As the evenings get earlier and longer, so does our yoga practice transform. At the end of a long week and the beginning of the holiday season, Yoga Sleuth chose the perfect blend of movement and Morpheus, at the Friday night Flow and Restore at Five Pillars Yoga, on the Upper East Side.
Soothing sung mantras were piped in from the sound system as we set up our mats. We surrounded them with blocks, bolsters, and straps in prep for the restorative portion of the proceedings.
Marina had us sit on our heels and tense the whole body, closing our eyes and inhaling deeply, culminating in a loud and satisfying lion's roar. "Don't be shy!" encouraged Marina, as we breathed in for another go. "Let's feel the vibration of ‘Om,’ first in the mouth and then deeply through the body." We sounded out three “Oms,” and Marina punctuated it with a chant of "Shanti, shanti."
From there, we commenced alternate nostril breathing, further relaxing the body and mind in preparation for posture work. Marina's soothing voice was the perfect accompaniment to our pranayama, which, after several rounds of nadi shodhana, transitioned to ujjayi breathing. We moved into cat and cow, tucking the toes under for more stability.
"One movement, one breath," reminded Marina. "Warming up the spine slowly, instigating the movement from the tailbone. Look at your hands and push the floor away as you come into downward facing dog. Concentrate on your breathing as if your body is an instrument that you're controlling."
We sat tall on our blocks in malasana, taking our hands in prayer. "If you're practicing mula bandha, pelvic muscles in and up." We did a simple seated twist, and then rocked on our spines before coming up to stand. Distributing the weight equally in our feet, we “Om”-ed again in tadasana and then proceeded to salutations. We flowed in vinyasa with jump backs and forwards, then moved on to chair pose, followed by standing warrior poses one and two.
About halfway through class we transitioned to the restorative portion, starting with a supported bridge.
Then we reclined prone over our bolsters, knees to the side as we hugged them tight. Turning over, we laid back on the bolsters and rested our knees on blocks as we opened them into cobbler's pose. Marina brought us second bolsters and blankets to make us even more comfy as we sank into the tranquil pose.
Emerging from our baddha konasana cocoons, we brought our mats to the wall. Marina instructed us to scoot ourselves as close to the surface as possible.
We sat up once more for a brief meditation, focusing on the breath as we let go. "Let's practice just being here," said Marina. "The thoughts will come. Observe them and let them go."
By the time we got to savasana we were in such a state of bliss that we melted into the floor, only stopping to pull blankets under our knees. Marina guided us to tense every muscle in our bodies and then release them. We did this three times before fully committing to a long vacation in everyone's favorite finishing pose.
Finally, we sat up, smiling and joking that none of us wanted to leave! But we got it together, thanked Marina for being our guide, and took that peace into the autumn night, with every intent of spreading it around.
—Jim Catapano for Yoga Sleuth
Drop-in classes are $28, with mat rental included.