As the bright winter sun began to work its magic on the previous day's snowfall, Yoga Sleuth was eager to slip into something warm and toasty. I found what I was looking for at an afternoon yin class with Masako Miyakawa at the cozy mang'Oh yoga.
Masako, a native of Japan and an alum of both Integral Yoga Institute and OmYoga, had all of us in the packed room begin on our backs. We placed a block between the shoulder blades and another at our heads as we our bent our knees in supine cobbler’s pose, palms facing up for receptivity.
“This heart opening can be a very vulnerable position, depending on what’s going on in your life,” noted Masako, who suggested that we face head-on whatever emotions we were feeling.
Coming to a seat with eyes still closed, we sounded “om” and crossed our legs at the shins, with an option to stack one leg on top of the other.. “Choose the one you think you can stay in for several breaths,” said Masako. “If your knees are picking up or if you’re rounding your spine, sit on a blanket. You’re targeting your outer hip,” she reminded us. We stacked our two blocks at the front of the mat and folded so our foreheads rested on the top block. I felt a deep stretch in the hip as I melted into this pose of surrender.
“Physically, we’re targeting the connective tissues—the tendons, the ligaments, the fascia. We’re taking time to help them lengthen and strengthen.” As we held the posture, Masako observed that staying in one yin position for several minutes can be just as challenging as the constant movement of vinyasa.
We came to lie on our stomachs, reached our left arms out in a half “T” and then rolled onto our right sides, right knee bent and left straight, with right arm binding behind our backs (if we were feeling “juicy”). We repeated on the other side to balance the intense side stretch. Then, after coming to an elevated sphinx pose with forearms on our handy blocks, we criss-crossed our arms underneath our chests and lied prone for a deep working of the shoulders. “Try to keep your mind on what’s happening right here,” said Masako.
She then had us place our bolster on top of two blocks at their highest height. "Looks like Stonehenge!" she observed (maybe the Spinal Tap version). We then placed our legs on top of the bolster, feet dangling, for a mild inversion. We were invited to stay here or come into a traditional savasana; many of us stuck with the welcome variation.
As our practice came to a close, Masako left us with these words of wisdom: “Yin is an inside-out practice,” she said. “We’re not trying to achieve a certain pose, whether it’s stacking one leg on top of the other or bringing the forehead down to the floor. That is not the goal. It’s all about what you’re feeling.”
—Jim Catapano for Yoga Sleuth
Drop-in classes are $22 with a $2 mat rental. New students can try 30 days unlimited for $45.
Sunday 3:15-4:15pm Beginner
mang'Oh yoga 322 E 39th St. New York, NY 10016 (212) 661-6655