The first thing Yoga Sleuth did when he made his first trip to Brahman Yoga was to do a 360 and take in the beauty of the place. The spacious 3rd floor loft, adorned with huge potted plants, is like a Yoga Cathedral, with huge windows overlooking 145th street and letting in sun and blue sky, Convent Avenue Baptist Church towering majestically in the distance. I set my mat in the front as the other yogis filed in behind me, and Nick Ferrara welcomed us to the new yoga place to be in West Harlem.
Nick explained that for the past few days, he had been going over and over in his mind what he wanted to say and share at the top of class. "I woke up this morning, and didn't quite have it. I was taking the train here and decided, ‘When I get there, if I want to say something, I will. But I'm not going to worry about it.’ And in that moment of letting go there was peace. Let whatever happens, happen. We're always calculating in our lives, planning out the best solution. But when you can let go of that and just have faith, whether it be in God or your own intellect, usually it all happens in the right way."
With "Let it Go" as our theme (sans Frozen soundtrack), we plunged into a 75 minute power vinyasa. Nick suggested we sit on our cork blocks in Hero's Pose, and then he began guided Pranayama. We inhaled and exhaled on his verbal count, then made each longer and deeper. After a few rounds, Nick added holds at the top of each inhale and bottom of each exhale. The hold counts grew longer too, and then we receded, letting go of the holds and finding our way back to normal breathing.
We then went to lie down, but this was just a tease, as we hit the ground balancing in Boat Pose. We toggled between Navasana and Ardha Navasana to fire up the core, then rolled up to stand and folded down into Uttanasana.
"Take this opportunity to start engaging your center," said Nick as we held our first Plank. "Pull that belly up into your spine, reaching forward.” We brought the weight into the balls of our feet, then into our hands, going back and forth. “When you change this weight you realize how to engage every muscle in your body, in a full connection," Nick advised. We glided forward into Baby Cobra, using the power of the tops of our feet, our quads and hips.
"Ground your forefinger and your thumb, finding that muscle where they connect in your palm," said Nick as we took a break in Child's Pose. He asked us to bear that in mind as we pulled up into Downward Dog. "Engage your triceps, pull your armpits towards each other." Nick suggested I inch my hands a little wider on the mat to strengthen my particular Dog, and I felt the difference instantly.
We proceeded into a brisk, one-breath one-movement sequence, progressing through all three Warriors, Triangle, Extended Side Angle, and Half Moon. In the latter Nick suggested we challenge ourselves by lifting the bottom hand off the ground, or block. He helped me straighten my back leg in standing split by having me press my back foot into his palm, and then we accumulated some air miles in Handstand prep. In between we threw in some high and low lunges, where we reached for the back foot for an intense quad stretch. We worked the core in Forearm Plank for a count of five.
"Enjoy this feeling of getting stronger!" encouraged Nick. We spent a spell in Lizard, and experimented with both prayer and lunge twists before planting our sit bones on the mat for a Seated Spinal Twist. I was a sweaty mess by the time we lied down for supine twists, and I was happy to be so!
Winding down, we reached for our ankles for Happy Baby. "We're working on lengthening out the entire spine, including getting that sacrum and tailbone down to the floor," said Nick. "If it doesn't get there today it's ok. One day it will." Finally, we closed our eyes and into Savasana we went. "Let go," said Nick, reprising our theme. "Breathe into the new space you created today."
-Jim Catapano for Yoga Sleuth
Drop-in Classes at Brahman Yoga are $5 with a $2 mat rental. Weekday 1pm and Weekend 2pm classes are by-donation.