Yoga Sleuth is no stranger to weeknight happy hours, but on Sundays, the term takes on a different meaning at House of Jai. And it’s not just a detox before you retox; it’s a high-spirited and invigorating conditioning class with effervescent owner Erin Fogel.
"Lie on your back and plug in,” said Erin as the class filled up." If you're naturally outwardly rotated (most of us were), bend your knees, plant your feet slightly wider than your hips and let your knees knock in. Let the belly button be the anchor that draws the abdomen down to hug around the vertebrae.”
We grabbed opposite elbows above our heads, letting the tips hover over the bamboo floor. We used our core strength to lift ourselves up to a dandasana position, arms off the floor, then rolling back down. After a few rounds we were ready to try a “figure four.” "I never call it ankle-to-knee,” explained Erin. “If I bring my ankle to my knee, my knee is so far outside the line of my hip that I’ve lost functional conditioning ability. Instead, I do a sort of ‘Old English’ four, where it crosses around, the knee stacked perfectly on top. And then we twist and lift, getting into the lower part of the spine and opening up through the heart.”
We lifted into a figure-four bridge. “Notice if the right hip is a little lower,” said Erin, “and lift it up to match the left.” We lowered down, opened arms to a T, and brought our legs to the left. “Gives you a little extra bang for your buck!” said Erin. From there we put our hands behind our heads, lifted and twisted into the figure four, trying to get the elbow inside the arch of the flexed front foot. We did 10 each side, then kicked it up with bicycle crunches.
"The secret of every yoga pose," reminded Erin, "is to keep this cat spine from the waist down, and open the heart from the waist up."
Soon we were partying in the air, in crow pose, complemented with a spell on our heads in rabbit. Erin cued us to ignite our forearms away from the floor as we slithered onto our bellies for cobra, yearning every toe to press into the mat. "Try to contract the front belly," urged Erin, "making a lumbar curve in your belly button as opposed to your back."
She had us move our wrists directly underneath the elbows so that when we raised up we would be using the power of our muscles rather than the lumbar. We proceeded into locust pose and then pulled up and back into a down dog. "If you want to drop the forearms for an even deeper shoulder stretch, I won't stop you!" said Erin. She reminded us that this conditioning work will prepare us to challenge ourselves in poses like eka pada galavasana and koundinyasa.
After a conditioning upright pigeon, we flipped our fingers to the back of the room for a modified plank, then returned to our backs for a supine pigeon, using the figure-four formation once more.
"The last thing I love to do is bring the feet up and bring your fingers between the toes for a toe-opening happy baby." We gave it a try, then brought our piggies back together and gently sighed into savasana. Erin placed blocks on each side of our feet to neutralize rotation. After a few luxurious breaths, we rose to a seat, brought thumbs to the third eye and bowed. "Victory," said Erin, bowing back. "Jai! Jai! Jai!"
—Jim Catapano for Yoga Sleuth
Drop-ins are $30, with Manduka mat and towel included.