On another icy and unpleasant Monday morning, Yoga Sleuth trudged to the northern tip of Greenpoint for Christina Mattus’ community class at Usha Veda Yoga. With the harsh weather conditions and possibility of taking a snow day off from work, Christina’s relaxing, yet strengthening flow seemed like just what the doctor ordered.
I have my favorite teachers at Usha Veda whose classes I attend a few times a month, but I hadn’t attended Christina’s class until she unexpectedly subbed for one of them (note that Usha Veda posts the most up to date information on their Facebook page rather than on the website). I left that class feeling renewed and refreshed, and was happy to have found another favorite at the studio.
Usha Veda is a small, but well-appointed space. It is clean and bright, and feels cheerfully homey. They offer affordable $10 Community Classes Monday through Friday at 11am (cash only) taught by the wonderful staff and attended by neighborhood regulars.
Christina greeted each student and made sure to know everyone’s names as well as any injuries or special issues they might be working with. She asked if there were any special requests, and thanked us for coming to class on such a lousy day. We began with three Oms.
We started our warm-up with several Cat/Cows, linking with the breath and finding our own style of movement. We then flowed from Downward Dog to Plank, through Knees-Chest-Chin. Christina’s soothing voice and measured instruction added to the peaceful energy of the room. The sound of sleet (or perhaps it was “wintry mix”) outside made me feel especially grateful to be practicing yoga indoors.
The pacing of Christina’s class is quite masterful. Beginning with fairly basic and easy poses to focus on linking the breath and movement, the flow grew to include more challenging combinations and poses like Warrior 3 and Bound Side Angle. She also changed the perspective of the movement so that we would face the back of the room and change sides by turning from one side of the mat to another.
I found it interesting that Christina often began the more difficult flows on the left side as opposed to the usual right side first. She said that since most people are weaker on the left side, this is a good way to help build strength there. And I did find that my Warrior 3s and Standing Splits definitely felt a little more powerful when we began with the left side first. It’s always good to find new techniques to shake things up a bit when one has been practicing yoga for so many years, and I get the feeling that Christina has a wealth of tricks to share.
We cooled down with a long and glorious restorative sequence. There were forward bends and restorative Bridges (using a block under the sacrum). We also stretched out the hamstrings and lower back using a strap around the ball of the foot as we lay on our backs. To close, we fell into a peaceful Savasana with the sound of snow plows and shovels on Manhattan Avenue.
Rushing off into what ended up NOT being a snow day, I felt very thankful for my peaceful and strengthening start to the day.
-Abby Payne for Yoga Sleuth
Community classes are $10 (cash only) with $1 mat rental.
Regular drop-in classes are $18. New students can sign up for a $27 unlimited intro week.