Exploring Yang Yin with Michelle Critch-Gilfillan
Yoga Sleuth had just taken the Path train for the first time (not even from New Jersey, just from midtown!) and was primed for a new experience as I headed to my first Yang Yin class at Modo Yoga. I had never been to Modo, but a good friend is in the work study program there,and she swears by the invigorating classes. I was intrigued. The studio is conveniently situated in the West Village, in a second floor space. It is one of those studios that appears super neat and organized. It’s clean and bright, with several cheerful staff members available to help. Because I had been to a few hot yoga classes before, I knew to rent a towel from the studio and to bring a large bottle of water. Both items are highly necessary when attending this class. Early in my non-hot Vinyasa practice, I learned that it is considered a no-no to drink water during practice. One of my teachers said it “puts out the fire you are building in your belly” or something like that. When I tried it, I realized he was totally right and that I wanted to keep that fire stoking. But hot classes are definitely different. There were several pauses throughout this class where Michelle actually instructed us to drink water, and everyone did. I entered the very large, bright room where the Yang Yin class was being held and immediately felt the change in temperature. The room was more than half full, but was silent. Students meditated or did preliminary stretches in the sauna-like atmosphere. I set my mat on the edge of the room, close to a window. I had heard that the wall spots tend to be slightly cooler, so I decided that might be best for me. By the time Michelle had entered the studio and introduced herself I had become a little more accustomed to the heat. We began in Savasana, which seemed promising. Michelle told us that she would be our guide on our journey through Yang and Yin today, but that we should also listen to our bodies and take water and rest when we need it. Led by Michelle’s soothing voice and equally soothing music selection, we began with a slow and steady flow. This was the “Yang” portion of the class. The motions were quite simple (Cat/Cow, Crescent Lunge, Bhujangasana), and we went through them at a fairly slow pace. But in the heat, I eventually found that each pose was feeling different than usual, and that for me the beginner-type flow was a new and interesting challenge. The students around me all appeared to be seasoned hot yoga vets, wearing as little clothing as possible (which I would recommend…my tank top and long yoga shorts began to feel like a wool onesie after a bit), loving the slow hot honey flow. Michelle gave us plenty of breaks in Balasana, which gave me a moment to pause and explore how my body was feeling. I have to say that for me it wasn’t necessarily good or bad, but it was…different. And for someone who has practiced vinyasa yoga very steadily for ten years, sometimes different is really excellent. It’s easy for me to get comfortable and therefore stuck in a certain way that I do poses.
For example, I know I have tight hamstrings, so Uttanasana and Paschimottanasana are usually taken with a slight knee bend and are generally pretty challenging for me. But the heat and the beautifully simple flow that Michelle led us through changed things up a bit. My body began to feel looser, and more flexible. I can definitely see why so many yogis swear by their hot practice. The last twenty five minutes or so of class was the Yin portion, which felt wonderful. (The Modo website promises that “you’ll feel amazing after this one,” and I find that Yin is often credited with that effect.) We held Balasana, Pigeon, and seated forward bends for several breaths, allowing the body to breathe and sweat deeper into each pose. When we reached Savasana, I have to admit that I was already halfway there. Michelle had led us on a simple and sweet journey, and it was time to relax. -Abby Payne for Yoga Sleuth
Single drop-in classes are $20. New members can purchase one month of unlimited yoga for $40.
434 6th Avenue, 2nd Floor New York, NY 10011