The streets of Union Square may have been pretty empty post-Christmas, but there's no holiday from yoga. The downstairs studio at ISHTA Yoga was packed, and students graciously slid their mats a few inches to the side to make room for Yoga Sleuth. Melissa Brasier welcomed us and introduced Richard Baronio, a fellow ISHTA instructor who would be assisting with hands-on adjustments and cueing the seated twists and forward folds towards the end of class. We started out in down dog with our hands on blocks, which we soon used to gauge the position of our chaturangas as we lowered down on them. "If you've gone through the blocks that's too low!" quipped Melissa, an instructor with 15 years’ experience and a BFA in modern dance that can be seen in the fluid grace to her sequences. Melissa turned up the music as we began to flow in earnest. She encouraged us to pick up the pace if our bodies were up for it. In the week between Christmas cookies and New Year's cosmos, this seemed like a good idea. As Siouxsie and the Banshees beckoned us to come out and play along with "Dear Prudence," we came down to our forearms in plank. We kept the right forearm pressed to the mat as we turned to the side for an extra challenging vasisthasana, holding it for several breaths and then repeating immediately on the other side. Grunts and gasps filled the room—and I added some "ughs" of my own—but everyone stayed with the challenging postures and brisk pace. Melissa gave a lot of assists, including one for me when my foot placement was slightly off in pyramid, and a gentle press on my back during my mini vacay in child's pose. We came up to ardha chandrasana and bent the knee to grab the back foot. Richard came over to brace me as I turned my side body to the wall and opened my heart. We did a modified warrior three with hands on our ever-present blocks, and did some handstand hops on our way back to the front of the mat. Our flows were bookended by stays in warrior one and two, chair and lunge twists, and prasarita padottanasana. Beads of sweat dropped onto my mat as I clasped hands behind my back and folded deep. "Burn through those thoughts in your head," said Melissa, as a scorching version of "Light My Fire" fittingly echoed through the space. Those words resonated with me, and I felt the motivation to push through my fatigue, shutting off the radio in my head and concentrating fully on the movements of my body. For our climactic pose, we took to the air in handstand, then Melissa let Richard take the wheel for slow seated forward folds and twists, stretching the fascia with long-held postures; and finally we let it all go in savasana. With three “om”s, we were off, happy to have brought balance to our lives as the New Year grew nearer.
—Jim Catapano for Yoga Sleuth Drop-in classes at ISHTA Yoga downtown are $24, with a $2 mat rental. New students can try a month for $65. Monday 6-7:15pm Intermediate
ISHTA Yoga 56 E. 11th St. New York, NY 10001 212-598-4800