Yoga Sleuth’s first class as an undercover agent of asana was eight years ago at Bamboo Moves in his hometown of Queens. To bring things full circle, I returned for a fun and challenging Dharma Flow with the exuberant Rachael Nickel.
The room was buzzing, and so was someone’s mobile device. “If that’s your phone ringing, turn it off. Or throw it out the window!” grinned Rachael, who reminisced about gleefully running over her own answering machine. In that spirit, we sat, closed our eyes and withdrew our senses for a few blissful breaths.
“Begin to feel the expansiveness of your being,” said Rachael as we came to down dog, moving hips and knees, peeking under one arm and then the other. “You’re exploring some fluid sensations, seeing what’s here for you today, getting in touch with the body.” We explored lateral stretches. “There’s no yanking, pulling or straining,” said Rachael. “It’s an allowing. It’s like jazz—we follow the song, but might be improvising in our own unique way.” We started a series of brisk sun salutations. “Move like you’re moving through honey—quickly, but not rushed.”
Rachael is witty and energetic, running around the room giving precise cues to each student individually, calling to us all by name with a suggestion or a compliment. “Draw rainbows with the hips!” she suggested, to make one of our down dogs more interesting. “And if you feel like going upside down, this is a nice time!”
She suggested handstands, crows and headstands for anyone who wanted to play between flows. And for every pose she called out the variations and add-ons, such as shoulder-under-the-knee after lizard, or grabbing for the back foot in pigeon.
“Anything you want to explore—it’s not what Rachael expects of you, and not what you want to show off. It’s what your body wants to do. First you listen to the yoga teacher, then you listen to yourself.”
We side planked, twisted in our lunges, unwound to warrior two, and toppled our trees with an option to shine in half moons. For some upside down time we did headstand and shoulderstand. As a counter pose to the latter we were invited to do something I’d never heard of called “couch.” (Good to know there’s always something new to learn!).
This back-bender is done by lying in supine hero then reaching for opposite elbows behind the head and lifting through the neck and chest. “Breathe all the way into the lower abdomen,” reminded Rachael. “It’s like learning to play a musical instrument, it opens and unfolds.”
We came to a seat and did some leg cradles, then put the knee over the shoulder pressing into compass pose. “Now take your right ankle over your left, lean forward and make a sandwich of your upper thighs and balance!” We fell, laughed and tried again. “Who has psychic powers and knows what we’re doing next? That’s right, the other leg!” smiled Rachael.
For savasana, Rachael talked us through a full yoga nidra, cueing us to relax each part of our bodies one by one.
She bade us goodbye with a cheerful "Happy Yoga!" And I wish that for all of you as well. Till we “om” again!
—Jim Catapano for Yoga Sleuth
Drop-in classes are $22 with a $2 mat rental. New members can try an intro month for $59.
Sunday 10:30-11:45am Intermediate
Bamboo Moves 107 Queens Blvd, Ste 206 Forest Hills, NY 11375 (718) 263-0788