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Margaret Mann

Sleuth has always counted on Kula Yoga Project for a solid, sweaty vinyasa class so when a weekend of intense hiking brought on some extra sore muscles, Margaret Mann’s Tuesday morning seemed like a good place to work through the tension. As I made my way into the packed yoga room, I noticed each mat still had enough surrounding space to place the props nearby. This was useful since two blocks were incorporated into much of the sequencing. We began in a squat with a block underneath our hips for a three part breathing exercise that used retention in between the cycles. From there we chanted one “Om” and went right into the warm-up that consisted of sun salutation variations with our hands elevated on the blocks, our palms and inner wrists touching. We came back to this setup multiple times throughout class, and in each instance Margaret emphasized the support it provided to help ease the upper arms into a deeper external rotation. Though it was only a few moments into class, it became clear that the breath and alignment would play a major role in Margaret’s teaching. The first sequence started in downward dog. We raised one leg into a split, and then brought that knee to the upper arm. As our cores built heat, Margaret intensified the action by having us lift and lower our bent legs from the mat creating a slow burn that built even more heat. This was just one of the many times Margaret added extra strengthening moves into her series. The sequence progressed with chair pose, extended side angle and a low tree (foot around the ankle). The pace was slow and thoughtful. (Again, think slow burn!) Margaret made her way around the room, offering hands-on assists often. Her touch was light and precise. With just a few fingers, she’d encourage a shoulder blade to drop back into the body in extended side angle, or a neck to lengthen from the spine while the upper arms externally rotated in warrior one. Additionally, she gave specific instructions to people by name from across the room, indicating this group was made up of many regulars. Once our bodies were warm (mine was dripping sweat), we went into surya namaskar as a group followed by a few rounds on our own. Surya B was added on next with specific breathing instructions that included retaining the inhale as we stepped the foot forward into Warrior 1, and then exhaling the breath as our arms lifted up by the ears. Margaret kept coming back to the alignment details for the upper arms. In side plank, rather than look up at the extended hand, we kept the gaze towards the hand on the floor making it more natural to let that arm rotate externally which automatically encouraged the shoulders blades to move in and down. The breathwork continued with uddiyana bandha which was practiced in a vinyasa that had us bringing our fists to our cores, and then our arms lengthening up to the ceiling. We then went back to our flow with downward dog into cow then cat, plank, chaturanga, upward dog and downward dog, all with our hands on the block as we had done at the beginning of class. The blocks definitely added in an extra challenge to the sequence, particularly in chaturanga, where I couldn’t lower anywhere close to the floor. Padottanasana came as a nice relief with an option to invert. For backbends, we took bow - still working on our external upper arm rotation. And then supta virasana either with or without a block. To cool down, we used a blanket rolled underneath the spine for supta baddha konasana where we did more breath work: alternate nostril breathing and three part breathing. When it was time to rest, Margaret spoke about using the tangible to reach the intangible which is what we do in yoga. She went on to explain how we work our bodies in this tangible way—with the poses and breath—to go deeper, and know more about who we are. As I rolled up my mat, I noticed my breath felt more fluid. And, though my muscles worked hard, there was more space in my body, allowing the tension to subside. —Elysha Lenkin for Yoga Sleuth Tuesday 9:15-10:20am Intermediate Drop-in classes are $16 with mat and towel rental available for $2 each. New students can try three classes for $30. Kula Yoga Project 28 Warren St., 4th FL NY NY 10007 (212) 945-4460

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