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Kelley Branch

Above the bustle of Astoria’s Broadway, with its diverse selection of Greek, Colombian, Peruvian, Mexican, and Thai restaurants, is the cozy, affordable haven of Yoga Agora. With its floor to ceiling patio windows, the studio room attracts great light and a beautiful view of the neighborhood, though our teacher for the evening, Yoga Vida-trained Kelley Branch teaches a tough, sweaty flow class that had the windows steamed up within minutes of beginning our practice. Classes at Yoga Agora are very popular and mats are usually bumper-to-bumper so Sleuth recommends getting there 10–15 minutes ahead of time to find a good spot, though you might have some shuffling to do as more people roll in. This Monday evening was no different. With everyone set, we began right away. There was a very short meditation on the breath at the beginning and then, without much ado, Kelley directed us into a sweaty flow. Given the number of bodies in the class and the flowing pace of Kelley’s direction, it almost felt like a hot yoga class. Within minutes, Sleuth was dripping with sweat. Kelley is not as much about hands-on adjustment as she is about verbal cues. For most of the class she offered smooth and clear direction from the back of the room. She also plays an interesting and eclectic selection of music, the only other sound besides our collective inhales and exhales. After several sun salutations, we moved into an interesting creative flow of standing poses that included high lunges, warrior two, parsvottanasana or pyramid pose (with blocks if we needed them), prasarita padottanasana (with the option to come up into tripod headstand), warrior three, and a series of chair and lunge twists. The majority of yogis in Kelley’s class seemed to know what to do, and some opted to take advanced versions of the poses. Familiar with her multi-leveled students, Kelley made several suggestions for variations. On the third round of bringing the knee to the elbow from down dog, Kelley offered the option of coming into the advanced arm balance of one-legged crow pose. Moving onto hip openers we took our feet as wide as the mat and squatted into malasana. For those who were feeling game, we could move forward and take flight into crow pose. Continuing with the hip opening theme, we then did pigeon preparation followed by fire log pose, or ankle-to-knee. On the backbending portion of class we spent time in bridges with the option to come into wheel. To decompress the spine we took happy baby and some supine twists. Shoulderstand was offered as an option but for those not inverting we could do a legs-up-the-wall without the wall. This variation involved putting a block under the sacrum and raising the legs 90 degrees in the air. As a forward fold we ended with paschimottanasana before relaxing into a well-earned savasana. Class closed with a round of “om”s and a “namaste.” As we made our way out, Kelley reminded the sweaty and freshly savasana’d group to leave any rented mats out for cleaning. I exited class feeling refreshed and robust, returning to the busy Astoria streets, barely noticing it was a cold February night after having sweat so much, my case of the Mondays nowhere to be found. —Marie Carter for Yoga Sleuth

Drop-in classes are $8 with free mat rentals.

Monday 7:00-8:15pm Intermediate

Yoga Agora 33-02 Broadway, 2nd Fl Astoria, NY 11106 718-626-0680

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