When Sleuth entered the temporary location of Hari NYC, one floor below its permanent residence, there was a group already in conversation. “It’s because of this practice, with Hari, that I’m able to live in NYC and keep the mentality I have when on retreat in Portugal. She makes this possible,” said one woman referring to Kundalini teacher Hari Kaur, who's also co-founder of the studio and our instructor for this morning's 9:30am class. A few moments later, Hari entered with a warm smile. “These are our new mats,” she said pointing to a stack of grey mats piled up in the back of the room. “Right now, we are in Summer Camp at this location.” (The 3rd floor, or permanent location of Hari NYC was under renovation.) While checking me in, Hari and I spoke about the popularity Kundalini yoga is now enjoying. She referred to an article in the New York Times on how it’s good for the brain. “It’s also good for people who are ready for a more meditative experience in their practice,” she said. Ready to experience that for myself, I made my way onto the mats, and grabbed a bolster and blanket before taking a seat. Hari sat on the stage area, and after a few moments of relaxed conversation, she led us in "Sat Nam" then asked us to begin with breath of fire. As I practiced the exercise, I started feeling a little out of sorts. Hari noticed, and made her way over to me. She gently explained I had too much emphasis on the exhale. She said if I could deepen my inhale, the practice would be more fluid. She was right! With that simple verbal cue, everything shifted into place. We continued through several more kriyas (exercise sets) which engaged the core, including one where we laid on our backs lifting one leg up to 90 degrees with the other at 45 degrees, then switching. The kriyas lasted for several minutes with Hari keeping time. Hari announced next up would be Kundalini frog pose, and with that everyone in the room went into the position with bent knees, heels touching, palms flat on the floor in front of the feet. We then straightened the legs and brought one hand to the heart, and then bent the knees again before bringing the other hand to the heart. “This is not a hamstring stretch,” explained Hari. She wanted us to connect to our cores and move from our centers. “Once you have that connection, you can move faster. But only if you’ve made that connection through the breath.” Mantra music played in the background adding a nice layer of encouragement to the class. Also adding encouragement were Hari’s words. After several minutes of moving through a plow pose kriya, Hari commented to another yogi how great he had done, and noted all the progress he has made. It was apparent that this group consisted of regulars. Hari knew everyone’s name, and even asked one student about her son. To focus our energy and strengthen our intuition we did some mudra work. Hari demonstrated carefully before we went on our own. The practice was to tap each finger to one another while saying the words "sat nam" in our heads. She put on rhythmic drumming in the background, and we were to move through the mudras to the rhythm of the beat. It was challenging and required steady concentration. “Don’t try so hard,” Hari said with ease. Her instruction immediately lightened up the room. I realized I was trying too hard that broke my concentration! For more breath work, we sat with our eyes closed focusing on the breath as it moved through the body in specific patterns along the spine. We did this practice for several minutes which created quite a meditative experience. In savasana, Hari played the gong that soothed me into a deeper rest. When we came back to sit, she had us clap our hands together quickly. “I like to clap because people can get pretty spaced out from resting sometimes,” she said with a smile. Class was closed by singing "May the longtime sun shine upon you" followed by "sat nam." As I gathered my belongings, I felt an increase in energy that was grounded by my breath and body, and kind of like I had just gone on retreat. Or maybe a yogi summer camp.
—Elysha Lenkin for Yoga Sleuth
Drop-in classes are $20. Mats are provided for free.
Open Hari NYC 140 W. 30th St., 3rd Fl. New York, NY 10001 (212) 465-0606