As the days grow longer and the nights grow shorter, so should the weeks. Or at least that’s what I was thinking when I skipped out of work early on a recent Friday afternoon to catch Janna Siegel’s vinyasa flow class at YogaWorks Union Square. Fridays can be wildcard days, sometimes exhilarating, sometimes exhausting. What I’ve found in Janna’s class is that no matter how drained from the week or energized for the weekend, sixty minutes on the mat with her guidance is the perfect end and beginning.
As I entered the lobby area in time to check in, change in the changing rooms (convenient!) and quickly run to the loo, I could already feel the layers of the work week peeling away. The multiple locations of YogaWorks each vary in their look and appeal, and Union Square, in particular, is a nice blend of welcoming boho style and helpful amenities (complimentary tea is always a plus.)
I set up my mat in the studio, grabbed a few props from the stocked prop wall and awaited class to begin as several other like-minded Friday afternoon thinkers trickled in. Janna was already seated upon the platform at the front of the room. Her presence, eyes closed without saying a word, set the tone for the class and gave an immediate indication of her calm and meditative teaching style. As a licensed acupuncturist, Janna is also schooled in Traditional Chinese Medicine and brings that holistic approach to her yoga classes.
After introducing herself and checking in with any injuries, Janna invited us to sit on blankets and find what she referred to as our “easy equilibrium” -- creating balance in our bodies, and also settling our thoughts, letting go of all that might be still running through our minds. We began our practice by chanting Om and giving gratitude.
Not wasting any time we warmed up with a few rounds of Cat and Cow and made our way into Downward Facing Dog. The speed of the class felt swift, yet luxuriously easygoing thanks to Janna’s precise, even-keeled instruction. That may sound odd, but the manner in which Janna teaches and the sound of her voice -- measured and metronomic in the best way -- is such that that you are aware of and in tune with her cues, but aren’t startled or distracted from your practice by them.
As we moved onto our flow sequence, from Warrior II to Reverse Warrior to Triangle and Ardha Chandrasana, the poses, which many of us in class had done so many times before, felt both expansive and balanced as Janna handed out special adjustments to individual yogis throughout the room.
As some yoga teachers may appear (or present themselves) on a pedestal, Janna has a way of commanding a room while maintaining an approachable and friendly disposition. Plenty sweaty, stretched and shed of our pre-class, work week mentality, Janna brought us all to the wall to play with flipping our perspectives even more with inversions. She was careful to demonstrate preparations and modifications for Handstand before giving us space to try it out ourselves. Traveling around the room, Janna gave personal attention to those who needed it or who requested help, giving space and offering special instructions where necessary.
Throughout our practice light music played softly in the background, from indie hits to the winding down meditative sounds of “Om Nama Shivaya” chants.
Taking on Headstand, again Janna was sure to give a full demo for those trying it for the first time or who needed a refresher. As we made our own personal attempts at the king of the poses, Janna worked with students to fine-tune their Sirsasanas, going so far as to kneel down in front of the yogi next to me to eye the right and left side angles of her elbows to help her better achieve that equilibrium...upside down.
Instead of Shoulderstand we took Viparita Karani. Janna gave us the option to do the pose with or without blankets depending on how our backs felt with our legs up the wall. Transitioning into Savasana we settled onto our mats, full of both relaxation and energy, content to spend the next few minutes under the careful eye of our teacher whose knowledge and guidance would carry us out of one week and into the next.
-Holly C. for Yoga Sleuth
Drop-in Classes at YogaWorks are $22 with a $2 mat rental.