Just off Steinway Street and very close to the Museum of the Moving Image is the Astoria branch of The Yoga Room, a bright and sunny space with several studios inside, and an ample amount of daily classes.
Our teacher Jan-Orland Go advised us to take care of ourselves at the beginning of class. “It’s your body. If anything doesn’t feel good, don’t do it,” he said. He also asked if anyone had any injuries. No one piped up so we moved on. Jan began class with a mudra. Rubbing our thumb pads together vigorously, he directed us to take our warmed-up thumb pads to our eye sockets and feel the heat. Following this mudra, and the release of face tension, we chanted three “Om”s.
Warming us up from our seated position, Jan then instructed us to take some side stretches as well as a seated twist, followed with thread-the-needle. Rather than hands-on assists, Jan guided us by demonstrating and verbally cueing us through.
Jan’s class is mellow, but at the same time offers challenging poses and sequencing. Rather than starting with sun salutations, we warmed up with a series of standing poses that included skandasana, parighasana, low lunge and low lunge twist.
As Jan began to build on the sequences he added warrior one, warrior two, extended side angle with a half bind, peaceful warrior, parsvottanasana, and prasarita padottanasana with a bind. (Although he did not mention it at the beginning, in hindsight I realized we were working towards bird of paradise, so throughout our practice we were doing a lot of shoulder openers with half binds and full binds.) With our ardha chandrasana we added a half bind then took hold of the foot in the air with the hand that was initially on the floor, opening up the shoulders even further. Later, Jan also added vasisthasana with tree or lifting a foot.
The money pose, as aforementioned, was bird of paradise. After all that shoulder opening, Jan demonstrated first how to bind into bird of paradise but he also demonstrated how to do the pose without the bind. Then it was our turn.
Observing that some of us were able to do the pose, and some not, he then asked us to try the bird of paradise on the floor, as sometimes that’s easier. With our legs spread widely on the floor, we attempted to bind and lift up. Once again, for those who could not reach the pose, the option was to take hold of the foot and stretch the leg out to the side.
Following a brief pigeon prep we were given the option of one backbend, bridge or wheel, before happy baby and, finally, savasana. Light music tinkled in the background with the sound of Tibetan singing bowls.
We returned to our mudra from the start of our practice and another round of “Om”s to end this somehow beautifully relaxed yet challenging class.
—Marie Carter for Yoga Sleuth
Drop-in classes are $21 with $2 mat rental available.