After spending hours hustling around the city, Sleuth was ready to retreat into the warmly lit practice room at Yoga Vida. The few minutes left before Brian Nygard’s flow was just enough time to collect a couple blocks and gather myself on the mat.
To begin, we took virasana or sukhasana for the cleansing pranayama of kapalabhati. Brian demonstrated up front by raising his arms out like a V (for victory, he noted), folded his fingers in, and kept the thumbs extended. He guided us through several rounds, encouraging us to keep the arms lifted to allow for deeper cleansing. He compared the sensation of the breath to a broom sweeping out the insides.
After a few moments in seated meditation, we moved towards a more vigorous stance—we held chair, cobra, and plank for longer than the typical three to five breaths.
As I was holding plank, Brian passed by my mat, and placed his hand on my back asking I keep a neutral spine, like in tadasana, for this posture. He then told the class that it was an excellent pose for building bone density.
Brian spoke a lot about the shapes of the poses, referring to their archetypes. Downward dog, he explained, is an equilateral triangle where all body parts should be working equally.
“I don’t know if Yoga Journal wrote that knees need to be straight in downward dog, but it’s not the case,” Brian said as he walked over to me. “Bent knees allow you to find the shape easier,” and then he gently prompted my knees to bend.
Though the subject matter of yoga archetypes can go deep, Brian kept an incredibly light tone. His laid back demeanor was emphasized by phrases like “no rush” as we were instructed to find our way back to downward dog.
Complementing the lightness in his personality is a lyrical quality to his language. His word choice is both entertaining and enriching.
“Yoga isn’t about performing. It’s informing. Then transforming,” he said.
The sequence itself was straightforward. There was warrior one, warrior two, and a nice flow between standing lunge and warrior three. But it was the long holds with the precise alignment instructions that caused me to break a sweat.
Brian was very specific about how our bodies found each shape. In plank he wanted our arms to create a right angle so he came around with a block to gauge the exact angle of our poses. He also offered plenty of encouragement.
“Your practice is awesome,” he told a man behind me, “keep coming back.”
A little later in class, he compared the pop-up cards sold in Union Square to backbends while perched aside another yogi (clearly an advanced practitioner who Brian knew quite well) to aid him in a deeper stretch.
When we came into standing revolved twist, he helped me keep my opposite hip back by pressing his foot on the bone.
“I want to give you insight for the next time,” he told me.
Once down on the floor we took several rounds of salabhasana with long holds that had us reach our arms forward, out like a T, back, and then forward again. It was intense, and child’s pose, which came next, felt amazing.
“You’re still getting yoga in this pose,” Brian said as we rested our heads on the mat.
Pigeon was followed by a seated spinal twist.
For the finale, it was yogi’s choice. “Whatever you need to prepare your body for final rest,” he said, while suggesting fish and bridge.
In savasana, Brian read an inspiring quote and ended class with some gentle tunes.
When I left the room, I felt refreshed and ready to get back to the hustle, but in a much more mindful way.
—Elysha Lenkin for Yoga Sleuth
Drop-in classes are $18, with $2 mat rental and $1 rowel rental. New student special: $20 for two weeks unlimited (with one free mat and towel rental).