In the light-hearted spirit of summer, Yoga Sleuth decided to have some fun with the practice and head over to Strala NYC. When perusing the website beforehand, I came across Anna Gannon’s profile - “sweet as cherry pie” and “can linger in handstand for days.” With this zesty mix of strength and sweetness, her class was sure to be a treat.
I entered the stark, white yoga room to the tune of “Pompeii (But If You Close Your Eyes)” by Bastille blasting from the speakers. There were props placed up front, but I noticed no one had taken a block or blanket to their mat.
Anna breezed in with the greeting, “Happy Friday.” She switched the music to a softer selection then sat cross legged to start class.
After we focused our breath with gentle arm lifts, we came to all fours. Here we were guided towards a series of Cats and Cows incorporating a range of freestyle moves to accommodate our body’s needs. I looked up front to see Anna rounding her hips from side to side while asymmetrically lengthening and lowering each arm.
We made our way to Downward Dog where the pace picked up for the warm up. It started in Down Dog Split then went into Low Lunge.
“Sink into your hips,” said Anna before flipping around to face the back of the room for another Low Lunge. We did several rounds of this – Low Lunge facing the front, then Low Lunge facing the back, cart wheeling our hands in-between. A set of push-ups came right after. (And showed up many more times throughout class.)
The brisk pace continued for most of the 60 minutes making it tough for my mind to wander. The second I stopped paying attention, I lost track of the flow. But that didn’t leave me as the only one doing my own thing. Anna encouraged us to feel our bodies through the poses which meant moving as only we could while exploring each shape. Looking around, I often saw three or four personal variations taking place.
The theme of self-exploration led to many opportunities for “play time” which Anna enhanced by turning up the music. For Handstand practice, the lyrics “It’s gonna take time, a whole lot of precious time” (from “Got My Mind Set On You” by George Harrison) added a whole other layer of support.
Anna split her time by demonstrating the poses up front (and switching to the side, or back when we switched our focal point), and walking around the room giving hands on assists. As we were ending a free-form Handstand session, she assured me with a smile that she was coming to me next. Which she did, and helped me hang out in Handstand for a nice minute.
The first time we went down to the floor wasn’t to relax, it was to do some serious core strengthening in Boat Pose variations - High Boat, Low Boat and a twist to each side. (My abs were very sore the next day.)
We came back up to Standing Forward Bend for a few more upright poses which included Warrior 2, Warrior 3, Half Moon and Revolved Half Moon.
Other strengthening postures included Dolphin, with option for Forearm Stand, and Horse which was held for two minutes. During that hold, Anna cranked up the music loudly which inspired several to find their inner dance party.
There were many moments dedicated to dancing, or personal expression. At one point, I overheard Anna tell another student to choose his own adventure on the way to an arm balance.
The next time we went to the floor it was to relax, in Pigeon.
Closing poses came next, and we were given options: Happy Baby, Plow and Shoulderstand.
Final rest followed. Anna offered lavender oil and a soothing head massage which instilled the practice.
After class, I felt energized - both from Anna’s teaching, and Gloria Estefan’s “Conga” which played as I left the room.
-Elysha Lenkin for Yoga Sleuth
Drop-in classes are $18.
New Student Special $20 for 1 week unlimited, $40 for 2 weeks unlimited, $80 for 1 month unlimited