As Sleuth unfolded her mat for the Monday morning class at East Yoga, another student asked our instructor, Deidra Demens, what props we would need for the 75-minute open session. “Two blankets, three blocks, and a strap,” was Deidra’s reply before instructing us to fold the two blankets and place them underneath for easy pose. But rather than just tell us to take easy pose, she broke down the posture we know so well so we came to it well-aligned. “Extend your legs long in front of you. Then bend your knees and cross your right shin in front of your left shin, and move the knees closer so your feet are directly underneath them,” she instructed us. Once settled in the pose, she began her dharma talk and continued with a brief description of Bhakti yoga. We chanted “om” three times with our palms to our chests and were on our way. In the same way Deidra broke down easy pose, she took her time throughout the rest of class to fully explain the positioning of each posture. She spoke in an accessible language, referring to the body parts in more layman’s terms (chest instead of sternum, thighs instead of quads) and she demonstrated each posture to give an accompanying visual to her instruction. In tadasana, she had us ground into our legs by raising our toes and pressing our heels firmly into the floor. In urdhva hastasana she wanted us to extend our arms from our chest before lifting them up by the ears. And in downward dog, she emphasized those same gestures while also bringing in the element of pushing the front of the thighs towards the back of the thighs, which would become the recurring theme of class. We moved through a few rounds of sun salutations to warm up the body. But the rest of the class was done in a workshop style. Deidra would tell us which posture we were going to do, and then demonstrate it while giving specific instructions on alignment along with the subtle movements we could do to help find the pose better. Currently enrolled in an Iyengar yoga teacher training, Deidra clearly reflects her commitment to the alignment-based practice. And it also helps explain her generous use of props, which were included in her instruction for certain postures. In supta padangusthasana, we used a strap around the extended leg, and salamba setu bandha sarvangasana had two blocks under the feet with another block under the sacrum. While in other poses, like parsvottanasana, Deidra suggested using props if we preferred. She also broke down the Sanskrit name of poses, like parsvottanasana (intense side stretch) to aid in her precise instruction. East Yoga is located on Avenue B, which was a particularly quiet street this morning. While we held poses, often the room was completely silent aside from the sounds of our collective breath and keen focus. The final standing pose was warrior one, which was a culmination of the front of the thigh to the back of the thigh theme. And though she was quite serious with her instruction, there were moments when Deidra broke out in smile, lighting up the room. “I love coming out of warrior one,” she shared, and then demonstrated the buoyancy of reaching her arms even higher to lift her up and out of the peak pose. Class ended with the requisite and relaxing savasana.
As I exited the studio, I reflected on how I appreciated Deidra’s pace, and how she spent the time to completely describe each pose. I felt more informed on alignment, which will be useful the next time I come to the mat. —Elysha Lenkin for Yoga Sleuth Drop-in classes are $20 with $2 mat rental. New student intro special: Three classes for $30. Monday 9:15-10:30am
Open East Yoga 96 Avenue B, 2nd Fl. New York, NY 10009 646-504-6219