Due to her healing experiences from back and neck pain at a very young age, Anne Koller is passionate about Kundalini yoga and the benefits of water therapy, and seems to have found her bliss teaching an Aqua Cycle Mantra Flow Class at Aqua Studio NY, in Tribeca.
The Aqua studio is placed on a swanky street by Billy's Bakery and has an equally luxurious feel that fits in with the neighborhood.
A heads up about this studio: most classes are women-only with some reserved for men-only, so be sure to check ahead. If you're new, it's wise to get to the studio 20-30 minutes before class time, as you have to sign new student papers, change, shower—there are showers in the changing room and the pool area—and have the teacher show you how to adjust your bike for comfort.
Walking downstairs to the pool and cycle area, I arrived to an atmosphere of bliss. Just walking into the room is instantly relaxing. The pool was dimly lit with electronic candles flickering around the pool. Kundalini yoga music was softly playing in the background.
After assisting various newbies with adjusting their bikes, Anne informed us that the mantra of the day was "Wahe Guru, Wahe Guru, Wahe Jio" the mantra of bliss, as in "Wow, the guru or wisdom is here" or "indescribably great is God's infinite wisdom." After teaching the class the pronunciation, Anne instructed us to start pedaling. The music playing throughout class would be variations of the “Wahe Guru” mantra.
Variations on the bike included being upright and hands-free, leaning forward to the handle bars and "sprinting," or moving to the back and off of the bike seat and holding the bike seat with our hands while continuing to pedal. Anne started us in the upright, hands-free position. While the mantra played on the speakers, she invited us to close our eyes and chant with the music.
We tried various movements with our hands in the water—figure eights, grasping for the water and moving our arms forward and back, butterfly stroke—all while switching to different positions on and off of the bike seat. The fluid, repetitive movements of our arms gave the class an even more meditative feel.
"You are best friends with the infinite," Anne told us while we were cycling. With our hands gripping the back of the bike seat, we lifted our legs to a 45 degree position so the feet were partially out of the water to a Navasana in the water. "You should be sweating," Anne told us, but even though there was a lot of activity going on, the water was keeping me cool.
"We are 70 percent water, let the water heal you." Anne likes to combine both physical and spiritual experiences in class, and she does it well.
As the cycle wound down, Anne took us through a series of yoga-like stretches off of the bike. First, we had a Pigeon preparation stretch. We rested our bent legs up against our handle bars and leaned forward towards our legs. Then, using the bike seat for balance, we lifted one leg up onto the bike seat, and stretched into a forward fold over the leg.
For the final part of class, Anne walked us through a Kundalini meditation with the mantra "Wahe Guru, Wahe Guru, Wahe Guru, Wahe Jio." This meditation is usually done sitting, but since we were in the water, Anne had us stand about a few inches away from the pool's wall with our feet hip-width apart. With our hands cupped and elbows bent at our sides, we then moved our elbows up and over our shoulders, imagining that we were scooping water up and over our arclines—a halo that stretches around your forehead earlobe to earlobe. This meditation is to clear the arcline and clear the karma stocked up in it.
"I used to think about letting go of the hurt associated with ex-boyfriends or whatever it is you need to let go of," Anne shared. This is a particularly great meditation for women to do because, in Kundalini yoga, it is said that only women have an extra arcline that goes from nipple to nipple.
It was the first time I'd done that particular meditation in water, and the experience of it felt more intense. It made the meditation more evocative to be actually lifting up the water and throwing it over my shoulders, as though physically removing the karma. The collective sound of the water spilling over the other women's shoulders was also quite relaxing, as though listening to ocean waves.
Winding the meditation down, Anne thanked us for attending class and the class thanked her with around of applause.
As though continuing their "healing effects of water" theme, Aqua Studio NY has dreamy showers, with tea-tree-scented body wash and aromatherapy-scented shampoo and conditioner. It was the perfect end to this tranquilizing class.
—Marie Carter for Yoga Sleuth
Drop-in classes are $42 (various intro packages available), with $2 aqua shoe rental.