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.

FBS’s Sweaty Intel: January Edition

A few months ago, I heard a solid report that Soul Cycle had signed a lease in Brooklyn, near the Borough Hall stop in Brooklyn Heights/Downtown area.  I was pretty sure at the time that this was true, but when I saw the recent posting on Soul’s Career section looking for Front Desk peeps for “Brooklyn Heights, CT” I knew it had to be getting close. CT has no Brooklyn Heights… but BROOKLYN’S Downtown/Brooklyn Heights area is ripe for an awesome Indoor Cycling option and given the lease report, I’m now counting down the days ’till it’s officially announced. The Downtown Brooklyn area is massively lacking in fitness options and the studio that gets to this area first is going to have such a stronghold by the time ALL of the huge new buildings go up, it’ll be hard for anyone to compete. I’m not even a little surprised that Soul would see an opportunity and swoop in.

Soul Cycle Saying

 

One of my VERY favorite yoga studios – I.AM.YOU in Nolita is beginning to offer community classes (donation based) on Wednesday nights at 7:30pm. This loft-based studio is just freaking cool – athletic flow and awesome music. These classes will be taught by one of I.AM.YOU’s finishing school trainees, but knowing Lauren, she wouldn’t have anyone teach in her space that wasn’t amazing.  I’m so hitting this up.

IAmYouMats

In classes that seem both fascinating and slightly terrifying –  STREB has started to offer German Wheel (aka the giant hamster wheel) as a weekly class. This used to only be offered as special workshop but now you have the option of dropping in – for $35. Flip, roll, swing and invert yourself inside this giant metal wheel – it encompasses all of the fun and excitement of gymnastic tumbling without the high impact. These classes are taught by Chris Delgado, a certified German wheel instructor who has over 4 years of teaching experience and STREB says it’s open to all levels from beginner to competitive level training. I’m both curious and terrified of this one…

German Wheel Chris Delgado

 

Images from Soul Cycle & I.AM.YOU and Chris Delgado‘s Facebook pages.

Really Listening: I.AM.YOU’s Live DJ Class With Lauren Imparato

IAmYouDJclass

Things go wrong when you think you know an address…so on my way to Lauren Imparato’s I.AM.YOU, I took one of those random street elevators to a super sketchy second floor of an entirely different building, that instead of offering me a yoga sanctuary, offered massage services by the minute.  I thought, for a brief second, this is how a horror film would start and backed out quickly. Once I was back on the street, a quick Google search gave me the right address (I was two doors down) and moments later, I was finally in the right elevator and headed to I.AM.YOU.  I was running late, like class is about to start late, and I almost bagged out completely since I HATE being that person rushing in at the last minute.  But when I got to the floor, the door was still open and people were still being checked in, so I threw my stuff in my bag, ditched my shoes in the hallway and checked in. I walked into the darkened, stunning loft with its black mats carefully laid out and was grateful that I had actually made it.

The room was packed – of course. I had a momentary panic that my normal hide-in-the-corner-of-the-room spot wasn’t an option, and I thought about fleeing. Lauren saw me freeze, gave me a fierce hug and said without flinching, “You are going THERE” and pointed at an open mat in the middle of the room.  I paused. “GO”, Lauren said firmly and then was off to someone else.  I poked my way over to the mat and tried to settle in but with only a sliver of space between each mat, I also start praying that I didn’t take someone out during this class with my non-yogi ways.

IAmYouMats

Once all thirty mats were filled and everyone was settled in, Lauren told us the focus of the practice.  In most I.AM.YOU classes, Lauren has everything completely planned out, but during the live DJ class, there is an improv to music that is played.  So that night’s focus was all about really listening. That if, for one moment of your night, you were truly able to tune everything out and just really listen to yourself and the moment– that was success. That night, Jennifer, another of the I.AM.YOU teachers, was assisting and as we went through the athletic flow of the evening, it seemed like there was always someone there guiding and correcting my movement. Lauren and Jennifer seamlessly moved around the room, adjusting people, working as a team to get everyone in the room.  Sigh. Have I ever mentioned HOW much I love adjustments? I.AM.YOU instructors, for how amazing, challenging and athletic the practice is, are really just masterful at making sure everyone is in the right position.

