Yoga Sleuth was excited to return to Om Factory's west side for a literal tune up with Amanda Winkler, who was handing out therapy balls to each arriving student. "Yoga Tune Up is different from a standard class," explained Amanda as we got situated. "You may have some of the same poses, but it's not a usual flow type of class. It's based on a system of therapeutic rolling...mixed with yoga, corrective exercise, biomechanics, movement. The idea is to balance the body, strengthen areas that are week, and create more range of motion and flexibility in areas that are tight. It's also about listening inward and figuring out a bit about your body." Amanda asked around for any injuries or physical concerns, then had us lie on our backs with a strap around the right foot. "We're going to test out our flexibility," she said. We raised the leg to the ceiling, straightening it as much as we could. ("Not if it's going to kill you!" wisely advised Amanda.) We lowered the leg to the side, which Amanda explained is abduction. "Notice how your hip feels," she said. We then took the leg across the body to the left to check out the IT band. "This is a notoriously tight area for many people," she noted. We did the left leg, then grabbed our therapy balls and placed them on either side of the sacrum. "Swivel your hips side to side, with feet grounded hips-width apart. This is an area where a lot of your deeper hip muscles connect, including the piriformis. You might be able to feel a sense of that muscle." (I sure did!) Coming to lie on our right side, we dropped the right knee open and placed the hip on the ball. We brought the knee up and down like opening and closing a door, getting into the hip tissue. We then came on to a forearm and straightened the leg, sliding the leg up and down the ball. "What you're doing is contracting and relaxing the muscle tissue. If there's a trigger point there it can help to release it." For my chronically tight and sore right side, this deep work was utter heaven. From the positive responses around the room I could tell this was the case for my classmates, too. The class was playful, Amanda's infectious enthusiasm catching on with all of us as we giggled and chatted through our exercises. We followed up with some more unique movements, such as placing a blanket under our feet in bridge pose and sliding on it, bending and straightening the knees to work the hamstrings. We also took a Monty Python-style silly walk around the room, taking a three-foot lunge with one leg and then meeting it with the other. It may have looked funny, but it was deeply satisfying. We took our blocks to the wall, about one to two feet away. We brought our hands to the wall, putting the right foot on the block and letting the left drop down to the floor. The top left hand faced down and the bottom right hand up, about a foot apart. We repeated on the other side. Then we returned to the mat and lay down, placing the two balls under our necks on a block, and nodded up and down and side to side. "Imagine these rubber therapy balls are taking away any pain and tension happening in your neck area." I didn't have to imagine much, as it felt delicious. We were invited to keep rolling on them, or take them out for a traditional savasana. "From a holistic perspective, our body needs care in all different ways and in all different places," said Amanda, as we closed our eyes. "Sometimes you'll have pain in your neck or shoulders, and you can actually access release via your back, your hips, and maybe even your feet. It's the idea of tuning up the body, maintaining it like you would a vehicle so that it can perform optimally. It's all an opportunity to learn about ourselves, to probe a little deeper into the makeup of our bodies and take ownership of our own self-care and self-healing."
—Jim Catapano for Yoga Sleuth Hour classes at Om Factory are $18, including mat rental. New students can do a one-week tryout for $48, or one month for $108. Monday 8-9pm Beginner Om Factory
265 W. 37th St., 17th Fl. New York, NY 10018 212-616-8662