Located in Washington Heights right by the A train and very close to The Cloisters is Mind Body Soul Yoga, a small, homey neighborhood yoga studio. Upon entering, there is a cute boutique with handmade spiritual jewelry, yoga equipment, and yoga themed T-shirts for sale at the front desk. There's also a community table and a fridge with refreshments providing a space for yogi(ni)s to hang out and chat. It's a personable, friendly studio that offers specialty healing sessions like acupuncture, massage and Shamanic energy medicine, besides hosting a full schedule of classes for adults as well as children.
The studio room is well stocked with mats, blocks, straps and bolsters and has a gorgeous green Tara mural for us to stare at up front. As I set up my spot, Colleen Kerns was speaking with students about their yoga experience and potential injuries. It turns out there were people injuries as well as students brand new to yoga, which meant we were going to be taking it slow. But lucky for us all, this slow-paced Hatha class was the perfect setting for each of us.
Colleen is a very experienced yogini and teacher who has been practicing yoga since the eighties. She is also well-versed, meticulously describing each movement as she lead us through the practice.
We began with a slow Cat and Cow and a sequence that involved getting into Downward Dog, then bending our knees and hovering them off floor. We would also hold Plank for several breaths before slowly taking it all the way to the floor, followed by a Baby Cobra and experimenting with taking our hands off floor.
Colleen encouraged every student to place their hands on blocks moving into low lunge. Then we would drop the back knee and take a side stretch followed by a lunge twist, again using the blocks for our hands. This would evolve into runner's stretch or Ardha Hanumanasana followed by Parsvottanasa, although Colleen rarely named the poses, rather she described the specific body movements of how to get into them.
Additional poses practiced included Chair Pose, Warrior 1, Devotional Warrior and a Supported Warrior 3 with our hands on blocks. Each movement was held for a good five breaths. It was slow, all right, but not necessarily easy. Beginners’ classes are no joke.
Building on the challenges, Colleen offered a Chair Pose but balancing on one leg with the other leg crossed like ankle to knee. As an added challenge we then took our hands to the floor.
From our Downward Dog we jumped through to Dandasana and followed with other seated postures like Sukhasana, then taking a forward fold at the hinge of our hips. From Sukhasana, Colleen then had us swing the right leg back behind us and helped us carefully set up for Pigeon prep by bringing our hands onto blocks and using this as an aid to square of our hips before folding forward.
Coming onto our backs we then went through a rhythmic movement of rolling up vertebrae by vertebrae into Bridge, bringing our hands down by our sides, then rolling down vertebrae by vertebrae bringing our arms up above us. Finally, Colleen talked us through some easy supine twists before we rested in Savasana.
At the end of class, Colleen stayed behind to talk to the beginners answering questions and offering encouragement, advising them that if they kept to class twice a week they would find they'd make a progression in their practice.
-Marie Carter for Yoga Sleuth
Drop-in classes are $20. New student special: 4 classes for $40.