Cooper Chou

The spacious facilities and zen-luxe decor at Pure East offer a nice retreat from the busy city streets outside. Their full schedule of classes held in multiple studios make it easy to find a convenient time to get your yoga in. Sleuth came for Cooper Chou’s morning vinyasa, and happily hung out in the well-stocked boutique next to the comfortable waiting area before class began. Entering the room with a friendly greeting, Cooper asked us to get two blocks and a blanket. We would begin by lying on our backs. He demonstrated how to "jelly roll" the blanket (folding it the long way), and then placed it underneath his shoulder blades. He explained that this would allow for an effortless opening across the chest. We stayed here for several minutes to do just that. Moving off our backs, we went into some gentle stretches which eased us into vajrasana for one "om" together. We then flowed through a few rounds of sun salutation variations. The sequence was slow and thoughtful as Cooper guided us from down dog split to anjali asana to pyramid to revolved side angle, and back to downward dog through bent knees. When we finished up, he had us stand at the top of our mats, make fists with our hands, and punch them lightly against our chest. "Think of this as low budget reflexology," he said, before going on to speak about the energy in our bodies, and how there may be a slight buzzing inside even if we appear to be in stillness by the naked eye. Next we picked up the pace with a flow of the previous sequence, but with one breath per pose. "You will want to make this as efficient as possible," he said while leading us from the front of the room. As class progressed, the sequences were deconstructed then built up pose by pose. Cooper had unique ways of transitioning between the postures. From chair, he had us raise our arms by the ears then slowly bend the knees, all the while reminding us to integrate the front of the body into the back. We brought our chests parallel to the floor for another version of chair which prepped us for warrior three in which he emphasized the extended leg by calling it the star of the pose. In warrior three, Cooper said we could place our hands however we chose. Options were a big part of his class as most poses had several possibilities to explore. From padangusthasana, we were offered tree, utthita hasta padangusthasana, or half lotus. He also introduced more advanced practices, like uddiyana bandha as an option when rolling up to stand in surya namaskar. Regarding the variations in class, some students created their own options, and Cooper seemed pleased when he saw the individual initiative. He encouraged us to stay with whatever pose we were working with. The pace of the class was steady. We were constantly reminded to link breath with the postures, and pay attention to the contents within our bodies. At one point we went back to the fists pounding on our chest, and Cooper asked us to notice if our bodies were more receptive since our energy had shifted. Other sequences included pigeon, hanumanasana and frog. Options to do bow were also offered. Keeping his attention on each student, Cooper moved around the room offering assists in each posture. During inversions, while most students went into headstand, one woman chose handstand, and Cooper stood by her side giving suggestions on new ways to find the balance. When it was time to rest, seated meditation was offered as well as savasana, if we preferred. As we closed our practice, Cooper asked us to remember the intention that brought us to class. He said that by tuning into this intention, it would give us the inspiration to explore more—maybe even some new variations next time. And as I put my props away, I thought about my own reason for coming to class. Then I noticed the space created inside my body, and realized that was it—the space brought an enhanced sense of clarity which inspired me to want to come back for more. —Elysha Lenkin for Yoga Sleuth Membership is require, however, one-time drop-in classes are available for $21 without membership. Complimentary towels and mats provided. Friday 1-2pm Intermediate Pure East 203 E. 86th St. New York, NY 10028 (212) 360-1888

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