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Soar And Restore With Jacquelyn Autrey

Yoga Sleuth likes to ease into his weekends. The inhale of Monday to Thursday should give way gradually to the deep exhale of Friday evening. And The Three Jewels, new home of Lilia Mead’s Go Yoga, has just the class to make that happen: an after work vinyasa flow that transforms, over its 75 minutes, into a tranquil restorative class. Jacquelyn Autrey, an alum of the Sarva Yoga Academy and our guide on this journey, had us raid the prop closet for bolsters, blocks, blankets, and straps to ready ourselves for the latter part of class. But before that, we were going to earn our yoga vacay with a light but energetic series of asanas. We sat in Sukhasana to center ourselves. "Close your eyes and imagine a candle flame," said Jacquelyn, whose own teachers include Alan Finger, Mona Anand, and Michael Hewett. "The light of that flame represents unconditional love. Inhale ‘Sat,’ expanding that light, and exhale 'Nam' to bring it back, filling your body with this golden pure light." We inhaled our arms up while letting the shoulders drop, gently stretching in our seated pose. Then we came into a Tabletop for Cat/Cows to wake up our bodies. After standing at the top of the mat, we rounded over for a forward fold, then came back down with tented fingers for an active Child's Pose, surrendering the cares of the week in prep for the—hopefully!—carefree weekend. We slithered forward for a Cobra Pose, and proceeded through Sun Salutations A and B, with vinyasas in between—but only if we so desired. “Drop the tailbone and release the lower abdomen,” said Jacquelyn, as we came into Utkatasana. “And then, lift the heart.” She brought us into Down Dog, and, spotting that I could do more, suggested I widen my arms and legs a bit. We exhaled knee to nose, swung the leg back and repeated, then stepped the right foot forward into Warrior 1. Sharon Gannon’s melodic rendition of the “Lokah Samastah” chant began to sound through the room, creating a real sense of bliss and occasion. Jacquelyn reminded us to line up the back of the front foot with the arch of the back one in Warrior 2. "Create one long line of energy," she instructed. Then we straightened the front leg, adding a microbend, if needed, at Jacqueline's encouraging, and stepped the back foot in a bit for Trikonasana. We launched into Extended Side Angle with an option of a half-bind. "If you're breath is very choppy then it's not the right pose for you,” said Jacquelyn. "You want your breath to be moving through it." It was time to settle in for the best bit. “I want you to have several bolsters,” said Jacqueline, and we eagerly hit the closet for the rest of the props. We placed our bolsters lengthwise on the mat and lied our torsos prone on them, turning one head to the side and cuddling them like a stuffed kiddie toy. (Disclosure: my childhood friend was a frog).

This was followed by a supine Baddha Konasana, where we wrapped our blankets around our ankles and rested our hips at the end of the bolster before lying back to recline blissfully over it. We were invited to either stay here for the rest of class or come into a traditional savasana. Most of us chose to stay blissfully put. I sighed into my supporting props and relaxed as if I were at an exotic spa. After a grateful “namaste” to our teacher, we left to either start our weekends, or, in my case, stayed to chat and then signed up for the 8pm donation meditation taught by the venerable Thupten Phuntsok. Thank Ganesh, it's Friday!

—Jim Catapano for Yoga Sleuth Drop-in classes at The Three Jewels are $15, with $2 mat rental. Friday 6:15pm-7:30pm Beginner

The Three Jewels 61 4th Avenue, 3rd Floor New York, NY 10003 (212) 475-6650

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