Hours after sundown on a rainy hump day, Sleuth was thrilled to find he still had a chance
to get his yoga on. Ashley Rose Howard was bringing the basics to a packed house at Yo Yoga. Ashley noted that it was “Weird Pants Wednesday,” and we were invited to celebrate with fun leggings each week (wish I’d known—next time!).
“See what floats up in your mind today,” said Ashley as we reclined on our mats. “What feelings you may be carrying. Whenever you get lost, your breath is there to anchor them back in.”
We cactused our arms, windshield-wipered our knees, opening up the spine and releasing the back. Bringing the legs out long, we grabbed a block in the wide, short height. “Hold it like you’re wearing oven mitts,” said Ashley, and we extended our arms towards the ceiling. “Palms are pressing into the block as your shoulders are plugging in. Hug your triceps in towards each other. See if you can start squeezing the sides as if it were a heavy brick…you’ll start to feel the work in your arms.”
We lowered our arms to the back of the room and raised them several times, then came to all fours to find fluidity through cat and cow. “Spread and press down through each finger as if you’re high-fiving the mat,” said Ashley. “Hands and knees planted firmly. It becomes this moving meditation, you’re connecting your breath to movement.”
We raised the left leg, then reached the right arm forward. “Almost like you’re going to shake my hand. "Hi!” said Ashley, doing just that with the yogi front and center.
Ashley’s style is step-by-step cueing and lots of good-natured humor and encouragement.
We began to flow and take lunges, interlocking thumbs over the head, then came to a luxurious forward fold. We crossed our arms one way and then switched.
“Always looking for balance in the body,” said Ashley. “Notice if your weight shifted into your heels, and lean forward into the balls of your feet so your pelvis is really stacked. And now my favorite part! Slowly roll up. It’s almost like we’re unraveling like a fruit roll-up! Your neck's carrying around ten pounds every day—and an extra ten when you’re texting! ”
We progressed to up dogs and chaturangas, workshopping the latter with blocks under the ribs and pelvis. Ashley took us through this slowly and with clear direction.
“Now the imprint of these poses is starting to make an imprint in your mind, “she said. “The more we practice the more we start to put everything together, and it becomes a vinyasa. I know this builds heat and strength, but can you connect to your breath?”
We moved to stand in warrior two. “Notice if the whole torso wants to reach forward. Can you allow it to be stacked on top of your pelvis? Notice where you’re holding tension: fingers, shoulders or jaw? Find a place where you can soften.”
We continued through triangle. “Trust your body, trust your memory,” encouraged Ashley. “We all show up very different in our lives,” she noted. “And it’s the same when we show up on our mat. ”
We wound down with a pre-savasana supine baddha konasana on a bolster, with blocks under the knees. “Are you lost in thought, carried away by to-do lists and judgments?” asked Ashley. “So much is constantly happening in the mind. But when we start to connect with breath, we create a little space. We feel less controlled by our thoughts, and more in control of them.”
—Jim Catapano for Yoga Sleuth
Drop-in Classes at Yo Yoga are $22 with a $2 mat rental. New Student Special: $59 for one month unlimited.