Thursday, September 22, 2011

Yoga Passbook 2011 - (Bend & Bloom/Bent!)

Bend & Bloom Yoga, 708 Sackett Street, Brooklyn, NY, 11217
September 14th
Wednesday morning I decided to go to the 9:15am Open class at Bend & Bloom in Park Slope. I was still beat down from the other classes I had taken and wasn't too keen on the class being an hour and thirty minutes, but I wanted to get it in for the day and I had wanted to check out Bend & Bloom for a while. So off I went.  It was just my luck that when I arrived at the studio I learned that Amy, who was teaching the class,  had to take her child to the doctor that day so she decided to cut class to an hour instead of the usual hour and a half!  Yes!

Bend & Bloom is called just that because they offer kids yoga, prenatal and postnatal yoga. So they are there for everyone through all phases of life.  They have two yoga studios and I was in the bigger of the two for my class that day.  The room is pretty big and there are two windows in the room. One is pretty high up and the other is almost like a door or a little porthole on the left side of the room.

As we started the class I knew right away not to get too excited about it being an hour because I felt like we jumped right into thing. It was moving really fast and I could feel my body screaming at me. But I kept moving and breathing through.  Usually I'm pretty focused in class and I do a good job with my breathing, but I kept thinking, "My God I need to go back to a basics class for a minute and slow this joint down."  When I really started to think about it, I did dive back into yoga full steam ahead this time. When I did my 30 days of yoga  last year I took it slow to get back into the groove. Not this time. I really thought I was super yogi! Poses that shouldn't have been a struggle that day were killing me.  I know everyday if different when you hit the mat, but wow! I was bending, but I sure wasn't blooming. LOL!

That was one of the longest hours I had spent in yoga up to this point.  That class couldn't have ended fast enough. Amy was a great teacher, but I just couldn't get with it that day and I honestly wasn't sure when I would go back. Well as fate would have it, it would be the next day!

[Side Note: Although I used my passbook that day, the 9:15 an Open Flow class led by Amy is a "Pay What You Can" class. So I know with my budget being what it is these days I can go back and check the class again after my passes are finished.]

September 15th
Thursday was really crazy for me. My liner notes were due (I had started, but I missed the deadline by a long shot) and I had a doctor appointment (and the office was backed up).  I can't remember what else I did that day, but I ended up going to yoga in the evening. My original idea was to go to Bodhisattva Yoga Studio in Park Slope for their 7pm Basics class because I needed to rewind this yoga situation for a minute. I hopped on the train and ended up getting there just a little early so they made me wait outside until they were ready to let folks in.

Before getting to the studio I wasn't quite sure if I had been there before, but when I walked up I knew I had.  When I was finally let in I was greeted by Jess who was teaching the class.  She asked me if I had ever been to the studio before and I said yes. I then dug in my bag and pulled out my passbook.  Before I could even open it up to the page she was looking at me, shaking her head no. Oh no, not again.  I was reminded of when I tried to use my passbook at Move With Grace and was rejected, but that situation turned out much better than this. Turns out that once you have been to Bodhisattva with the passbook you cannot go back again with it. The passes are for first time visitors ONLY.  So my pass was worth squat.  Jess asked me if I wanted to stay and pay $18 for the walk-in. What??!!! If I had planned to pay $18 then I wouldn't have bought my passbook. Also...$18!  Really? I know there are many studios around that have $18 walk-ins, but it still boggles my mind.  I guess that's Park Slope rent for you. I politely told Jess No, Thank You and headed out the door.

So now it's 7pm. I'm in Park Slope and I really want to go to yoga. The only way I'm getting it in that night is if I use the passbook and then I remember Bend & Bloom had a Basics class happening at 7:45pm. They are on Sackett between 4th & 5th Ave in Brooklyn and I was on 9th Street & 7th Ave. So I figured I would just walk over and wait there until it was time for class.

I moseyed over to Bend & Bloom and waited for the 7:45 Basics class to begin.  It was in the same room I had been in the day before, but this time the class was packed. Since I had only been to the studio for the first time the day before, I'm not familiar with who the teachers are. When the teacher came in she didn't introduce herself so I just figured it was the usual teacher.

The instructor had us start on the wall with some shoulder stretches, which was really good for me because my left shoulder needs all the stretch it can get. It was kind of intense, but I was with her. Little did I know that that intense feeling was just a precursor for the rest of the class.  I swear during class she bent us in so many positions that were just mean (lol) and then somewhere in the middle of class she sort of starts mocking our thoughts.  What I mean is, she said, "I know you're all thinking, 'What the hell! This is a basics class?'"  HA! That's EXACTLY what I was thinking.  I was like damn, I was trying to slow this ship down and you are heating it up for real! She kept saying things about being the sub and then it clicked. Ah hell, this woman is not the regular teacher so she's just doing her own thing.  Damn! It was too late. I was deep in it. I can't even remember all the things she had us doing, but I do remember one quite clearly.

