Prema Yoga recently moved from a brownstone on Carroll Street to a building I had long admired further south on Court Street. It looks like an old carriage house that was at one time a Hamilton Savings and Loan Bank. The sign is still there and so is its ornamental gate. It is in these gorgeous historical surroundings that we are lucky enough to practice yoga. The studio looks out onto a peaceful garden, and on this mild October day, the doors were open, letting in a cool autumn breeze.
It was handstand month at Prema, so our teacher Markella Los had an invigorating class planned for us. We began lying on our backs for a not-quite supported fish pose; Markella wanted us to have our both our blocks on the highest height, with the block that is usually supporting our upper back to be positioned around shoulder height. Markella requested that we hug our legs into the midline, but without being tense, to create a long strong line in the body just as we would later in handstand. She also talked about the idea of broadening through our chests.
“I’ve been thinking about the idea of being ‘good’ lately and what it means,” Markella said, as we held the pose. “Often when we are trying to be good students or teachers or employees...it’s because we care.” In other words, being “good” can be interpreted, then as being careful and conscious: a new perspective! I took that to heart as we continued through the sequence.
Leading us into a downward dog, Markella asked us to let ourselves feel the pose in that moment rather than running through an alignment checklist as she walked around the room offering adjustments. We went through several rounds of sun salutations, adding in a variation preparing us for handstands. In plank, we were to lift the right leg one inch off of the floor and hold, then the same with the left leg. We also jumped through to sitting and held dandasana, again thinking about hugging everything to the midline as we would in a handstand.
In utkatasana, we did five jumps to energize ourselves, and then we moved through a series of standing poses and vinyasas in an engaging and energizing sequence that included warrior two, triangle, prasarita padottanasana, ardha chandrasana, standing split with a few hops and anjaneyasana, but since we were focused on handstands that day, Markella asked us to stay reaching toward the ceiling rather than backbend in the pose. We also practiced navasana to ardha navasana several times to build the fire in our core.
Bringing our mats to the wall, we worked on our L-shaped handstands in preparation. Markella demonstrated how to take the pike out of our hips and fill up the back body. We then turned around and practiced hopping up into handstands, putting all of our previous work into action, and taking special care along the way.
Keeping our mats at the wall, it was time for vasisthasana which turned into rock star pose. Markella kept the next backbend gentle as she led us into bridge pose, with the option of using a block under the sacrum so the pose could be more restorative. Happy baby was our last pose before our final pose—savasana. Class ended with three “om”s. Like “good” students we put our mats away with care and left with a great, fresh perspective.
—Marie Carter for Yoga Sleuth
Drop-in classes are $18 with $2 mat and towel rental available. New students can try three classes for $30.