"This is the class where we just lie there, right?" asked a student heading into Dharma Yoga Center.
"Yes, this is yoga nidra” assured the woman at check-in, who then went on to say that Andrew Jones, the instructor, brings such a light-filled energy to his classes.
After learning that Sleuth was a first timer to the studio, she offered a tour which included the boutique (complete with apparel, books, art, jewelry and more), the changing areas, the bathrooms, the yoga room, and the free oatmeal and bracelets situated right next to the front desk. She then directed me over to the couches and chairs "to chill" while waiting for class to begin.
A few minutes later, Andrew popped his head into the waiting area summoning us to join him.
Once in the yoga room, I was greeted by the open space bordered by a wall of windows adorned with plants and sacred sculptures. Beautiful art hung on the other walls.
“The most important thing is to be comfortable,” said Andrew as everyone got themselves set up.
Looking around, I noticed people sitting on their mats with blankets wrapped around their shoulders so I approached the prop area with the intention to find everything that would support my comfort.
There was a plethora of options from blankets, cushions and little silk-covered head pillows. Unsure of what I'd need, I took two of everything, and made my way to the back of the room.
Andrew had us arrange ourselves so heads would be aligned with other heads and feet to feet.
From a chair in the front, he led us in chanting "Om" then "Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu."
Next we laid down and repeated, "I will remain awake and alert throughout the instruction" three times to ourselves. Andrew then mentioned that the body's capability to heal itself is highest when in a fully relaxed, yet alert state.
He began the guided meditation while we laid in savasana. It was a body scan, but rather than simply skimming through each area, he spent several minutes talking about the body parts from the left little finger to the right big toe, and everything in between. His instruction guided us to relax even further.
In a soft and serene voice, he said things like, "feel the back of your palm sinking into the mat," and "feel the tingling energy of light filling your left, third toe."
Since the studio windows face 23rd Street there was a constant stream of sirens and horns along with the internal studio noises that were coming from the other side of the wall. While at first I felt frustrated that I wasn't always able to hear Andrew's direction, by the time we had gotten to the spine, the realization had set in that the practice isn't about getting rid of the external distractions, but rather to learn how to relax amidst the external distractions. I then gave in to the process.
After the body scan, Andrew had us imagine our bodies as being incredibly heavy then incredibly light. He continued to remind us to stay awake and stay alert. Perhaps cued by the snoring sounds that started to fill the room, he asked us to imagine our bodies on ice, freezing cold, and then in the middle of the desert, under the blazing sun.
Finally, he brought awareness to our astral bodies. He had us feel them rising towards the ceiling in pure lightness. And then we were to give a message to our subconscious while tuned into our supreme being. We rested here for several moments.
When it was time to wake, Andrew asked us to stretch our bodies, or do whatever gently brought us back into the room.
We returned to our seat for "Om" and "Om Shanti" to close the session.
As I stood up to return my props, I felt enlivened by the rest with a knowing that I would be back for more.
—Elysha Lenkin for Yoga Sleuth
Drop-in classes are $17, with $2 mat and $1 towel rental available.