One muggy Saturday, I—normally a crack-of-dawn riser—dragged myself into Manhattan for a rare afternoon vinyasa class.
The place: The Shala, on Broadway, an old favorite. The class: Shevy Katan’s 2pm open-level vinyasa. The purpose: To take a break from toking the usual Mysore pipe.
In the high-ceilinged front room, steamy from the previous occupants, an intimate group of yogis was spread equidistantly across the wooden floorboards. All eyes were closed and the energy was still. I could’ve heard a pin drop.
Shevy entered the space precisely on the dot. She acknowledged the usual faces, and introduced herself to new ones, asking them—individually, quietly—about injuries.
After three “Oms,” Shevy, maintaining the room’s muted energy with a quiet voice, guided us through several rounds of sama vritti breathing. We inhaled for four and exhaled for four, and by the fourth round, I felt my heart rate begin...to slow...down.
Onto hands and knees we took some meow-moos, which brought me back to the olden days at Cyndi Lee’s OM Yoga Center where Shevy received her initial training. When we came into our last moo, pelves anteriorly tilted, we pushed back into our first woof of the afternoon.
Shevy, who has a Mysore practice, established the class’ rhythm by guiding our ujjayi breaths. Most sun salutes were done in silence, which was refreshing for a vinyasa class. When Shevy did put the music on, it was a non-offensive soundtrack of ditties, and Gary Jules’s “Mad World” was one of them. Snaps for Shevy.
After class, I asked her how she might describe her playlist.
“I have no clue. Eclectic moody rock-pop soul?” she said, laughing. “It’s a tricky question because it definitely creates a mood, but I pull pop classics as well as current stuff, and I throw in some off-the-radar stuff, too.”
Music selection for yoga classes is a controversial topic—some of us don’t love having the unce unce thump through our quiet time—but Shevy proves that you can still have your soundtrack while maintaining a serene atmosphere.
A preliminary standing sequence, with the usual suspects, like trikonosana, parsvakonasana, and prasarita padottanasana blossomed into a more complex one that involved stuff like baddha ardha chandrasana and standing split, with some forearm planks woven throughout. “You guys’ll thank me later,” Shevy said.
Something that really made my day was Shevy’s acknowledgment of the scapulohumeral rhythm. Unlike many vinyasa teachers, she never told us to “take the shoulders down the back” when we lifted our arms overhead in urdhva hastasana. Extra, extra snaps for Shevy.
“Anatomically speaking, the shoulders are up the back when the arms are overhead, so you technically can’t take them down,” she said. “But what you can do, is soften the bottom of your neck and not shrug your shoulders to your ears.” Someone’s been doing their homework!
Next: pincha mayurasana at the wall. And yes, our forearms and upper bodies were prepped. “Don’t think about throwing yourself up, because that won’t help you,” Shevy said, and encouraged us to take a controlled, hushed ascent into the pose. Pincha is hard for me, and I’m terrified of heights, but I managed to pick up some airtime by redirecting my aspirational pitta energy to a calmer, more productive place.
Floor poses included forward folds and prone backbends, like salabhasana and parsva dhanurasana, which was prepped by a salabhasana-variant that had us looking over each shoulder with our hands clasped between our backs.
And then, we finished: sirsasana, sarvangasana, savasana. In silence, at our own paces. We woke up, shared three “Oms,” and went back into the mugginess.
What a nice treat for a Saturday afternoon. And have no fear, all ye sweat-cravers, Shevy has a knack for tricking you. While the class’ energy is subdued, you’ll still have some streams trickling down your face.
So this coming Saturday afternoon, I recommend you drag yourself to class. You’ll be happy you did.
—Michael Laskaris for Yoga Sleuth
Drop-in classes are $20. Mat and towel rental available for $2 each. New student special: Three classes for $30 (valid for one month).