we hugged our knees into our chests, took Happy Baby, and found sweet, sweet release in a much needed and well-deserved Savasana.
-Jessica Mahler for Yoga Sleuth
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