On the night after the longest night of the year, a hyper-busy Yoga Sleuth was itching to settle down for a long winter’s grounding practice. This brought him to Sangha Yoga Shala in Williamsburg, in the last week of its residency in #2H at 207 North 3rd, before starting the New Year in a bigger and brighter studio on the floor above.
Katie Fraumann welcomed me and signed me in, and soon we were supine on our mats, clasping our elbows behind our heads for an opening full-body stretch. “Begin to lengthen your spine and lengthen your breath,” she said in calming tones. “Start to slowly relax down your shoulders and your head.”
Releasing our elbows we raised our right leg, taking a strap around the heel. We yearned the straight leg to the ground, perpendicular to our torsos. Mine was objecting so Katie helped me to get it there, giving an incredible stretch to my reluctant calf and hamstring. Then she guided that leg across my body for an intense but amazing IT band stretch, while reminding me to keep the other leg active and the foot flexed. “Feel it pin itself down towards the mat as the right leg opens.”
I was feeling very tight after a few days off the mat, and Katie spotted this immediately. “Can you straighten your leg?” she asked as a folded (or tried to) into Pyramid Pose. “This is as far as I can right now,” I said, glancing sadly at my still-bent front knee. “We can fix that!” she grinned.
Katie, a Kula alum as well as an Integral Yoga-trained prenatal instructor, is a marvel with assists. She opened my side body in extended side angle much further than it was usually willing to go, and helped me win the battle with my hamstring in Triangle Pose.
We came to Tripod Headstand formation but stayed in the prep, massaging the crowns of our heads against the mat. The vinyasa sequence was slow enough that we could savor every moment; the standing sequence was comprised of several breaths in Warrior 1, 2, reverse Triangle, Triangle and Extended Side Angle.
“Enjoy each little inch, each centimeter, as your body opens,” encouraged Katie. “Take your time. Breathe into the hamstrings.” She cued us to go slowly, feeling every little bit of every movement as we flowed to the fitting tones of a droning cello reverberating throughout the studio.
After putting the hamstrings through more trials in Scandasana, we proceeded to open the hips in Lizard and let the emotions of 2014 go in Pigeon. Katie encouraged us to massage the third eye by moving our heads gently in the prone pose.
We finished up with a supine twist that my body welcomed enthusiastically, and Katie massaged our necks and shoulders as we took our first Savasana of the season.
By the end of class my tight muscles were back on form—and even more important, my mind was clear and calm. By the time I left the changing room, I saw that no one was left in the studio but myself and Katie!
“I always take so long to leave,” I groaned.
“No, that’s a good sign after class!” said Katie. She explained that it meant that I had ceased hurrying and was exhibiting a clear symptom of mindfulness.
Thrilled to be back in the moment, I promised I’d be back again some day (soon!), and left to enjoy the first night of a hopefully grounding winter.