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Friday Night Candlelight Acoustic With Matthew Brandebura

Astoria is a neighborhood full of musicians, actors, and artists, and The Giving Tree Yoga Studio takes an interest in supporting them all. One of the ways they do so is by showcasing local musicians in a weekly Candlelight Yoga class, which is accompanied by live music. Our musical accompanist for this Friday night was Ben Shapiro, a singer-songwriter with a soft and mellow voice and a yoga-tuned guitar. When I arrived at The Giving Tree, the lights were dimmed and a few candles glowed in this inviting and relaxing neighborhood studio. Our supportive teacher Matthew, also an actor, was fetching props for students as we rolled in. We began in Easy Pose and did a couple of gentle spinal twists to warm up the body. On all fours, we stretched out one leg and then the other, rolling out the foot on each leg. We eased our way into Downward Dog, then took a lunge twist on each side. Matthew led us through a few easy Sun Salutations as Ben sang and strummed softly on his guitar. Our standing poses for that evening included Warrior II, Triangle, and Peaceful Warrior to Prasarita Padottanasana. Before folding into our wide-legged straddle, Matthew had us bend our legs and hold the pose in a prayer. We took the forward fold and held it before coming halfway up, and then gently transitioned into Frog Pose, and held it. Building on his sequence, Matthew added in a Rock Star Pose, then later Tree Pose. Before heading into our floor sequence, Matthew guided us through a chest-opening Camel Pose, as Ben strummed and hummed his lyrics. Bringing us down to the floor, Matthew had us hold Navasana before lowering for a count of ten, and following it up with a brief Happy Baby. For backbends, considering there were various levels in the room, Matthew gave the option of Wheel or Bridge. To neutralize the spine, Matthew offered Happy Baby or to "windshield wipe" our legs from side to side. We were now in the luxurious restorative component of the class. Here, Matthew demonstrated Pigeon prep with props. We were to put a folded-up blanket under our hips, then lay a bolster vertically over the front thigh from the hip crease to just above the knee. A block was to go underneath the top part of the bolster, then we stretched our torsos over the bolster. Following a five-minute gentle stretch in our Pigeon prep, we moved our props out of the way, with the exception of the folded blanket. Staying seated on the blanket, we leaned forward into Janu Sirsasana and then transitioned into a twisted Marichyasana. Savasana was done restoratively with props: a bolster underneath the knees and a rolled-up blanket underneath the spine (although Matthew advised only allowing the blanket to be placed just slightly below the shoulders and not by the lower spine). He walked around the room, making sure everyone was comfortable for our final relaxation pose. The music slowly faded into silence. Class ended with our own music—three Oms and applause for the musician, whose strumming was such a harmonious addition to our practice. By the end of class, most of us were so mellowed-out it was a relief when Matthew told us he would be putting away the props and that we were to leave our rental mats on the floor for cleaning. Upon exiting the class, I noted the colorful community board outside, filled with all kinds of interesting events and offerings, including a women's circle, astrology, massage, Reiki, and retreats hosted by The Giving Tree, a haven in this Astoria neighborhood for lovers of yoga and the arts, alike. —Marie Carter for Yoga Sleuth

Drop-in classes: $17 (with mat rental available for $1)

New Student Special: $80 (one-month unlimited) or $25 (3 classes)

Friday, 8:15pm-9:30pm Intermediate

The Giving Tree Yoga Studio 2256 31st Street Astoria, NY 11105 (718) 728-0110

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