Yoga Sleuth heard the hip hop-infused Y7 Studio was opening an Upper East Side location, so I headed up to play on its second day. As with its older sister studios, the walls, mats and even the blocks are jet black, and the lights are as low as the music is loud. Only the soft glow of candlelight would illuminate our asanas, which were aided by a mildly heated room (for the sweaty yogis there are several individual shower rooms and a community re-primping area complete with hair dryer).
"Welcome to our brand new studio!" smiled Laura Kornutik, who asked us to start out by sinking our hips in child's pose. "Hip Hop Sundays" at Y7 are themed around the work of one artist, and Lauren announced that today we would be flowing to the music of Chance the Rapper.
We rose up to a table top, and Lauren suggested we tuck our toes to stretch our arches, and face our hands inward to do the same for our wrists. In down dog we raised a leg, flexed the toes and took right knee to right elbow three times before switching sides.
We would do three sequences four times each: first slow and guided, then one-breath-one-movement, and finally twice on our own. In the latter, Lauren invited us to add or subtract any postures we liked.
Our first sequence began with standing side bends; we raised the right arm up and over the ear and stretched, opening up the side waist. After mirroring, we took a low lunge twist. Lauren reminded us to keep the knee directly over the ankle. We then came down to plank, lowered to the ground and emerged in a low cobra.
"Let your breath guide you to live in the moment," encouraged Lauren as we progressed to one breath per pose. We then flowed on our own, adding up dogs and chaturangas. The music swelled for this unguided sequence, then lowered in volume when it was time to meet up in plank for the next sequence.
"Fire up the core!" challenged Lauren.
Our second flow began with warrior two. Lauren asked us to check our alignment — that the front heel was intersecting with the back arch. "Find power through the warrior, stretch out through all ten fingers." We did a reverse triangle. "Find the expansion through the ribcage," said Lauren who had us transition to extended side angle, culminating in our reaching both arms out to frame our ears.
We continued through prasarita padottanasana (with optional tripod headstand) and goddess squat. Lauren assisted me in the latter by setting up a shelf with her thighs for me to sink into. We did side planks and half moon, then repeated the sequence before coming to our third and most unique set of poses.
In down dog, Lauren had us take one knee and bend it to touch the opposite calf. "This is building to something," she assured. Sure enough, we were soon in warrior three, again bringing knee to calf and squeezing to the midline. From there we rose up and hooked one ankle over the opposite knee in a half chair. We were invited to take a prayer twist here, or play in side crow.
Lauren promised that the restorative part of class was imminent, but first there would be some core work. We toggled from high plank to chaturanga five times, then sank our sit bones for boat pose, lowering to ardha navasana and back for several reps.
Finally we did a series of bridges (or wheel for the still feisty among us), then Lauren had us hook one ankle over the opposite knee again, but this time for a supine twist. After happy baby it was off to savasana land. Rising with eyes closed and heart open, we put prayer hands to the third eye, bid our teacher namaste and returned to the crisp fall day.
—Jim Catapano for Yoga Sleuth
Drop-in classes are $25. New students can try two weeks unlimited for $45 or one month unlimited for $99. Mat rentals are $2 and skidless mat towels are $3. Please note there is no late class entry.