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Finding Tone In Balance with Dana Covello

Yoga Sleuth was greeted by an overall sense of warmth and friendliness immediately upon entering Twisted Trunk Yoga. Dana Covello, seated behind a tiny desk, made sure I was well-equipped with the basic information about the newly opened Soho studio - restrooms located in the hall (flip-flops were provided to make the short trip), changing areas were directly across from us, and cubbies were behind check-in. I settled myself towards the front of the studio, across from Ganapati at the alter, and next to a giant pillar, one of several placed throughout the loft. While I waited for class to begin, Dana proceeded to hand out three blocks to each of us. Then she sat down to talk about tone. She explained that tone usually refers to muscles, but it also means the readiness to respond. (After class, Dana told me her thinking about tone was very influenced by Amy Matthews at the Breathing Project.) She went on to clarify the difference between high tone (needs less stimulation) and low tone (needs more stimulus), and confirmed that we would work on finding the appropriate level of tone for our practice that morning which revealed the class theme - balance. The first sequence brought us to a runner’s lunge, and after doing both sides, Dana added on by bringing in blocks. With our front toes turned out, we placed one block above the back kneecap, a second and third block under our forearms, and a fourth block underneath our forehead. “I’m sure there’s also a six block option for this,” she said with a smile. After class I asked Dana about incorporating props into her teaching. “Props can help you go deeper and help you back off, to engage in one place and soften in another,” she explained. Before moving onto the next variation, Dana asked us to stand in Mountain Pose, close our eyes, and take a deep breath where we could “attend to the inhale and the exhale.” Next we came up to high lunge where Dana’s instruction was to keep the back leg active as we settled into the front leg. When we came to Downward Dog (at the end of a sequence), Dana spoke about using the pose to return the balance. “We need challenges to take ourselves off balance. Certain ones will stress your system and certain ones will be no big thing. But whatever the pose is, whatever the situation is, can you go back to balance where the breath can move with ease and the nervous system can settle?” For Handstand, we went to the wall. We started with an L balance to bring our awareness to our feet which would in turn take some effort out of the hands and shoulders. We also worked with a partner for leg presses at the wall. The intention was to slow it down so we could find the end of the pose. When I asked her after class, Dana shared why she chose this exercise to practice Handstand. “To try to get a sense of how we can place our effort in different body parts in different ways. For me, some of the challenge in an arm balance or inversion is a sense of feeling compressed in the shoulders - lots of weight and effort in one place. Becoming aware of a pose's boundary - the back leg, our feet, anything on the periphery - can shift our effort from one place to another,” she told me. The last pose of the sequence was Eka Pada Koundinyasana 2. Dana talked us through the steps in a very clear and systematic way. She asked us to place the effort into lifting the back thigh as we reached out through the back foot. For our second attempt, Dana elaborated on her instruction by recalling the work we did at the wall, finding the end of the pose. She also showed me exactly where I needed to place my hand - slightly back and to the side of my front leg which enabled me to find a fuller expression of the posture. Once down to the floor we took a nice, restorative Pigeon using a block under each shoulder and forehead. When it was time for Savasana, Dana set us up with blocks, a blanket and a strap for constructive rest. She had us bend our knees to keep the pelvis in neutral. Then we supported the legs by placing a block between them, and a strap around them. After class, in my fully relaxed state, I inquired about this set-up for Corpse Pose. “I first learned constructive rest pose from Irene Dowd over a decade ago. I've practiced the pose off and on for many years, and then recently rediscovered it again. During the month of September I participated in Brooke Thomas's Liberated Body Challenge - a 30-day movement 'cleanse.' Our assignment the first week was constructive rest every day. This was the week Twisted Trunk Yoga opened our doors and things were crazy. It was such a gift to have this simple, truly restorative pose as my homework. I would assume the position, set a timer and just be still. Such a simple practice to help settle the nervous system, release the psoas muscle, quiet my mind racing through its to-do list, and really allow myself to not do and just be.”

-Elysha Lenkin for Yoga Sleuth

Drop-in classes are $22. New Student Special: 2 classes for $30 or one week unlimited for $50.

Monday, 10:00-11:30am Open

Twisted Trunk Yoga 580 Broadway, 2nd Floor New York, NY 10012 212-334-9960

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