With just a few days left before beach season officially begins, this week, I made my way uptown to the cozy two-room YogaWorks Eastside studio. What this studio lacks in its SoHo sister studio’s amenities—like full showers, sizeable square footage, and complimentary refreshments—it makes up for in charm and warmth. Even though Yoga Sleuth has the luxury of partaking in plenty of novel yoga classes around town, going back to basics with Dani Zuccheri readdressed the importance of three asana fundamentals: foundation, alignment, and breath.
Dani started class by focusing on the breath, and we followed her cues to take full ballooning-belly inhales and, with each exhale, to draw the navel back towards the spine. Dani’s voice was equallly soothing and enthusiastic, and it kept me in a perfect rhythm towards relaxation, without having me fall asleep. As my breath relieved any tension that I held in the body/mind, Dani continued to explain the benefits of deep breath work—it calms the nervous system and also cleanses the organs and blood of toxins.
We moved into more fluid movements, like Cat/Cow, and we flowed in and out of Downward Dog to Plank, while she played a calming playlist to keep us grounded and present. With each sequence, Dani emphasized specific alignment concepts, benefits, and complimentary breathing techniques of each pose.
“Inhale as you bend the front leg into Warrior 2,” she said, “and exhale, flip the palm for Reversed Warrior.” Each vinyasa and action became a flowing piece of choreography, connecting each movement with breath.
After a few rounds of Surya Namaskar A and B, we moved into Warrior 1. Dani took us out of the pose and led us back into it with a proper alighnment foundation. She told us to find heel-to-heel alignment and then, taking our hands to our hips, we drew the hip points of the back leg toward our centers, finding a more neutral position for the pelvis. She then used creative yet direct language, like “scoop the belly in” and “reach one line of energy through the fingertips” to guide us into the full pose.
When a knowledgeable and patient teacher, like Dani Zuccheri, takes the time to workshop a complex pose, it helps when students feel safe and are seen. This is what originally brought me to the mat nearly a decade ago.
We brought our backs down to the sticky mat and closed class with some much-needed core work. We did a familiar sequence of leg lifts and bicycles, and Dani brought our awarenesses to our lower backs, having us keep them on the mat, which made our cores work that much harder.
We closed with three Oms. The room was packed mat-to-mat, and the vibrations of each syllable carried throughout the room, like a fluid wave made by fans in a baseball stadium. Dani bowed down, in Sukhasana, as a symbol of gratitude. As she rose back up, her friendly smile brought me back to the three fundamentals of human connectivity: kindness, compassion, and love.
Drop-in classes are $28. $2 mat rentals are available.