Yoga Sleuth found himself dazzled all over again by the golden colors and warm (in every way) atmosphere of the palatial Yoga Shanti in Chelsea. Due to ongoing teacher training, Jason Olson’s Sunday brunch time class was being held in the smaller studio. It heated up quickly due to the packed house made up of lots of regulars, including a yogi wearing an “I’m Only Here For Savasana!” t-shirt (she was lying!) Jason himself was sporting a Marvel Comics tank top, and he apologized that due to the tight squeeze he wasn’t going to be doing much demoing!
Jason had us grab three blocks and a blanket to prepare for what was to be our peak pose, Hanumanasana. He asked us about how our bodies were doing and I told him of the trials of my right leg, with its tight hammies and sore piriformis. (“Join the club!” whispered a woman next to me.)
“This will be a great class for that!” promised Jason.
We started on our backs. "Feel your body reclined but your mind awake and fresh," said Jason. "Reach your arms overhead and then bring your legs together and push through the feet like you were standing on them. Then press your hands down by your hips and bring your right leg up in the air, like you're balancing a refreshing beverage on your heel that you don't wanna spill!"
We brought the knee into the chest and took a little twist to the left. "Breathe into the opposition. It's intentional tension. We're exploring tension that's constructive, tension that builds toward somewhere else expanding. Take rest in the body where you can, but enjoy some of the awakening energy."
We rolled around to sit. "Take a moment to form an intention for your practice today," said Jason. "This can be a mantra, a prayer or just a statement in just your own mind, and body, and space." After a stretch in Down Dog, we began to flow, and Jason helped me square my hips and flatten my back in my Ardha Uttanasana. We took the "thunderbolt" variation of Utkatasana, palms pressed over our heads.
Jason, a student of Dharma Mittra, is also certified with Shiva Rea and Rodney Yee, and his knowledge of anatomy and alignment cues are masterful.
As we rose into Crescent Lunge, he guided, "Get your shoulder blades together and see if you can lift the heart space up a bit." After another flow it was time for Warrior 1, with hands clasped together above the head as we had done in Utkatasana. "Turn the back foot at a very sharp 45 degree angle," said Jason. "That is going to allow your hips to turn a little more forward." We turned to the golden side wall and stretched out into Warrior 2, followed shortly by Extended Side Angle.
We took Side Plank twice on each side, bringing the top arm over the head and raising the top leg on the second go-round. Jason told us we would have proceeded to fallen Triangle as well were the room not so packed! Sitting, we brought the right knee into the groin while the other leg stretched wide on the mat for Janu Sirsasana. Back on our feet, we took prayer twists in Chair.
We placed a block under our sit bones for Virasana, then sat back on our elbows to ease into the supine version. By this time we were all soaked and came down for a well-deserved respite in Child's Pose.
I was the model for a modified version of Upavistha Konasana. Jason had me bend my knees, then he placed blocks under my elbows as I cradled my head in my hands. "We all have limitations for different reasons," said Jason. "Some we're born with, some might be due to the sports we play. And other times it's just tension building up."
Now it was time for our peak pose of Hanumanasana. Most of us were in the half split, and we placed our hands on two blocks, using the third to support the stretched hamstring, and placed the foot on a blanket to inch it straighter.
We used those same blocks under our knees for a modified “butterfly” pose, and then took a few breaths in either upright or prone Pigeon (depending on the yogi). Then, spent but blissed, we were on our backs once more for Savasana. "On the inhale, let the face soften," said Jason, “and on the exhale bring heaviness to the legs. Just let them be, on the earth."
-Jim Catapano for Yoga Sleuth
Drop-in classes are $25 with a $2 mat rental; $15 for students, veterans and seniors.