Yoga Union is a studio specializing in backcare and scoliosis that also offers a selection of highly educated and sophisticated yoga teachers. Among them, Andreas Wirz, a native of Switzerland, who received his diploma in physical education from the University of Basel, Switzerland, and spent many years performing in modern dance, before beginning to explore the world of yoga in 1992.
Andreas welcomed each of us to this Alignment 1/2 class and introduced himself to anyone he didn’t know, making brief inquiries into their practice. Class started in sukhasana with our shins crossed. We sat up on two blankets to allow a release in the hips. This was followed by three “Om”s to begin our session.
Staying seated, Andreas then had us bring our legs into a baddha konasana position. If we had the flexibility we could bend forward and hinge at the hips, but it was important that we retained length in the spine as we did so, Andreas reminded us.
Moving down onto the floor, Andreas then had us work with the subtleties of our feet. To help with that, he gave out stretchy plastic bands. With one leg bent, we lifted another leg in the air and covered the foot with a band and circled the foot one way and then the other, feeling the resistance of the band. We would then pronate and supinate the foot, gripping the band with the toes on pronation and extending the tops with supination, then reverse the movement.
Getting a chair each, we worked the feet a little more. Andreas brought out some model skeleton bones, showing us the tibia, fibula and calcaneus and discussed how these bones worked with each other. He also wanted us to think of lengthening rather than contracting a muscle. As an example, he showed us that when we were bending our elbows, we were flexing the bicep, but we were also lengthening the triceps, and it was that action that he wanted us to focus on, especially in our legs and feet..
On the chair, we crossed the right ankle above our left knee. We then interwove our fingers fully with the right toes. We circled the foot in one direction, then the other, bent and flexed the foot, and massaged the arch of the foot. Putting our feet on the floor, Andreas had us massage the muscles between the tibia and fibula. Andreas then had us sit up and feel the difference from one leg to another. I could feel how the movement and massage offered more length and flexibility in the first leg we focused on. Good thing he guided us through the second side.
Flipping our chair over, we practiced some standing poses utilizing the chair, a second mat, and a blanket. First, there was a calf stretch with our feet on the back on the chair. Still using the chair, we worked on chair pose, appropriately. Andreas noticed I was over-correcting with too much tuck of my tailbone and talked me through an adjustment so my spine would follow its natural curve in the pose. Other standing poses practiced, with the use of the chair, included uttanasana, high lunge, and lunge twist. In each instance, Andreas would offer us sage verbal cues and adjustments.
Sitting on our shins with our feet on the back of the chair, we then draped our upper backs over the frame for a splendid backbend (there was a blanket over the frame to make the pose more comfortable). Andreas wanted us to support our necks with our hands, but if and when we felt comfortable with the pose, we could extend our arms back behind us.
Following the backbend, we took a couple of folded blankets to the wall to settle into viparita karani or legs up the wall. Here, Andreas came around to each one of us to make sure we were centered in the pose, and to check if we needed any other props to make us comfortable.
Class concluded with a short savasana to settle the body. We put away our plentiful props with our bodies lengthened and minds expanded from this intelligent and precise class.
—Marie Carter for Yoga Sleuth
Drop-in classes are $24 with free mat rental. New students can try 3 classes for $40.
Friday 4:15-5:45pm Beginner
Yoga Union 37 W 28th St. New York, NY 10001 (212) 510-7404