Finding Zen On The Helipad: SoundOff Yoga

Nightfall at #HelipadYogaThis summer I went to a LOT of outdoor yoga and did no actual yoga. I loved being outside, the vibe of large groups of people gathering to practice but never actually laid out my mat since I was in charge of an event series. When I first heard about SoundOff’s HeliPad Yoga event with yogi superstar Elena Brower and Miami’s Jennifer Pansa, I couldn’t really wrap my head around what it really was.  I was pretty sure though, that the views from downtown’s helipad at sunset would be worth the uncertainty, and my final chance before summer ended to practice outside. I quickly accepted the invite and then a day later,  I took the train to a station I’d passed through but never gotten off at and let the adventure begin.

After waiting for a little while as they finished setting up, we were let in. A quick check-in, and drinks from Butcher’s Daughter and WTRMLN water, we were handed our headphones as we made our way out to the helipad. Sliding on the headphones, I went to find what would be my spot for the next hour and half. It was amazing to be completely surrounded by the normal NYC city noise and suddenly only be able to hear the pumping music and the occasional directions from Elena. It got me really excited for what was to come…

sunset at #helipadyoga

The thing that didn’t excite me at all, was ALL of the bird poop. It was everywhere… and I do mean EVERYWHERE. The germaphobe in me momentarily panicked and almost ran away. Then I had a stern talk with myself, picked the least terrifying spot and laid down my mat. I just spent the class being very, very aware of the parameters of my mat. Others seemed not to care in the slightest which was probably a much healthier response… but that dude who walked barefoot between mats really did freak me out. I tried to just let it go and focus on the absolutely amazing view around me since being on the Helipad meant that you were actually out in the water and both Brooklyn and Manhattan are a sight to behold from that vantage point.

Brooklyn view

Elena and Jennifer led a joyful flowing class to the sounds of DJ Tasha Blank who really just seemed to understand how to both sooth and motivate you through music. It was easily one of the best soundtracks to any yoga class I’ve ever been too. Since we were on the Helipad, the flow focused on taking flight and being uplifted in every movement. I really went for the view… but found that as the sun set, the practice got more magical. As the night fell and the only lights were from the glowing headphones, I got lost in the beauty of the night and the practice. I stopped worrying about anything else and just let myself go with the flow of the evening.

As we lay back for Savasana, I looked up and fiinally, away from all of the building lights of the city, I could see the stars above me. I breathed in and was just fully grateful for this adventure.

Finding gratitude at Virayoga with the help of Elena Brower

I recently came to the conclusion that I need to add more yoga into my schedule, at least once a week. Tuesday was the first day of that resolve, when I made my way to Virayoga and the amazing Elena Bower. I had been hearing about Elena for what seemed like forever, however, the closest I ever came to taking a class from her was that big yoga event in Central Park a few years ago that got cancelled due to a thunderstorm. At the time, I just thought I wasn’t supposed to do yoga in the park that day but it turned out that it also marked the last time yoga was a regular part of my life. That needed to change.

I decided that a good first step to my returning to yoga was to finally take a class with Elena, since Virayoga is on the FITiST list and I had a credit I needed to use before it expired. It is so easy to get distracted with all of the choices on FITiST but because my back was acting up, I was dead set on getting a yoga class in to loosen things up. So on Tuesday, after my great morning spin class with Holly at Flywheel, I snagged a yummy and free latte at Joe’s (oh how I love a full coffee card) and slowly meandered down to the 12pm class at Virayoga.  The studio was a beautiful, high ceiling, loft-like space that was huge, but was full by the time I got there. Since the class was in the middle of the day, 90 minutes long and on a Tuesday, I assumed that it would be sparsely attended – I was so wrong. It was PACKED. I got there about 15 minutes before class started and there were already 30 people all set up in the room. I set up my mat in the midst of obvious regulars, figuring that I would at least be able to follow along if I got totally confused about what pose we were supposed to be doing – which almost always happens to me in a yoga class. By the time class was set to start, there were 41 people in the room, which suddenly didn’t feel expansive anymore. Right after everyone settled in, Elena came in and made her way to the head of the class. I was floored at how beautiful she was and how it seemed like everyone held their breath as she walked in. For the first 20 minutes or so, I just didn’t get the hold she had over the room, but it was amazing to watch. The poses were challenging and held for what seemed ages to my tight muscles.  As she sat in the front of the room talking us through them, I was fully resistant to being in the moment. I internally grumbled and thought “this is going to be a LONG 90 minutes”. There were two assistants in the class but they never came to me, seeming to stay with the more experienced practitioners in the class.  For the first part of class, I assumed that Elena would stay at the head of the room, talking us through the poses while the assistants corrected the room physically. Then it happened – I Iooked up and Elena was in the middle of the room with her hand on someone’s back and the graceful demonstration of that touch made me realize why everyone had held their breath when she came in – they were waiting for that moment. She was amazingly good a talking people through poses and articulating small adjustments she wanted us to make, however, Elena is breathtakingly good hands-on. The first time she adjusted me in a Warrior pose, I fully understood the breathless anticipation everyone had. She moved me deeper into the pose, firmly, while explaining what I needed to be thinking about physically in the movement.  Then, she moved my hair, which had gotten caught in a funny way as I had moved in to the pose. That completely won me over. It was a thoughtless gesture, I am sure, but it was so sweet and comforting, that I practically swooned.  The rest of the class flew by.  I was completely open and entirely in the moment when we finally laid down for the Shavasana at the end of class. It was one of those moments where my mind didn’t wander at all as I laid there.  A woman named Spring started singing a chanting based song while playing her guitar softly. It was a beautiful, magical end to a class that made my heart feel three times bigger and my soul a little lighter.

As I walked out into the beautiful, sunny day, I felt grateful for the chance to have taken that glorious class and for life in general …you really can’t ask for more than that.


(Top photo of Elena Brower from the Virayoga website and bottom image a little internet goodness.)