Mind Body Soul Yoga is a small and homey studio located in Washington Heights—an easy ride on the A express train and several steps from the station. Inside they have a well-stocked shop where they sell spiritually-themed jewelry, yoga clothing, and equipment like yoga blocks. There’s also a kitchen with tea for yoga practitioners to enjoy. Wednesday nights, after Flow & Let Go—a class that starts out active and winds down into restorative—I found is the perfect opportunity to take advantage of that.
The studio room was packed with 15 people when I arrived. The dimly-lit area looked magical with fairy lights in mason jars and candles. Mellow flute music was playing on the stereo. Ola Ahmad May began class asking us to be in a seated meditation or to lie on our backs, focusing on the breath.
While we relaxed, Ola turned on fans and opened windows, as it had been an unseasonably muggy day. She ensured everyone was equipped with a strap while she walked us through a series of floor stretches. We lengthened out our hamstrings, using the strap if we needed it, and took some leisurely twists to warm up. Ola, with a training background from Integral Yoga Institute and anatomy with Leslie Kaminoff, takes her time describing the feeling of each pose and is sure to provide clear, well thought-out instruction.
Coming up to sit, Ola walked us through some languid seated stretches, bringing our arms to the ceiling, and folding forward or twisting. This was repeated several times. We went through several rounds of child’s pose to cobra and then cat and cow from a seated position but with our legs bent. We also went through several rounds of salabhasana or superman pose bringing a cheek to the other side each time we landed back down. This relaxing and gentle warm-up lasted for about the first half hour of class—a gentle introduction (or reintroduction) to our breath and body.
Slowly, we made our way into standing poses. Ola eased us into downward dog by first taking us through some cats and cows before pressing back into dog. We worked in some lunges, lunge twists and a forward fold. In dolphin plank we worked on a cat/cow spine, and for those who had the flexibility, we could move all the way back to child’s pose with the toes tuck. This move would come back later on, but with full plank to child’s pose as an option. There were two rounds of slow moving standing poses, working on warrior two, extended side angle, peaceful triangle, and warrior three.
Standing poses were energizing but brief as we soon came back down to the floor for some restorative poses. Ola took us into supported bridge with a bolster placed horizontally on the sacrum. Eventually, we would move the bolster further down the mat to use underneath our knees during savasana.
While we relaxed in corpse pose, Ola gave each student a light neck massage with a lavender essential oil, the ultimate relaxing scent. This night, class had gone a few minutes over, but Ola still offered that we take our time getting up and putting props away, so we could bask a little more in the relaxing vibe of the room. A sip of tea to unwind to top it all off.
—Marie Carter for Yoga Sleuth
Drop-in classes are $22 with $2 mat rental. New students can try two weeks unlimited for $39.