Once the first taste of arctic air makes its way into the city, Sleuth hears the call of hot yoga. So on a recent Friday morning I booked class with Chelsea File at popular hot spot Modo Yoga.
Modo’s west village location provides a warm welcome with its toasty temperature and friendly smiles behind the desk, one of whose was Chelsea who checked me in.
After asking if I needed to rent anything, she told me to take two cork blocks. (In addition to yoga mats, you can rent water bottles along with a variety of towels including those specifically for hot yoga which prevent mat slipping that the majority of people in class use.)
With only a couple of minutes left before class began, I entered studio A to find a silent, almost full space. First-timers note: Modo has a strict no late entry policy along with a no talking rule that applies in the yoga room.
As a warm-up, students were making use of the blocks we were assigned—most in restorative positions, though one woman was using her blocks as touchstones on the floor for her hips to hit in her deep squat pre-class practice.
Chelsea came in and had us begin seated so we could settle into the room through our bodies and breath. There was a relaxed nature to her presence that she maintained throughout class even as we moved into more challenging sequences.
The blocks came into play immediately as an option for those who preferred to sit on a prop for breath awareness, and then again for supported reclining virasana which was where we went next. We would come back to the blocks several times before class ended.
On the Modo site, it states that Chelsea has a dancer background (along with circus arts and the trapeze). She hinted at this with phrases like “dance your way into revolved warrior,” but it became more evident as she often used her arms in fluid, dancer-ish gestures to provide a visual aid to her instruction.
The 9:30am class with Chelsea is freestyle flow which kicked in after the seated and reclining warm-up. For our vinyasa, we were introduced to a one-legged plank where the leg would lift up higher as we moved through plank and chaturanga. Later this proved to be foreshadowing as we practiced chin stand with the support of our blocks.
It went like this: starting in plank, we placed our shoulders on the blocks, then went into that one leg plank which raised up higher while the chin rested on the floor. Chelsea demonstrated up front with a nimbleness that made the pose look easy.
“And if you are thinking that's not what I signed up for,” she said with a chuckle, “there are other options to play with,” offering us the opportunity to take a pass.
After the inversion practice we slowed down for some floor postures including pigeon, janu sirsasana and puppy pose which is similar to child’s with the hips in the air.
Throughout the 75 minutes, Chelsea walked around the room giving hands-on assists. She didn’t miss anyone! When it was my turn, I appreciated her skillful touch that knew exactly where to support.
She also provided a lot of details in her instruction, often citing the foundation of the pose (the back foot in warrior one), and the subtle shifts we could be doing to find better alignment.
In savasana she guided us through a body scan where once again her relaxing nature was emphasized.
Afterwards, though my body felt a little sticky in my drenched clothes, both my mind and body felt thoroughly cleansed. I was warmed up enough to return to the freezing cold that awaited me outside.
—Elysha Lenkin for Yoga Sleuth
Drop-in classes are $20. Mats and towel are available for rent for $2 each. New students can try one month unlimited for $40.