She had us move our mats to the wall for the last part of the class. She had us put one blanket, folded in half, on our mat, but lined up against the wall to give our knee some cushion.  I might not describe this next part exactly right, but you'll get my point.  She then had us put our right knee on the blanket while front of our foot was on the wall. So imagine you are down on one knee about to propose, but instead of your back foot being flat on the ground, your back knee is bent and your foot is up against a wall.  Then she has us back in a bit so we are tight in there and then sort of lean forward to get the back bend in there.  Yo! I almost cried for real.  It was one of the most painful things I have ever done. I know I had done that post before, but that day it was unreal.  It proved just how tight my quads are.  I mean DAMN that hurt.  We were holding on to blocks on the highest level beside us and then she had us put our hands on the free knee, then in the air! What?? I think my hands made it into the air or a hot second.  They barely made it off the blocks on the first side and only to my knee on the second side.  Although yoga is not about competition I kept thinking, "How are these damn people doing this?"  LOL. I mean I could hear the pain in their bodies as well, but they were in there. The energy in the room was intense.  By the time we came out of one pose I couldn't believe we were going to have to do it again on the other side!  I think by that time I was just mad at the teacher.  LOL!

[Side Note: I had to look up the pose so that you could know what I'm talking about. So the Sanskrit name for the pose is Eke Pada Rajakapotasana II or in layman's terms One-Legged King Pigeon Pose II. Check the photos. They make it look so good and easy. lol Ouch!]

At the end of class the teacher told us her name was Lindsay and that she was teaching on Saturday mornings as well.  When she finished with her announcements it was all I could do to put my blocks and blankets away.  It was all I could do to even roll up my mat. I was spent or should I say bent! 

When I got out to the lobby to put on my shoes I think I was the last one to leave. Lindsay was there too to close up.  I thanked her for class and it was genuine. I knew my body needed what it got that night, but it was a hard pill to swallow.  Lindsay was very sweet. She told me she liked my hat and had spotted it when I came in.  That was the night I wore my fedora to class because I don't have a proper fall or winter everyday hat yet and I keep forgetting that I have no hair.  I have to say that after class was over and my body was coming back to itself, I felt like I was floating. I really felt sort of high. It was amazing. I hadn't felt anything like that after yoga before that I can remember.  I was actually energized. What a trip. I know I just yelled and almost cussed, but I'm going to give Lindsay another chance. :-D


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Return of the Yog-i!

Hey Everyone!

After a long and unexpected yoga hiatus I am back! I hadn’t stopped exercising all together, but I moved back to my Sporty Spice cardio side. I was biking and walking, but honestly even the time I was putting into that was a little slim. Sometimes it takes big change to get you back on track and that is surely what has been happening over the last few months.

As you know, I’m a vocalist/musican as well as a yogi. I did a huge show in August at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival and it was amazing! It was one of the best experiences of my life [Click Here for Michfest Recap: "This is Called the Show"], but afterward I didn’t have a voice for a week. That really scared me. I will admit that I knew there was something wonky going on with my voice before that show, but I never had anything happen to me like that before. Maybe after doing a show I wouldn’t have voice for one day, but even that was one day too many.

So when I got back to New York I went to the doctor who told me my vocal chords were very swollen and my left one was swollen to the point of almost developing a polyp. I didn’t freak out about that, but what I did freak out about was when the doctor told me I had to take medication to bring the swelling down. Seems simple, but I’m just not a pill person at all and what she prescribed me I was honestly very leery of. I know what it has done to other people in large doses. She assured me that because I was only taking 1 pill for 5 days I wouldn’t have those problems. So I took the meds, but at that moment I knew I had to get back to yoga. Yoga saved my life once so I know it will do it again.

So all that to say that I’m on vocal rest until at least the end of the month and then I’ll know more after some other tests with the speech pathologist. I will also tell you that I feel great. I’m not worried about what is on the other side. I know I’m going to be better if I just shut up for a while. When you are not well, it’s better to know what is going on so that you can do everything in your power to remedy the situation. Even if you have a life threatening challenge it’s better to know! There are healers and healing modalities all around you. Just reach out to your community and there is someone that has some information for you. If you don’t think you have community, well now you have this blog and I can point you in some direction. Okay enough of the health PSA for today. lol

Let’s get back to my return to yoga. When I was at Michfest I reconnected with a wonderful sista, dancer and yogi, Sokhna. We vowed to reconnect when we got back to Brooklyn. It was a hectic August so we just got together last Friday when she invited me to a yoga class that she was subbing for at Shambala Yoga & Dance Center. It just so happens that that’s also the new location of where I practice Reiki. She also teaches there regularly on Sunday afternoon.