Lauren Imparato

Lauren’s flow that night made us work with each other to get a little bit of space to fling ourselves around on the mat but because of the vibe of the night, everyone would just smile and shift. As the songs would change, the flow would morph and you had to really listen to the cues Lauren was giving. I strained to follow but occasionally would just peek at the girl on my left who was a regular and seemed grasp what the next thing was immediately. I never felt totally lost but occasionally my mind would drift off to the great music and cool vibe of the room and I’d suddenly realize I’d missed a cue or two. The hour and 15 minute practice flew by and at the end, as we lay in Savasana, I was totally blissed out. When Lauren made it to me to rub my temple to seal the practice, I melted. At the end of class, as I threw on my clothes and made my way out into the night, I wondered why I wasn’t at I.AM.YOU every single week… it really is just a magical spot in the world.

Photos from I.AM.YOU’s Facebook page. Top photo is from the actual class, if you look very closely you can spot me!

Yoga For Runners (and Non-Running Athletes) at Mala Yoga

Mala Yoga recovery-runners_calf_with-text

I am not a runner by any stretch of the imagination, but I DO have super tight hips and hamstrings so I’ve been dying to try Mala Yoga’s “Yoga for Runners” class designed by Stephanie Creaturo.

“Yoga for Runners is a class designed for runners by a lifelong runner who happens to be a yoga teacher. We strengthen muscles that runners need for stability and support, we stretch what gets tight, and learn manual release work to give our muscles and joints some relief.” The last line of the class description really got me.  It said that the class was designed for runners but any athlete was welcome!  I am pretty much always looking for yoga classes that are designed to open you up so when I read this class description, I knew I had to try it.

Mala Yoga studio

Mala Yoga is one of those studios that just shouldn’t feel as awesome as it does.  A simple one room space with very minimal decorations on the second floor of a busy Brooklyn street, it is one of the warmest, most welcoming studios I’ve ever been to. After checking in and setting up my mat, I snuck a peek at the people who looked like they came to the class alot and grabbed the same props that they had gotten. I am always excited by classes with yoga props, since I figure I need all of the help I can get! For this one, we got a tennis and golf ball, 2 blocks, 2 blankets and a strap. Before the class started, Steph made her way around the room to check in with everyone. As she stopped by my mat, I sheepishly told her I didn’t really run at all, mostly did CrossFit and Spinning but that I have a case of Planter Fasciitis. I felt a little like I had snuck into a class I didn’t belong in, but as she talked to me she rubbed my foot and told me where I should start rolling on the golf ball that I had gotten and told me that ALL athletes were welcome. Tight hips are tight hips. I immediately relaxed and was completely smitten with Steph for her openness and caring for helping everyone – even us non-runners.

mala_yoga_window

As the class started, Steph told us that this is NOT a Vinyasa class, and it so isn’t. One of my very favorite moves happened right away – rolling our calves out on a tennis ball that was placed on a block. It was ridiculously yummy. I knew from that first moment that I was in the right place. We did hip openers, side stretches, hamstring releases and as we went through, Steph would call out what different issues each pose would help with… all based on what people in the class had said were things they were dealing with. In each pose, she was also amazing about adjusting people into the right spot so that they could get the most out of the move. A good adjustment means the world and a couple of times, I almost cried with joy as she moved me gently into the right spot. The class FLEW by and honestly, by the time we hit the last pose, a shavasana twist with our legs up the wall, I was blissed out and more open then I’d been in MONTHS.

Mala Yoga-sc_tennis-ball-hip-w-text

I would recommend this class for any athlete but runners should be there EVERY single week. It was seriously heavenly and I can’t wait to go back -Steph has really created something magical…

Photos from Mala Yoga’s Blog , photos of Steph taken from a great post she wrote on restorative work you can do at home. 

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.)