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Angela Clark

Observing Presence With Angela Clark

If you find yourself exploring yoga studios in Brooklyn's Cobble Hill neighborhood on a Saturday morning, you certainly won’t discover a lack of fellow yogis. At Mala Yoga, a spacious one-room studio on Court Street, a group of loquacious students began lining up mat-to-mat 20-minutes prior to the 10am intermediate/advanced vinyasa class. I found a spot in the front row and rolled out my mat with only a pinky finger’s distance between my neighbors. As I found a comfortable seat in Sukhasana, the woman next to me acknowledged my presence with a thoughtful nod. I felt unusually at ease in this unfamiliar space. Mala Yoga co-founder and teacher Angela Clark walked into the room, barefoot and pregnant, glowing with joyful presence. There was an exchange of smiles with many familiar faces around the room, with Angela pausing at several mats along the way for a cheerful welcome with her loyal community of students. She gently reached down to the floor for a block, very mindful of her inflated belly, and, jokingly, apologized in advance for knocking anyone over with her new frontal addition. We started in supported Virasana as Angela settled onto her mat, at the front of the room, sharing her thoughts about wishing we could erase embarrassing memories. She reminisced about a time walking through a park when a stranger yelled out “hello” on a nearby park bench, so she waved back to him with a friendly “hello” only to realize that he was on his Bluetooth. The entire class giggled with empathy. “It’s these moments of humor and embarrassment that allow us to be more present,” she shared, relating her story back to our practices. In supported Virasana, we shared three Oms, echoing Angela’s harmonious hum, followed by Breath of Fire and some simple, yet deeply elongating, side-bending. We came off our blocks and into Child’s Pose for a moment of reflection and intention-setting before moving into a few flows in and out of Plank and Adho Mukha Svanasana. Only about 15 minutes into some basic movement, we were on the ground holding forearm Plank, adding hip twisting for an even deeper challenge. A few grunts and groans were released as the heat in the room began to rise. “Good morning!” Angela yelled, as my muscles continued to quiver in forearm Plank. Finally, forearm relief as we moved into Anjaneyasana with a block under the knees. We flowed through a few rounds of Surya A, and Angela reminded us to be mindful of our shoulders falling towards the floor in Chaturanga. As I moved into Adho Mukha Svanasana, Angela gracefully made her way onto my mat. Aware of my hypermobility, she lifted my hips up and back with her forearms, her fingertips simultaneously softening my front ribs. My spine elongated and my lungs filled deeper with breath, as my ribcage blossomed open into the presence of her assist. We moved into Trikonasana, on each side, before practicing side bending on our knees, parallel to the wide edge of our mats. She held us on each side for about five breaths, and she focused on precise alignment cues, weaving in relevant gems of philosophy. “Are you in observation-mode or out of observation-mode?” she asked the class. “And have you been out of observation-mode all practice?” We practiced a toe squat, bending the knees and sending our hips all the way to our heels, feeling an intense stretch in the toes. Just as my toes felt like they were going to snap in half, Angela reminded us to reconnect to our breaths. “This may feel more intense for some than others,” she explained. “Can you just accept where you are and breathe?” With the help of her clear and detailed instructions, we came into Parsva Bakasana, on both sides. My feet effortlessly lifted off the ground, and I somehow found the strength to hold the pose as she—for what seemed like eternity—counted down six breaths. We came onto our bellies for Salabhasana and some deep hip-flexor opening, to prepare for Dhanurasana and Urdhva Dhanurasana. Angela added in a soothing counter-twist on our backs, and then we began to cool down with forward folds, including Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana, Marichyasana A, and Paschimottanasana. Yogi’s choice was offered before coming into full resting pose. Some students practiced Salamba Sarvangasana and Sirsasana, while I came into Supported Fish Pose, with one block under my head and the other beneath my shoulder blades. As someone who often finds her mind endlessly wandering throughout a yoga practice, after moving through such a well-structured 90-minute sequence, I found myself able to observe all the usual vrittis with more presence and acceptance. We bookended the class with three final Oms, and a bow from Angela, acknowledging the presence within each one of us, along with a soft whisper of prayer, Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu: "May all beings everywhere—not just yogis residing in Brooklyn—be happy and free.” —Ashley Rose Howard for Yoga Sleuth Drop-in classes: $20

New student special: 3 classes for $30, or one-month unlimited for $108 Saturday 10am-11:30am

Intermediate/Advanced Mala Yoga

162 Court Street

Brooklyn, NY 11201

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