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Denise Lee

Yoga Sleuth went southbound on the Rockaway shuttle and found himself at the welcoming Ocean Bliss Yoga. As its nom de plume suggests, the warm, pink-walled studio overlooks the water, meaning this is one asana practice where you'll definitely want to keep your eyes open. It was 4th of July weekend and thus our instructor, Denise Lee, began with a talk about freedom and a shout out to those who have defended the country for 240 years. Then she turned to the subject of personal spiritual freedom. "It's not until we extricate ourselves from the victim narratives we live...that we're able to grasp our own true selves." With the Freedom Tower in the distance providing a fitting drishti, we began our flow. We started with a variation of cat and cow that was not done on hands and knees; instead we sat on our knees and back bended, arching back as our hands pressed to the mat behind us, and then rounded our heads over our shoulders. "Lengthen your exhales and see where you might be holding in your body. See where you can really let go," encouraged Denise. She then cued us into janu sirsasana. "Try to get the toes to point straight up," suggested Denise as we folded with straight backs. Melting back into child's pose, we crawled the right hand to the side and placed the left hand over it, repeating in the other direction.

"See if you can hug the forearms into the midline of the body," she advised as we took the first down dog of the day. "Try to work on using more of your muscles than just stacking bones together. Straighten through the legs, while keeping that integration of the upper arms into the shoulders, and shoulder blades drawing into the back." We played with setting the forearms down in the pose in preparation for the peak pose to come.

Our sequence took us from lunge twists to warrior two, prasarita padottonasana, triangle, and half moon. In the latter, Denise suggested we challenge our perceptions of what we could achieve by bending the back leg and reaching for it. Following the standing sequence, Denise had us take our mats to the wall for forearm stand practice, and we were invited to do any variation of the pose that called to us, drawing on the work we had done earlier. Returning to the center of the room, we threaded the needle with an added challenge of lifting one leg off the mat and straight to the side. We came to our backs for bridge or wheel, then took a supine pigeon before rolling around and mimicking very happy babies. Savasana happened to be the Pose of the Month, and as we closed our eyes and let go I retained the image of the Freedom Tower rising over the ocean. We completed class with a thought and prayer that all those struggling to achieve their own freedom might find it. Bowing in gratitude we gave our heartfelt thanks to Denise for being there to assist in our own journeys to liberation.

—Jim Catapano for Yoga Sleuth

Drop-in classes are $15 with mat included. First time drop-in is $10.

Saturday 9:45-10:45am

Open Ocean Bliss Yoga 112-20 Beach Channel Dr. Rockaway Park, NY (692) 492-4455

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