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Shake It Off! with Rebecca Gray

A packed class poured out of Ishta Yoga just as Yoga Sleuth and another large group of yogis filtered in for Rebecca Gray's Saturday Brunch-time class. Rebecca had us all grab two blocks, a large bolster and a blanket from the nicely stocked prop closet.

"Who's taking their first yoga class?" She asked. There were a few brand-newbies, and several more who were new to Ishta. Rebecca came around to welcome each of them personally. "Any injuries?" she asked, and no one spoke up. "It's a miracle!" she smiled. "Our mental state can completely change with a deep breath," Rebecca observed. She had us place our hands at the tops of our heads, thumbs pressing in gently on our ear flaps. We closed our eyes and breathed deeply for ten breaths, feeling instantly calmed by the ocean wave sound our deep exhales made. We drew our shoulder blades together, feeling the breath expand across the chest. Still cross-legged, we stretched our arms in front of us to touch the floor, then did a little "thread the needle" for a nice side stretch. "Lengthen your left foot out behind you, toes on the mat," said Rebecca. "Press the palms, lift the belly away from the floor. Feel that stretch across the body." We brought the knee towards the forehead, then repeated with the other leg and then came into Down Dog with a microbend in the knees. "The next time you see a dog do this, call him a showoff ‘cause it's not that easy!" quipped Rebecca. We progressed to low lunges with the back knee on the floor, raising our arms and bending back gently. "Long, smooth breaths," reminded Rebecca. We continued with an easy vinyasa of Plank, knees, chest and chin leading to a low Cobra, then worked standing poses of Warrior 2, Reverse Warrior and Triangle. We hugged ourselves, squeezing the shoulders snugly, then brought our arms into Eagle position, the legs following suit. We bent those legs and reached our arms straight ahead in a skier's lunge that symbolized (we hoped!) a farewell to winter.

"Let your awareness drop down into your feet," said Rebecca. "Feeling that connection to the earth; like a tree needs long deep roots in order to grow tall, we need to feel grounded, planted, so our spines can lengthen and our energy can connect out and up." After coming down for Locust, Bow and Bridge Pose, we grabbed our bolsters, placed our legs in a diamond shape with soles pressing together, knees propped on our blocks, and lowered our heads onto the bolster for a Restorative Pose. We practiced three rounds of Bhramari pranayama, making a bee buzzing sound to further clear our heads. "Notice where your mind is," said Rebecca. "Yoga teaches us to be present." Savasana was accompanied fittingly by an acoustic version of Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off." We placed our bolsters under our knees and breathed slowly and blissfully. Rebecca had us imagine a ball lighting up at the tops of our heads, the third eye, the throat, and all the way through the chakra points, until they were all active. Wiggling our fingers and toes, we stretched our arms overhead to restart the day. "Thank yourself for taking the time to practice," said Rebecca as we bowed, "and for connecting back to the energy and light inside."

-Jim Catapano for Yoga Sleuth

Drop in Classes at Ishta Yoga are $24 with a $2 mat rental.

Saturday, 12:30-1:45 PM Intermediate

Ishta Yoga Downtown 55 East 11th Street New York, NY 10001 212-598-4800

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