Commuting to Brooklyn is usually a cinch for this downtown-residing Yoga Sleuth. But on this particular day my brain was in a fog, which landed me on an R train destined for the wrong direction. Fortunately, when I finally arrived at Bend & Bloom, I was welcomed by the natural warmth of bamboo floors, and my senses were immediately soothed by the serene blue branch mural.
A vibrant Lindsay Ashmun was finishing up a chat with a fellow student before heading into the yoga room to teach Open+ Flow.
After filling out the customary new student form, I made my way into class to take the last available spot - front and center of the room! Everyone was lying on their backs with a block beneath their sacrum. I set myself up a mere few inches from Lindsay who was demonstrating the warm-up which included a series of horizontal and vertical leg lifts along with several variations of abdominal curls.
After class I asked Lindsay about her warm-up sequence. “The abdominal work on our backs," Lindsay said, "was to prepare the body for the first sequence of standing asanas that required core strength and eccentric and concentric work within the abdominals - i.e Plank Pose, Chaturanga Dandasana, Bakasana and Cross Legged Uttanasana. When our sacrum was on the block, and we were doing adduction and abduction as well as leg lifts, and extending the heel on the ground, we were exploring pelvic stability with femur differentiation - Down Dog Split, Ardha Chandrasana, Warriors and Reverse Triangle - as well as psoas toning to feel the connection from upper body to lower body as in Upward Dog, Shalabhasana, and Downward Dog."
Though Lindsay didn’t do a dharma talk, or reveal the class theme in the beginning, there was a very clear sense of purpose in her sequencing as it evolved fluidly from the block supported warm-up to the invigorating standing series (which included traditional Surya Namaskars along with many innovative variations), and ultimately towards the end of class with Eka Pada Galavasana.
Transitions were also a focus as we played with jumping up to Handstand and then landing in Chaturanga. Along with moving from Crow to Half Moon.
“The theme was on the clarity and placement of the feet and legs to set the foundation for the upper body to be mobile, supple and strong, and vise versa,“ explained Lindsay in our post-class chat. “In every class I teach I hope to guide students to a more embodied state, and help deepen their proprioceptive awareness.”
Much emphasis was also placed on the breath. From the very beginning, in Cat and Cow, she guided our focus towards the breath as the initiator of the flow.
“In the simple movement of the spine, invite the practice of your Ujjayi Pranayama. From the movement, find the focus of the breath so that the breath creates the movement itself. Let the mind drop into the breath,“ she said.
While in a Vadrasana vinyasa which included a chest and quad opening series, she had us take a round of Bhastrika - belly pulling in and out of the spine.
Uddiyana Bandha showed up as we lifted out of Cat Cow, and retained the breath to Downward Dog. And Kappalabhati was introduced while in Plank.
In our conversation after class, Lindsay told me more about her use of breath work as a teacher.
“The breath work, Kriyas, and bandha work I weave into the asana practice comes straight form years of practicing Kula Flow style of vinyasa created by Schuyler Grant, and my previous years of practicing Ashtanga with Richard Freeman. My personal experience of this blending helps to concentrate/control and move the flow of prana (energy) to create both grounding and lightness in the body and focus in the mind. I also find it simply pulls the room together; people get on board with themselves and thus each other, practicing under the beautiful veil of the collective consciousness, creating rhythm and space with the breath.”
While there was an even fluidity to the entire class, some poses allowed even more of an opportunity to engage elasticity, perhaps attributed to Lindsay’s background as a dancer. In a Pigeon variation, with each arm extended out to the side, we rocked from side to side, and then Lindsey added the extra option to round in the spine for a pulsing Cat/Cow flow with the back leg lifted off the floor.
For our inversion practice, we were offered Shoulderstand, Headstand or Legs Up The Wall. And before we went upside down, Lindsey encouraged us to “check in with how your energy is, and what you need.”
From my position in Shoulderstand I noted Lindsay working with someone quite diligently on setting the blankets up for the proper foundation.
It was at this point I tuned into the relaxing playlist, an instrumental blend of string sounds: violins, cellos and electronics.
By the time we took Savasana, my body had completely let go.
When I asked Lindsay about her intention in teaching, she replied, “I teach to gather and release energy from the body, to steady the mind, and break open the heart.”
-Elysha Lenkin for Yoga Sleuth
Drop-in classes are $18. New student special: 3 classes for $30.