When temperatures are in the single digits, there's only one place this Sleuth will happily trek across town to and that's yoga class. When that class is at the warm and welcoming Harlem Yoga Studio on bustling 125th Street, you can bet a smile will be frozen across my face - and that's not just because of the subzero wind chill.
Harlem Yoga Studio, conveniently close to the 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 trains, is one of those neighborhood studios where you immediately feel at home. Many of the students are drop-in converts who've become regulars checking in for the various class offerings like vinyasa flow, full-figured yoga and yoga barre, to name a few. An affordable studio (classes are a real deal at $14), HYS evokes a true feeling of community and accessibility.
The group for our Saturday afternoon vinyasa class already had their mats set up in the space when I made my way into the practice room. Our teacher, Lexie Jordan, had set the mood with a little Radiohead, which had playing softly, before turning it down to welcome us all and open our practice.
Lexie began class by having us take a comfortable seat, suggesting that we use a blanket or two for better support. We took a moment to check in with our breath and tune into our bodies. Lexie had us sit tall and take several tension-relieving, to-do-dismissing breaths before moving on to subtle movements in Cat/Cow.
Taking our first Downward Facing Dog, we peddled out our feet as Lexie invited us to do what felt good in our bodies as they began to awaken and thaw out.
Lexie's deep and velvet-toned voice is an instant tension-tamer. As we started to move back and forth between Plank and Down Dog to build heat, the sound of her sonorous cues began to melt in with the music she eventually turned back up to a groove-y, but not overly imposing volume.
By the time we had entered into our first Sun Salutations, the beat had kicked in and we were vibing along with the rhythm of our breath and the tempo of the tunes, the pace never rushed, but keeping a measured slow flow. This was a 90-minute class, but Lexie had guided us into such a meditative zone that it might as well have been twice that long and we would have been just fine none the wiser.
At one point, after transitioning through a Warrior 2 to Warrior 1 to Peaceful Warrior sequence, Lexie invited us to go through the flow on our own on both sides. Encouraging us to take our time and linger where we felt compelled to linger, the class was at once a collection of individual yoga practices meeting together again in Down Dog.
Lexie's class is a slow flow but it's a also a slow burn. While we moved through our chair shape to our Eagle Pose to our Warrior 3, we built a steady heat creating a righteous steam on the windows facing the cold outside. Taking three-legged Dog, we worked our core, bringing our knee to our nose, then to our right tricep, and then to our left. The movement never felt strained or belabored though, which was in large part due to Lexie's uncanny ability to weave poses seamlessly together while granting the space and freedom for us to inhabit our own practice without haste.
Our next standing sequence brought us through Triangle and into Half Moon, with the option to half or full bind. Throughout class, Lexie was consistently providing variations and options to her mixed-level group of students, allowing for us to dial it back or take it a step further, meeting us where we were at.
Transitioning to the floor and onto our bellies, we took several backbends including Sphinx and Locust before being given the option to bend into Bow. A few forward folds and twists later we were settling down into a hip-stretching Pigeon. Finally rotating onto our backs we found Savasana. Lexie made her way around the room giving lovely and soothing adjustments while the music faded into silence.
An Om sealed in our practice. And as we exited the studio and piled on our layers, the soft sounds of friendly chatter and the voice of a warm and welcoming yoga community echoed down the stairwell and followed me onto the street. Just in time as it started to snow.
-Holly C. for Yoga Sleuth
Drop-in classes are $14, with $1 mat rental. New students can enjoy 3 classes for $25.