Yoga Sleuth was feeling a desire to get back to fundamentals–along with feeling some slight lower-back soreness. The perfect place to address both? Laura Staton's alignment-intensive class at Samamkaya Yoga Back Care and Scoliosis Collective. Massachusetts native Laura is an occupational therapist and co-founder of Baby Om, Yoga for Mothers and Babies. She’s also a Juilliard alum who previously led her own dance company. "How's your body feeling right now?" Laura asked us to start; our answers she kept in mind throughout class in order to customize our individual practices–in my case, modifying to allow for my textbook-tight hamstrings. Our mats were lined up against the wall between two sets of hooks placed at different heights, each holding a thick rope. “We’re going to go right into a long, extended dog pose,” said Laura, motioning us to center our mats in front of one hook. “Take the bottom, shorter rope and hook it into the top rope.” We slipped the loop created around our hips with a blanket wrapped over it to eliminate discomfort, and placed a bolster to lower our heads onto. One regular student helped out by demoing her version of this pose. “She’s going to line up the center of the hamstrings with the center of the calves,” explained Laura. “And when she’s there for a minute, she’s going to walk her feet in and try and put her heels on the floor.” The rest of the group followed suit, and Laura came around to each of us to assist. “The wider the legs are in these poses, the easier it is on our hamstrings,” said Laura, and I quickly made that adjustment. We chilled in our hanging dogs for three minutes, enjoying the feeling of the rope’s support. “Imagine you have seamed stockings on,” said Laura, “so the sitting bones all the way down through the hamstrings and calves are in one line. See if you can straighten your legs.” From there we brought our feet forward and tried to draw the heels towards the mat as we lifted the shins, though Laura told us not to fret if they didn’t quite get there! After a tadasana test of lifting through our toes and ankle bones, we set up for a modified triangle using blocks – one, two or three depending on our needs. In my case, Laura suggested a folding chair to place my lower hand on, so I could really open up in the side body without struggling to reach the floor. We then placed the folding chair with its back against the wall, between two ropes. We were to place one or two blocks stacked on the chair to stretch a leg across while the other stayed rooted. At the same time, we grabbed a rope with each hand and leaned in towards the wall. Laura had me skip the blocks all together and just place my leg right on the chair so it would stay straight (did I mention I have tight hammies?). We finished up with a “ropey” version of viparita karani, with our trusty cords behind our pelvises, supporting us like a hammock. This served as our savasana. “If the hamstrings are super-tight, widen the legs,” said Laura. “This pose is helpful for anxiety, especially in releasing the groins,” she informed us. Laura helped me modify further by placing a blanket underneath my lower back, so my front pelvis could release. We returned to sukhasana, now stretched in the limbs and straight in the spine. “See how your body feels,” said Laura. “Let your abdomen slide back towards your sacrum, your chest flourish and lift.” We bid “namaste,” grateful for Laura’s wisdom and the invaluable knowledge we would take with us to our next time on our mat, and beyond.
—Jim Catapano for Yoga Sleuth Drop-in 90-minute classes are $27, mat included. First 90-minute class is $15.
Intermediate Samamkaya Yoga Back Care 119 W 23rd St, #406 New York, NY 10011 (646) 964-577