It was unusually quiet as I made my way to down 125th Street to Harlem Yoga Studio one recent Sunday evening for a pre-week restorative yoga break. It had been raining and in the air lingered winter's chill, stubborn to bid adieu for the new spring season. Little had I known at the time the rain would last for several more days, making this restorative respite all that much more of a mood-boosting silver lining.
Once inside the studio, I checked in at the front desk with Soledad Soriano-Kaplan who set me up with a rental mat and made sure I was familiar with the style of restorative. Soledad would also be our teacher, and before students even made it into the studio, she took the time to describe what we were to expect in this class, taking special care to put new students at ease. "You should be completely comfortable," she assured us, suggesting that if we weren't, at any point during the class, that we could make adjustments or she would help us find that comfortable spot.
A Yoga Barre class was just finishing up in the studio, and as soon as they made their exit, Soledad was zipping about the room lighting candles and setting the mood for our zen den.
Once we were settled in our spots and fully-propped (Soledad suggested we pick up extra just in case), we came to a comfortable seated position for three "Om"s.
Before heading into our first pose, Soledad led us into a few easy movements to warm up our muscles and joints, including neck rolls and stretches and some torso circles to loosen up the spine and hips.
Soledad once again reminded us that we would be holding several positions for extended periods of time so we shouldn't hesitate to adjust if the position doesn't feel absolutely comfortable. She also let us know that she'll be coming around with some essential oils, but if we preferred to opt out, we could put our hand on our belly to let her know.
With that, she called our first pose—savasana! Sounded like a perfect way to start, to me. Soledad demonstrated a few variations providing us with options to add a chest-opening supported backbend, should we so choose, either with a block under our shoulder blades or a bolster behind our back for an inclined savasana.
We each chose our individual savasana adventure while Soledad moved around the room providing assistance and expert prop-propping, as well as eye pillows if we wanted them. We remained here for what was efficiently long enough for me to sink in and forget my surroundings. Soledad's soft, calming voice brought me back as she coaxed us out of our chillaxed state, but just enough to introduce our next pose.
The rest of class involved a combination of side stretches, hip releases and mind-soothers, all in the form of propped-up, passive restorative postures. Our relaxation was punctuated by Soledad's gentle cues to let go even more and the soft groovy music playing in the background. The tapping of the steady, light rain outside the window wasn't a bad touch, either.
After what seemed like only a few minutes, we arrived at the end of class, coming back to our seated position where Soledad asked us to check in with our bodies and our breath. We closed with three more "Om"s and bowed to our teacher, and teacher within. Mother Nature might not have been ready for a refresh to spring that week, but I certainly was.
—Holly C. for Yoga Sleuth
Drop-in classes are $14 with $1 mat rental available. New students can try any three adult classes for only $25.
Harlem Yoga Studio 44 W. 125th St., 3rd FL New York, NY 10027 (917) 538-0457