Since Sleuth arrived early to ISHTA Yoga for Megan Young’s morning class there was plenty of time for an informative chat with the woman at the check-in desk. In addition to providing detailed information about specific classes on the schedule, she also gave good recommendations for books in the studio’s boutique—which also carries a nice selection of apparel and accessories.
As the first person to enter the yoga room, I also got a few minutes alone with Megan who sparked the conversation by asking about me about any injuries. After putting on some soft music, she told me to grab a couple of blocks, a blanket and bolster.
We began class on our backs in a side bend with the bolsters propped between our knees. As we relaxed into the pose, Megan spoke about the tensions of the presidential election, and how she sometimes wishes she could escape it all. She then referred to Seane Corne who said the real practice is to sit in the middle of the fire, and still be able to have compassion. This idea would become the theme of class.
Keeping a gentle pace, Megan guided us through a series of warm-ups where she emphasized the connection to the breath.
“Try to lengthen your breath, and match it to each movement,” she said while we were in cat and cow. “Your inhales and exhales will extend fully with the pose.”
Her voice was soothing which created a meditative quality to the class, enhanced by the fact so much attention was given to the breath.
In plank, she came back to the idea of sitting in the fire: “It’s okay to hang out in plank for a few breaths, but once it gets up to seven or ten breaths, then you start to feel the fire, and want to get out. Breathe into it.” Megan gave us another opportunity to sit within the fire during chair pose.
In addition to the asana that Megan led us through, she also introduced the sanskrit terms sthira (steadiness) and sukha (ease) to elaborate on the theme.
Before rising up on our tip toes and lowering slowly to the floor for crow, she asked us to fixate on a place that wasn’t moving to aid in finding steadiness. Once in crow, she reminded us to soften the areas not working, like our jaws.
Megan’s class is all levels so she provided options for those seeking extra work. In revolved side angle she offered a chair twist (step the back foot up to chair, and then re-lengthen it long). In bridge she suggested a block underneath the hips for a more passive variation, or to ground our feet into the floor before bringing the hips up towards the ceiling for the active version.
When it was time to rest, she reminded us of sukha, and how savasana was the optimal time to practice this softness.
Just before inviting us back to sit, Megan chanted beautifully, bringing my awareness into the room. She then asked us to notice how it felt to be centered in ourselves, and to try and hold onto this for the rest of the day.
As I gathered my props, I felt more grounded in the ability to sit in the fire on the streets of New York City. The real test was whether I could stay compassionate in the heat of it. Most importantly, I felt ready to try.
—Elysha Lenkin for Yoga Sleuth
Drop-in classes are $26 with a $2 mat rental. New students can try one month for $75.
ISHTA Yoga 56 E. 11th St New York, NY 10001 (212) 598-4800