A serene studio elegantly dressed with candlelight and live music is the kind of atmosphere any stressed yogi would love to flow into, especially after a hectic work week. So when I was invited to join Danielle Tafeen’s Candlelit Flow – Freestyle Friday evening class at Sacred Sounds Yoga in the West Village, exhaustion was not a valid excuse to skip. Thankfully, 80 minutes spent under Danielle’s tranquil spell is the perfect way to melt away the stress from the week and re-center into your own presence.
Upon entering the studio, I was welcomed by a 30-something musician casually strumming his acoustic guitar in the front of the room. Any sign of flourescent lighting was concealed and aromas of lavender essential oils wafted through my senses. I continued to follow the flickering path of candles lining the room until settling on a spot upfront. Unrolling my mat, I immediately felt the heaviness of any unresolved worry and anxiety begin to lift.
As soon as Danielle entered the room, her presence created an instant calming effect. A background in Shamanic Ceremonies of the Amazon first lit the spiritual path for this Zen goddess, followed by her devotion to yoga.
After settling into Sukhasana at the front of the room, Danielle pulled out a small journal and began asking everyone (by first name) to shout out what they’d like to work on during class. “Hip openers” someone shouted. “Arm strength” another called out. When she got to me, she introduced herself and explained that she creates the sequences around her students’ requests. Very exciting.
What turned into a soulful vinyasa class - set to live music and lit only by candles - first began with a few moments of sitting meditation allowing the mind to achieve a deeper state of stillness, enhanced by the darkness. Once we fluttered our eyes open, the class was directed into a few rounds of Cat and Cow to heat the body.
Moving into our freestyle sequence, Danielle managed to add simple modifications onto a few series of Surya A and Surya B. While the class continued to flow as a whole, she would mindfully call out special modifications in order to integrate each individual’s request, like adding a push-up between Chaturanga and Upward Facing Dog for arm strength (which I kindly passed on).
This seasoned instructor remained present throughout the entire class and even made it a point to offer hands-on adjustments to every practitioner at least once. Both her presence and smile illuminated the dimly lit room and her joyful soul was magnetic when stepping into your space on the mat.
As we began to cool down and find our way to Savasana, Danielle returned to the front of the room and began chanting, along with the sounds of acoustics playing softly in the background. Her voice was an extraordinary reflection of her spiritual being.
We closed the practice by chanting Om together three times. As the last syllable began to organically fade out and the guitar strings slowly found silence, once again, all that remained in this serene setting was an awareness of pure presence.
-Ashley Rose Howard for Yoga Sleuth
Drop-in classes are $20. Mat rental available for $2, water for $1.