Lighten Up With Masako Miyakawa
Though the Bleecker Street strip isn’t necessarily known as a wellspring of calm energy, Sleuth went to that part of town to retreat from the daily grind for Unnata Arial with Masako Miyakawa at Sacred Sounds. Prior to class, I phoned the studio to find out if a yoga mat was needed (it was), and if I would be okay in the noon class since I've only tried aerial once. "You'll be great!" said the woman on the other end of the phone, and then reminded me to arrive 15 minutes early. Walking into the yoga room, I was greeted by the beautiful blue draping hammocks that hung from the ceiling. A bunch of students sat on their mats, placed directly beneath the silks. As I searched for my spot, Masako explained that the hammock should reach the top of my hips. I could see why it was important to arrive a few minutes early to ensure a proper setup. If the hammock isn't the right height, a ladder would be brought out to adjust from the top. To begin class, Masako demonstrated how to take hold of the hammock to place ourselves inside for the first posture, Child's Pose—a seated aerial variation where our weight drops into the hammock, and our arms drape down by our sides to create a resting position. Though assembling my seat into the hammock was a bit awkward, once situated, I immediately noticed a nice sense of support that allowed my body to melt into the pose. A quick gander around the room showed that we were a group of mixed levels—some seemed quite comfortable hopping in the hammock, while others were more like me, and wavered a few times before finally settling in. As I sat in Child’s Pose, my body swayed from side to side and twirled so I was facing the back of the room. This was how the entire class went—there was no real front or back as the hammocks ended up determining which way we faced. I also felt an interesting juxtaposition of trying to find stillness while still swaying. When Masako passed by, she gently stopped my hammock from moving so stillness could come easier. Next, we inverted. Masako instructed us newcomers to take a blanket and place it over our hips before folding over the hammock. As I dangled from the ceiling, I made eye contact with other students also hanging upside down. This connection added a playful quality to the class. Going upside down aerial style creates a completely different experience from inverting from the floor. When my bodyweight was in total support of the hammock, my muscles felt an incredible lengthening with ease. From here, we were offered a few rounds of core work where we could lift our torsos up like a sit-up, but with our legs elevated into the silks. Masako clearly called out instructions and often reminded us to stay mindful as we moved in and out of the hammock. She walked to each person, offering assists for the different poses. While much of the time was spent in the hammock, we did some postures on the mat. A few rounds of Sun Salutations felt grounding after floating around in the air. Several sequences included the traditional version of the pose on the mat, followed by the aerial version in the hammock. Doing them back-to-back really emphasized the role that gravity plays with each pose. And having the visual of Masako’s demonstration in Salabhasana and Baddha Konasana helped me find those poses more esily. Originally trained in restorative yoga, Masako kept the pace slow and steady. She led with a calm disposition, and used the hammock as just another prop. Towards the end of class, aerial versions of Pigeon, Halasana, and Shoulderstand came up. When I struggled to get myself into Halasana, Masako came to me for a proper assist, which involved redoing my whole setup. Once enveloped into the hammock, it felt like a cocoon supporting every bone and muscle. I stayed there for Savasana, while others chose to retire to their mats. When it was time, Masako rang a bell to call us from our rests. When I came out of the hammock, my body felt fully restored, a little lighter, and ready to return to the grind. —Elysha Lenkin for Yoga Sleuth
Unnata Aerial drop-in classes are $25. New student special: $40 for 3 classes (expires in 1 month), or $60 for 1 month of unlimited classes.
Open Sacred Sounds Yoga 163 Bleecker Street, 2nd FL New York, NY 10012 (212) 533-9642