The sound of gentle flutes echoed through the downstairs studio at House of Jai, creating a chill vibe as we set up our mats and greeted Lynn Vera. Lynn said a warm “Hello, hello,” to the regulars and enthusiastically welcomed the newbies, including Yoga Sleuth.
To start, Lynn guided us through some Cat and Cow stretches. "Shoulders above your wrists, knees right below your hips," she coached. We began in Table Top, then inhaled for Cow. "It's as if you could pull your sternum through your shoulders." We did a few guided, then Lynn let us try a few on our own with our own individual breath counts.
"I'm assuming this is everyone's first Down Dog of the day," said Lynn as we brought our hips to the air. She had us pedal our feet and swivel our hips. "Both knees are bent and the spine is long, sit bones to the ceiling." We straightened our legs and came up on our toes, inching our hips higher. Then we sank our heels, but, this time, kept our legs straight. We reached a hand for the opposite ankle or calf for an early twist.
We continued to experiment with our Dogs, trying variations with bent knees and straight legs. "This is why I like a bent-kneed Down Dog," explained Lynn. "It prioritizes a curve in the low part of the back and a long spine over straight legs," said Lynn. "But your call!" she added.
We took a break in Child's Pose. "We're going to work on something that seems deceptively easy," said Lynn, "and that's that long spine. We'll find it in Tadasana and in our standing poses." With that in mind, we took a modified flow—inhaling to Plank, dropping knees, chest and chin to the mat; inhaling into Cobra and exhaling into Down Dog.
Coming to stand, Lynn had us measure the distances between our feet by turning one foot in so the toes faced the side of the other foot. If they touched, that was the right placement. "It's said that every pose contains Tadasana," said Lynn, "so let's try and find it!" We did so—in our Ardha Uttanasanas, in our Planks, and in our Warriors and high lunges. "Where's the weight in your feet?" asked Lynn. "The toes, the heels, the side? If so, even it out."
"Make sure that front knee is tracking right over the second toe," reminded Lynn, as we opened up into Warrior 2. She encouraged the newer students to keep modifying in the flow, while inviting the rest to take the full expressions of the poses. As the flutes on our soundtrack gave way to harps and oboes, and, finally, gentle synths, we tried a bind in Extended Side Angle, then turned to the side wall for a wide-legged forward fold. "Find that tadasana spine!" Lynn urged, even as we came to a standing split with both hands holding the ankle. "That's how you'll find your balance."
Finally, we searched for Tadasana in Lizard. "Keep that knee glued to the shoulder. And think about looking up. If a lizard in the wilderness looks down, he's lunch. So try and emulate that!"
Winding down, we were invited to invert, with Headstand, Shoulderstand, or simply putting legs up the wall. "Any inversion feels great if you've just been on a flight, like I have, or been standing all day," said Lynn. "And even here, find the strong legs and straight back of Tadasana."
The Shoulderstands switched to Fish, the Headstands to Child's Pose, and then we all came together in Bridge. After a supine twist, we came to rest in Savasana.
"The whole reason for the asana practice is so we can sit and meditate," said Lynn, who invited us to end class by doing just that. "And tadasana is something we all know how to do, but forget to pay attention to. So let's meditate on that. What can you do that will make your life better? And all you need to do is pay attention."
—Jim Catapano for Yoga Sleuth
Drop-in classes at House of Jai are $25 including Manduka mat and towel.
Friday 6pm-7:15pm Beginner
House of Jai 1456 First Avenue New York, NY 10021 (646) 861-3659