Yoga Sleuth navigated the great wide avenues of midtown one chilly Saturday night, entering a building on 36th Street like a person with a proper job (who apparently goes to work Saturday night?). Keshava Radha yoga studio is located smack in the middle of midtown, on the tenth floor of an office building. As a Brooklynite who doesn’t expect anything to be above the fourth floor, these sorts of spaces are often hard to find. But in the downstairs lobby, one of the studio’s founders (Keshava Goldman) was there with a gaggle of friendly students, and they directed me to the proper floor.
I entered the small studio lobby and was greeted by the other founder of the studio (and my teacher for the evening), Radha Liqver-Goldman. We had never met, and I found her to be extremely helpful and friendly. She told me what I could expect from class (called “Yoga By Radha” on the website): a slower flow and holding poses in order to build heat. I felt a little tired and also cold, so this sounded good to me. I filled out a form detailing my yoga experience (realizing that I’ve passed ten years of practice, which simultaneously shocked me and made me feel very thankful).
I entered the spacious, minimally decorated studio, where all of the mats were already set in place. I had brought my own, so I placed it over one of the rentals for an extra cushy base. There were some students already in the room, and the energy of the space was very peaceful. Having the mats already in place took away the stress and the flurry of students trying to get the spot they want, rearranging mats like so many Tetris blocks, and let us get right into the business of relaxing. And in fact, all of the students were already on their backs in Savasana.
With the lights low, and very subtle, soothing music playing, Radha took us through a relaxation exercise so that each part of the body became unlocked with the breath. Her voice (complete with a lovely accent) is very clear and soothing, and a few of my fellow students were snoring away, which I remember thinking was a wonderful way to begin class.
After several minutes of this, we came slowly out of Savasana to find a seat. We began a slow, measured warm-up that was subtle as well as deep. Sitting cross-legged, we tucked the chin and leaned far back, straightening the arms with the hands on the knees. On the inhale, we slowly moved forward, bending the elbows and arching the spine. It was a sort of modified Cat/Cow. This was repeated several times with the eyes closed, linking all movements to breath and eventually moving into a very well engineered Seated Spinal Twist.
As class progressed, we took Downward Dog and then held Plank for quite a few breaths (Radha delivering on her promise to me before class!). Her peaceful, low-key instruction and count here made the intense moment much easier. She instructed us to hold Plank with the same tone and energy she had used in the relaxation exercise.
The flow throughout class was very simple and traditional, and each pose was given a great deal of time and attention. Lunges, twists, and even Downward Dog were built carefully and mindfully with Radha’s instruction. Holding Chair for several breaths was challenging, but Radha’s teaching made me feel like it was worth it, and like I could definitely do it.
Something else I found challenging was Radha’s tendency to have us close our eyes through much of the practice. I found balance and alignment more difficult with closed eyes, but I also liked the peaceful, inward nature of the practice, and how it allowed me to focus more on the breath.
We finished class with a Shoulderstand followed by Fish Pose. Our very last pose was something I had never done in class before: lying on our backs, we lifted our straight legs so that they hovered just an inch above the mat. Then, Radha told us to lift our arms as well. We held this for several shaky breaths, but Radha encouraged us to stick with it, that it would deepen our relaxation. And when we were told to let our bodies release into Savasana, it was truly a release!
Class ended almost exactly as it had begun. After a long rest, we came to a seat and chanted our final Oms. Radha thanked us for coming, and went from student to student offering cups of green tea from a lovely ceramic tray. I loved this gesture of hospitality (and I love green tea). As I left the peaceful warmth of Radha’s class and rode the elevator down into the cold bowels of midtown, I marveled at this gem of a yoga community dwelling amongst the offices and high-rises.