Yoga Sleuth’s first visit to Laughing Lotus, South Williamsburg edition, was a Saturday brunch-time Soul Sweat with the dynamic Stefani Rose.
I took in the paintings of a Brooklyn gangsta-style Ganesh, a joyful pink flower, and a fierce unicorn on the front wall as Stefani bade us hello. She had us lie down with a block lengthwise along the spine and another under our heads, to get the heart open off the bat.
“Let the body get a little bit heavier,” said Stefani, who is an ambassador for both the Africa Yoga Project and Jade Yoga. “Feel the support of the block guiding the heart open. We’re going to focus today on the 4th chakra – the energy of the heart. One of the more challenging places to come into.”
As we rose to sit and bring lotus mudra to the heart, Stefani told a story about how on Thanksgiving someone had brought dozens of roses to the festivities. “He would blow onto each rose before putting it into the vase, to encourage it to bloom,” she said. “As we move throughout practice, allow each breath to be the encouragement to bloom into something a little bit deeper, a little bit bigger…into your fullest potential.”
Our "Om"s soared along with Stefani’s harmonium, and then we got to the sweaty part. Stefani coached us through a very creative but intelligent surya flow: Reaching hands up on the inhale, we exhaled the left leg behind the right and folded down for what Stefani calls the “OMG pose” (a sort of curtsy). Then we swiveled to the back of the room, standing and lifting the left knee to the chest. We then planted that leg far back and sprung into warrior three before coming into high lunge and then rearing back into down dog. We did this dance on both sides several times, Stefani guiding us all the way.
We followed this with a traditional vinyasa flow and proceeded to prayer twists, warrior one, extended side angle, half moon, triangle, and warrior two to both sides of the room, with a flying warrior to the side in between. “Lean into the back space of the heart,” said Stefani as we played with binds in the standing poses. “You can close your eyes so as not to compare your practice to anyone else’s.”
A side plank with the top knee in tree pose gave way to rock star—which I had already tumbled into prematurely! We challenged ourselves in revolved half moon, then came down for seated twists, ustrasana and pigeon; then we were invited to return to the pose we began with, the blocks between the shoulders and under the head. We had the option of staying there for savasana, which I did. We closed our eyes and listened to Krishna Das sing his cover of Foreigner's "I Want to Know What Love Is."
Before playing us out with the harmonium once more, Stefani read to us a passage from "The Gift" by Hafiz: How did the rose ever open its heart and give to the world all its beauty? It felt the encouragement of light Against its Being, Otherwise, we all remain too frightened.