It was a busy week for Sleuth. The kind of week when a 90-minute yoga class was out of the question. And, though carving out the time to practice would be difficult, the prospect of not practicing this week was even harder to take.
Enter Nora Heilmann’s 55-minute vinyasa flow at YogaWorks Soho, the perfect solution to fitting yoga into a tight schedule.
With a 7:30 a.m. start, arriving at the studio was a beyond brisk experience - frigid temps with snowfall and all. Nora had us begin seated for Kapalabhati breath work to start our warm-up internally.
“I am finding the cleansing practice of Kapalabhati a nice way to get connected to the breathing mechanism in the morning. It awakens the energy, creates heat and mental clarity,” she told me after class.
After several rounds leading up to about 100, we chanted Om then came to Tadasana.
Our flow started off slowly, lifting and lowering the arms up to the ceiling, before getting into the full version of Surya Namaskar A, which we did a few times, before adding on Surya B, and picked up the pace.
Nora’s sequence was well rounded; it included all the essentials - breath awareness, a short chant, sun salutes, standing poses, backbends, inversions and some restorative time - to create a complete practice. In our post class chat, I asked how she fits it all in during the 55-minute time slot.
“I find teaching 55-minute classes extremely challenging because yoga is not fast food. The scriptures say that one should practice continuously over a long time ("through repetition the magic is forced to rise"), so I have picked the things that personally I find most important,” she explained.
Standing postures included Trikonasana, Prasarita Padottanasana, and Parivrtta Trikonasana. For Parivrtta Parsvakonasana, Nora set us up from standing lunge with the back knee on the floor, and then gave the option to lift that back knee up and take the bind.
Throughout class, Nora walked around the room, giving assists based on her students needs. At the wall for inversions I heard her ask someone to come down from their Handstand so she could clearly instruct how to lift into the pose. There was actually a few instances when Nora took extra time to work with someone on their inversion, ensuring they were coming up with the proper alignment.
“Since I find inversions incredibly powerful and important, I teach them, but I want people to be absolutely safe, not get injured, and also learn something. So, shoulders above wrists, hips above shoulders, knees and ankles in line with shoulders (Handstand). For Shoulderstand you can align everything with the ears. Students have to learn the rooting down principle in order to lift up, and that can be confusing when you are upside down!” she said after class.
When she came to assist me in Downward Dog, she suggested I close the space between my thumbs and fingers slightly - an adjustment I’ve never been given before, but made a big difference in the foundation of this pose. She was also hands-on with her assist which helped me lengthen even more into the posture.
For the inversion practice at the wall, Nora offered an L shape Handstand, or the regular version kicking up towards the wall. She also offered Forearm Stand to those who felt inclined to do so.
In the background of Nora’s class played a pleasant mix of music. Indian chants blended with kirtan-ish songs creating an overall soothing experience.
Our backbending came in the form of Camel, Bridge and Wheel as well as Salabhasana with Upward Dogs in-between.
Seated postures included Janu Sirsasana and Paschimottanasana. For the latter she asked us to place a block beyond our feet and reach for that if we could. She also threw in a couple of Navasanas to keep our centers strong.
The closing postures were Headstand or Shoulderstand followed with Fish.
Savasana came last with the option to sit in meditation instead.
“In the morning, meditation seems a nice way to cool down and get a clear peaceful mind for the rest of the day.” she said.
-Elysha Lenkin for Yoga Sleuth
Drop-in classes are $30, with $2 mat rental. Locker rooms and shower facilities available.