Maggan Daileader’s Yoga Shanti class is located in the smaller room at the back of the studio, away from windows and the bustle of city streets. Lounging on our backs when Maggan walked in, she invited us to stay there, as we would begin class right in that spot.
With our knees bent to our chests and in a supine position, we worked on a cat and cow undulation in the back. The move was quite subtle and something I had never tried in a yoga class before—Maggan’s playful class is full of these kinds of wonderful surprises and intricate sequencing. Next, we brought our knees mat width apart and windshield wipered the legs, taking some easy twists.
Coming up to a seat, we worked on hip openers, switching from dandasana to baddha konasana to upavistha konasana, rocking our hips in rhythm and folding a little forward each time as Maggan called out the poses. We then played with the same poses, except we sat up on our hip bones and would not let the legs touch the floor. In other words, the abdominals got to work much harder.
After a series of fascinating floor warm-ups, we were ready for some challenging standing poses. In downward dog, Maggan came around to each of us and helped us with our alignment. Hips and hamstrings were the focus of the day and we continued to play with an early pigeon, lunge twists, warrior two, prasarita padottanasana with twists, parsvottanasana, wide-kneed balasana, tree pose with a backbend and a sway, lizard but then catching the foot and coaxing it into a tree vasisthasana, and finally, handstand hops, and donkey kicks.
Following some sweaty standing poses with lots of play and exciting variations, we were ready for the floor once again—but this time, a challenge. Maggan had us work on restorative bridge, only we were not getting to relax and do any old restorative bridge. We started with the block on the lowest height, sitting under the triangular area of the pelvis. We lifted and lengthened one leg and placed it down on the floor, stretching out the psoas, before switching to the other leg. Then we kept increasing the height of the block while working on the same leg movement. When we got to the highest height, we could fold our legs underneath us into a virasana shape.
At this point, Sleuth was grimacing, as this stretch is so intense on the quads. “Take grip out of jaw,” Maggan advised. “It’s funny how the jaw always wants to help out,” she said as she read my mind.
Our final variation of this pose was demonstrated by Maggan first. With the block on the highest height and our legs in a virasana shape, we could bend our elbows and bring our hands to the floor, then rock up to camel, keeping the block on our backs. It took a couple of tries for us to get it and a lot of laughter ensued in our attempts to figure it out.
Taking our mats to the wall, we came into downward dog with our heels pressing into the wall. We then walked one leg up and walked our hands back as we came into hanumanasana, or splits, at the wall—a huge stretch, and yet again another way to look at this pose. On the floor we then got to practice the original hanumanasana, keeping blocks by our sides so we could be fully upright in the pose.
Hanumasana has long been one of Sleuth’s favorite yoga poses, partly because I love the story of Hanuman’s loyalty and because of the hope that he inspires in his achievement of the impossible. Maggan’s approach served the origins and my interests.
Turning back around to face the wall, we then took some hops until we were up in handstand. We worked on both sides, again trying to make the impossible possible.
Our final challenge of the night was to start in vasisthasana, take hold of the big toe, lift the leg into the air, and, keeping the lock on the big toe, turn the body, and land in hanumanasana on the floor. We watched wide-eyed as Maggan demonstrated, but were surprisingly and happily able to do the pose when it came to our turn, thanks to Maggan’s expert alignment cues.
With so many impossibles achieved, we cooled down taking legs mat width apart again and windshield wipering them. We relaxed into happy baby followed by savasana. At the end of our savasana, Maggan read a couple of quotes to inspire us in the post-election environment. One from Aaron Sorkin; “…here’s the thing about Americans: Our darkest days have always—always—been followed by our finest hours.” This was followed by a quote from Hillary Rodham Clinton’s concession speech: “Please never stop believing that fighting for what's right is worth it.” We left class inspired and full of hope after a creative and fun practice.
—Marie Carter for Yoga Sleuth
Drop-in classes are $25 with $2 mat rental. Class cards, packages and memberships available.
Thursday 4:30-5:45p Advanced
Yoga Shanti 46 W 24 St. New York, NY 10010 (212) 255-9642