Yoga Sleuth had been looking forward to checking out YogaWorks’ new Brooklyn location. Brooklyn Heights seems to be an almost perfect neighborhood, and the addition of a new excellent place to practice yoga makes it even better. (I don’t live there. Yet.). Drop-in classes at this gleaming new studio are a little pricey, but Holly Ramey’s Friday night Restorative is definitely worth it.
After checking in upstairs and changing in the state of the art locker room, I browsed their excellent selection of merchandise (with dreams of having a less faded and holey yoga wardrobe). Several tense looking, fashionably dressed after-work yogis showed up, and we all sat together in the spacious downstairs lounge, waiting for Holly’s 5:30pm vinyasa class to end so that we could go in and get our relaxation on. (It should be noted that there is free tea in the lounge, as well as free towels in the locker rooms.)
Finally, we were able to filter into the cavernous Studio 1, which was still heated by the exertion of the previous class. However, there would be no such exertion for us. Holly stood at the door, cheerfully greeting everyone and instructing us each to take two blankets, one block, and one bolster, and to set our mats up at the wall.
We began in a comfortable cross-legged pose, where Holly gently instructed us to breathe deeply and allow ourselves to grow accustomed to the peaceful space. I had been feeling pretty wired due to the excitement of the free tea as well as an unfortunate consumption of a Starbucks seasonal drink shortly before class. But soon Holly’s calming voice, combined with strategic lighting and soothing cello music had me ready to relax.
Our first restorative pose was Viparita Karani. Holly showed us how to fold a single blanket, placing it against the wall, where we would then sit and swing our legs up. I appreciated her clear instruction, as though this is such an easy and restorative pose for most people, it can be exceedingly awkward to get into. Once we were in the pose, we stayed here for several breaths, closing our eyes. Bliss.
After that, we sat on our blanket (moving it a bit away from the wall), back in our cross-legged pose. Here, we took fluid movements combined with breath, raising the arms and twisting with torso from one side to another. Holly had us close our eyes and take this meditative movement on our own time with our own breath.
Eventually we came to stillness in the center, where we held our arms in a cactus shape and made quicker twisting motions from one side to the other, as if on a hinge. We closed our eyes here, too. Holly said that both of these twisting vinyasas help to wring out the belly, and are great for intestinal health. I’ve noticed that this is a common theme for fall classes, and I love it.
When we were done twisting, we took an easy side stretch, still seated. Holly said to “let the stretch come from the bend in the elbow,” which I found to be such a good and simple way of finding a deeper and more natural stretch.
We gathered around Holly and watched as she showed the set up for the last few restorative poses, which were to be held for several breaths with the eyes closed. This was so that we could move seamlessly through them without the disruption of her having to demo. The first was called Surf Board. Two blankets were folded so that they were long, narrow, and smooth. Then, we lay our bellies on top of the blankets with our ankles and feet supported by a bolster. The head could either rest on folded arms or with the cheek to one side. I felt this in my belly as well, in a very restorative way.
The next pose had us gently flipping over onto our backs into a supported Fish variation. Here, the tail was on the mat with the rest of the back and upper body on the blankets. The shins rested over the bolster. We were given the option to take Savasana here, or come off of the props to take a more traditional rest. I opted to stay, and just took a moment to add a layer of clothing (I definitely recommend bringing such a layer to this class, as all the stillness and relaxing does not build or maintain heat). With the lights very dim, Holly came around and did a very subtle but powerful Third Eye adjustment. Honestly, I have no idea what she did, but as she held her hands over my forehead, I could feel my sinuses open up a bit and I also felt an enormous sense of well-being.
Class ended with us again in a seated pose, hands in prayer. Holly had us bow to ourselves in gratitude for this opportunity for rest and healing, and she said “the more open and accepting we are of ourselves, the more it allows us to be present for all of those we come in contact with. Our practice extends far beyond these walls.” I found this to be a good reminder, and a very fitting way to end an excellent restorative practice.
-Abby Payne for Yoga Sleuth
Single drop-in classes are $30. New students can purchase 2 weeks of unlimited classes for $30.