If yoga is the journey of the self through the self to the self, then Katonah Yoga is a road map designed to help you move along that journey with more ease. Sleuth had heard about this powerful practice, and decided to check it out firsthand with Dages Keates at the Chelsea location (they also have a studio in Bedford Hills). After a quick trip up to the 2nd floor, I checked in, placed my belongings in the cubbies outside the yoga room door and made my way inside to find a spot. There were several yogis already in the room, each one actively participating in some kind of personal warm-up. One man was extended over a chair, another woman was doing a reclining virasana, while yet another woman took supported fish. Dages came in and told us to take two or three blankets, at least three blocks, a strap, and a sandbag. I took two trips to gather my props to my mat. Students placed their mats along the sides of the room while Dages placed her mat in the center which gave everyone an unobstructed view to her demonstrations, which she did throughout the class. We started in downward dog, and immediately it was clear that we would spend a lot of time setting up for each posture. Correct alignment is a big deal in Katonah Yoga. “Don’t gauge the positioning by how it feels. Measure it,” said Dages who then showed us how to use blocks to measure for a right angle behind the wrists in plank. She referred to the formality required to position ourselves well. “It may seem nitpicky, but it’s necessary,” she explained. We proceeded to work with downward dog for several variations which included flipping our fingers towards the back of the room, coming onto the tops of the toes, and flipping our palms to face up which felt incredibly strange and scary to try until Dages came over with a hands-on assist that helped me get into the pose. “We’re pretty touchy over here at Katonah, so if you don’t want to be touched just let me know,” she said while making her way around the room. The hands-on assists were indispensable to the practice. Many times it wasn’t until Dages helped me into the correct alignment for the pose that I experienced it in a way I never had before, even in downward dog! It was a hatha style class where we would take a pose,and then rest before coming into the next variation. The pacing was easy, but there was nothing easy about the class. Poses were held for many breaths testing stamina along with our ability to be with what was happening. Dages spoke a lot about how our body parts were designed to fit with our other body parts. We spent a few minutes rolling our knees into the armpits. She compared the armpit to a baseball mitt and the knee is the baseball. To go deeper in the hips, we went to the wall. Standing on two blocks, heels at the wall, we lifted up onto our toes, then extended one leg long against the wall all the while keeping our hips square. Working even further into our hips, we took a few variations of gomukhasana. Dages encouraged us to sit up as high as possible on blankets. She also instructed us to be sure we were sitting on our perineum rather than our asses. When it was time to reach forward she spoke about back bending by explaining that our chests needed to reach out and up as we went forward. “It’s the season of back bends,” she said. “Just as you change your clothes seasonally, you also shift your practice.” We continued with more eagle arms and back bending in a standing lunge which also had props for support, and built up a lot of heat in the body. When it was time to begin our cool-down we came to virasana and eagle arms for kapalabhati. From there we were given options to take reclining virasana with a block behind our backs, or dandasana legs reclining back on the block. Savasana or round halasana was suggested for final rest. When I left the studio, I noticed my body had been worked in a way it wasn’t used to which left me feeling open and alive. —Elysha Lenkin for Yoga Sleuth Drop-in classes are $20 with mat rental included.
Thursday 10-11:30am Intermediate
Katonah Yoga 267 W. 17th St., 2nd Fl New York, NY 10011