On Friday I stopped through Dumbo on my way home. A friend was having a party in her workspace there, and my can’t-make-it excuse (“I’m supposed to go to yoga”) held no water once she informed me that her office had a yoga studio ON THE SAME FLOOR. So, 6:30 yoga; 8:00 party it was. ($10 new student specials help with spontaneity.)
Abhaya Yoga just opened last week. It’s the only yoga studio in Dumbo, so it’s a welcome addition to the beautiful waterfront. (They lead free classes in the park at 2pm Saturdays.) The views from 10 Jay Street are ridiculous, so I was excited to test my focus against them.
The biggest surprise was that the studio teaches Anusara Yoga; most studios focus on Vinyasa, for all the cardio-loving students. I only know two other Anusara studios in the whole city (Vira Yoga and World Yoga Center). Tara Glazier, the owner, is a long-time student of Elena Brower at Vira.
Anusara Yoga, founded by John Friend, is a slow, detail-oriented practice. There are five general principles of alignment: open to grace, muscular energy, inward spiral, outward spiral, and organic energy. You’ll hold poses for ten or fifteen breaths, as you try to integrate these principles in each pose. I still don’t understand some of the language (How do you hug a muscle towards the bone? I thought they only contracted from origin to insertion.) but it was a very therapeutic experience.
[I’m suffering in the lower back/hamstring regions; there are a variety of culprits (more on that later) but no clear villain. Slow, patient analysis (and weekly tui na massage) is my current course of treatment.]
We started with a brief trio of OMs, and a chant. Tara talked about samskaras, or patterns that we hold. Physical, mental, or emotional, these patterns will continue to block growth until we learn a new route.
The physical focus of the class was the lower leg: how to find support there, to open up the systems above. I wasn’t sure that my calf had that much to say, but Tara assured us that it would help our hips, our spines, and things like sciatica. (Throughout the class, she was REALLY helpful in calling out the poses and techniques that would help and heal my injury.) In each pose, we would flex the foot, or press the calf against a block, or bend the knee and engage the lower leg, in order to “dam” the energy of the lower leg, and free the body above it.
My favorite moment came in a pose that normally kills me. It’s the quad stretch where you’re kneeling as if you’re about to propose, and then you grab the back ankle and hug it in towards the hip. Super intense stretch from the knee up to the hip bone. But unlike other methods I’ve learned, we didn’t sink the hips towards the floor; we kept the legs at 90º and the torso vertical. It moved the stretch out of the front of the hip, and into the middle of the quad. When we finally released it, that whole side was relaxed like a rag doll. This is the benefit of Anusara’s take on the details.
I enjoyed the class, and the space, a lot, and if you can just keep your gaze fixed on the Empire State Building the whole time, you won’t be distracted by the sailboats (or the power plant). Classes are still small, so you’ll get more attention, and there are plenty of great shops, cafés, and nature to enjoy afterward.