“Come on in for the early-bird special,” yoga teacher Ruah Bhay said as I entered her Thursday morning intermediate class at YogaWorks, Brooklyn Heights. The room was packed full of students surrendering to Supported Fish Pose on two blocks, with a blanket supporting their ankles in Baddha Konasana. I unrolled my mat, grabbed props, and, without hesitation, joined right in.
What must’ve looked like a room full of floating fish soon turned into a sea of seated meditators as we settled into our practice with a few moments of silence, and then seated Cats and Cows—rounding and arching in the spine.
We began to add arm lifts into the mix, in rhythm with Breath of Fire, taking big breaths in and short, forceful breaths out. Ruah kept the energy in the room high with her vibrant smile and insightful philosophy.
"Rather than stepping outside of yourself to see what's going on around you, can you draw your attention inwards and just accept where you are?” she proposed.
Once we finished our breathing exercise and took a moment for reflection, I felt the “yoga high” that makes you just want to giggle and roll around in happy baby. Or is that just a Sleuth thing?
There was no time for messing around once we came into Adho Mukha Svanasana. Ruah beautifully demoed a Surya Namaskar A sequence, flowing from Adho Mukha Svanasana into Plank, then one-legged Chaturanga to Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, and back onto both hands and feet. Times that by four and I was officially in the groove of the flow.
A sultry playlist began to fill the room’s speakers as Ruah guided the class in practicing toe lifts and hops in preparation for future arm balancing poses. We added-on with a variation of low lunge and high lunge on both sides, twisting from the heart.
“Back to arms!” Ruah said. We found Utkatasana adding back in the arm lifts from earlier until my shoulders felt ready to party, or pass out. Then back to vinyasa flows, revisiting high lunge into Warrior 2 to Reverse Warrior and then Extended Side Angle. The beat of the music picked up as we moved into another round of lunges, twisting on both side, with the option to move into Eka Pada Koundinyasana. "Choose the modification that feels best for you and be here right now," Ruah reminded the class.
Pigeon felt like a real treat after many Chaturangas. Ruah, who had been guiding the room with YogaWorks-inspired alignment cues and pose options for different levels, now found silence, allowing us to fall deeper into this deep hip-opening pose.
We moved our mats to the wall and practiced King Arthur, or what her kids call “Ninja Pose.” Remaining at the wall, we came into Bridge, or, for some, Urdhva Dhanurasana, with our feet propped on blocks option. Ruah showed us an even more challenging option to walk the legs up the wall coming into Handstand and then flipping back over. What looked effortless in Ruah’s demonstration was actually quite challenging for most in the room. For Sleuth, she had me at “early-bird Savasana.”
As everyone came into Savasana in their own time, the room quieted with breath and relief. Relief from the struggle of self-judgment in challenging poses, and, even more so, relief from attaching to the outcomes of trying something new. Surrendering in what felt like Corpse-Fish Pose, I was able to center inwards enough to feel the deepest groove, in the heart.
—Ashley Rose Howard for Yoga Sleuth
Drop-in classes are $28. Mat rental available for $2.