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Undo Your Armor With Be Shakti

I raced through Carroll Gardens one lovely spring morning, following the blue dot on my iPhone to Brooklyn Yoga Project. I love checking out studios that I’ve never been to, and was intrigued by Brooklyn Yoga Project’s website, which features a harmonium and lithe tattooed bodies.

I am not usually a big hot yoga fan, but was encouraged by the “low heat” label on this Thursday morning class. The class description on the website says that it is between 75-85 degrees. Many of the studios I attend are not meant to be heated at all, but end up being so due to poor ventilation or lack of AC in the summer. I figured “low heat” couldn’t be terribly different from that. I found the studio tucked in an elegant side street. The lobby was quite tiny and bustled with energized students. I recognized the teacher, Be Shakti, from her photo on the website. She checked students in at the desk, hugging, and greeting everyone she knew. I immediately got the sense that the Brooklyn Yoga Project has a very tight, very committed community. Everyone seemed to know each other, and everyone seemed to love and deeply respect their teacher. (I've been the outsider at enough yoga studios to know that one doesn’t remain an outsider for long.) Even though I was a few minutes early, I was one of the last students to enter the long and somewhat narrow studio. It never occurred to me that a Thursday morning class in Brooklyn might sell out, but it seemed close. (I recommend signing in online ahead of time.) At any rate, I lucked out and found a spot at the back. The studio was warm. Because it was fairly cool and cloudy outside, I didn't think to bring a towel or to wear my most breathable yoga clothes. Many students also had towels stretched over their mats, which seemed like a great idea to cut down on sweaty slipping. We began in a comfortable seated position with Be at the front. She played the harmonium and zestfully led a chant. The class matched her enthusiasm, and we were ready to move. Our first pose was Balasana. Be asked us to have the backs of our hands resting on our mats with the palms raised, which she said would open our chests more. She spoke about how our tense muscles and defenses are like “armor” that we can undo with yoga. Opening the palms to the sky is a good start. This class is listed for all levels, so Be offered alternatives to tricky poses such as Side Crow (seated twist) and Headstand (Supta Baddha Konasana or Viparita Karani on a block). The sequence moved slowly and included a lot of pauses in Balasana or Downward Dog. However, not being used to hot yoga, the low heat was still pretty hot to me, and it definitely added to the difficulty. If you like to work up a good sweat, this class is for you! Be’s instruction was simple and straightforward and was designed to open the heart. There were several backbends and forward bends with our arms bound behind our backs. She also has us change our perspectives throughout class. It's always good to shake things up a bit and be taken out of one’s comfort zone. Another thing I enjoyed was Be's attention to the transitions between poses. There often were reminders of how to bridge the gap between poses, rather than to just move thoughtlessly from one to the next. The 75-minute class went quickly, and before I knew it, we were in Savasana. I stumbled out of the studio, dreaming of ice water and a shower, but as I walked down the idyllic street, I noticed that my own armor felt a bit looser. —Abby Payne for Yoga Sleuth Drop-in classes are $20 ($15 for Students, Teachers, or Military). New students can purchase 3 classes for $30. Mats and towels are available for free. Thursday 9:15-10:30am Open Brooklyn Yoga Project 185 Sackett St Brooklyn, NY 11231 917-909-0412

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