Friday September 9th

Shambala Yoga & Dance Center, 367 St. Marks Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11238

On that morning of the 9th I jumped back into the fray. Class was at 8:15am and that was the best way to start my day. Since I had told Sokhna about 3 or 4 days ago that I would be at class, I peeled myself up, got myself together, jumped on my bike and headed over.

I saw Sokhna near the reception area when I arrived. We said out hellos and I checked in. I really like Shambala. They moved into a new space just down the street from where they were before. They have one studio for yoga and dance and two treatment rooms. It also feels really wonderful in there and to me it’s really all about the vibe of a space.

The class that morning was small. I think there were only four of us, but I really like classes like that. The teacher can give some extra attention if they are that kind of teacher. Sokhna told me about the class she taught on the Wednesday before and the class was in that vain. She taught a Hatha class with a little bit of Kundalini, which she says is really Hatha as well. I always know when there is a little Kunkalini mixed in when we start doing the breath of fire. Sokhna told me we were going to be holding the poses a little longer than usual, which was a little challenging because I hadn’t taken class in a while, but it was just what I needed. I can always tell my fitness level by my Om. In fact Om is the only vocalizing that I have been doing since put on vocal rest. I know it heals so I’m going with it.

Sokhna’s class was kind of interesting because some might say she did the class backwards because we ended with Sun Salutations, which was actually really nice. The class was an hour long and I can’t remember all the postures we did during the class, but what I can say is that it was really wonderful way to jump off my trip back down yoga lane.

If you live in Prospect Heights of just like to try different yoga studios in Brooklyn I recommend Shambala. Sokhna teaches Kundalini yoga every Sunday at 1pm. She is also in private practice where she does pre-natal as her primary thing. So if you or someone you know might be interested in her services I can point you in her direction.


Me & Sokhna

Yoga Passbook 2011 - (Move With Grace/From No Pass to Much Class)

Sunday September 11th

Rendering of 9/11 Memorial at Night

This was an interesting day. While the world was mourning I started doing laundry. I had planned to get my haircut, go to yoga and NOT watch the 9/11 memorial coverage. I know it might sound harsh or like I have no heart, but it’s really the exact opposite. For those of us New Yorker’s who were here in 2001, we were here. I mean after the world stopped watching so much, we were still here with the smell of it and the smoke still billowing and the energy of knowing that Ground Zero was not just a burial ground now that 9/11 happened, but it was a burial ground to the African-American people of New York first. A burial ground that had been thoroughly disrespected by the city of New York, but that’s another blog.

As I was doing my laundry I did happened to pull up ABC News on my computer and it was just in time for the moment of silence for when the second plane hit. Of course they showed the actual footage of it either right before of after the moment of silence and all the feelings came rushing back. Then the names. The names. The names. Then they showed an aerial view of the actual memorial. Whew! Damn that memorial is intense. I mean really, really intense. I have never wanted to go down there. I didn’t even want to drive by there. Visiting friends and family tried to get me to go down there in the months after and I just wouldn’t do it. I would tell them they could go, but I wasn’t going.  


I turned off my computer probably around letter L of the roll call. I finished my laundry, got myself together and headed out to get my haircut. I talked Candace who cuts my hair a little bit about our 9/11 memories and I felt like yoga was the best way for me to honor those senselessly killed 10 years ago.  

[Breath. Life.]

After my cut was done I headed to Clinton Hill and Move with Grace. Class wasn’t starting until 2:30pm so I had some time to kill. I walked around my old neighborhood that has changed so much and then headed back to the studio. Turned out my girl and superstar in her own right, Tamar-kali was there. She teaches belly dancing at the studio so she was helping out that day. I was still a little early so we chatted for a while until people started to show up. I pulled out my Yoga Passbook for her to sign the pass when she informs me that they don’t take passes anymore. What??!! It turned out that Grace, who owns the studio, had asked the passbook people to take the studio out last year but they didn’t do it. So the passes were in there, but they were not being honored. Oh well. I guess there wasn’t going to be any yoga for me at that studio that day because I didn’t have the $16 to swing it. Just as I was getting ready to pack it up and look in the book for a class later in the day somewhere else, this woman behind me says that since I traveled all the way down there for class I could come as her guest. Turns out it was the teacher Raquel! How sweet was that? So I got to go yoga that day.

Raquel’s class was an hour and it was an open level Vinyasa Flow class. This was another class that was right on time. Even though the class was flow she held the poses for a bit longer than usual. That class was all about the breath. Not that all yoga classes aren’t, but all of you yogis know what I mean.

There were probably about 10 people in class that day, which is a good size. Raquel was hands on and would come around and give suggestions on how to improve your posture and have a bit more ease in the poses. I was starting to feel my shoulder in this class (old war injury). But really I had surgery on it in 2003 and it’s like a grandma shoulder. When the weather is overcast or raining my shoulder hurts and it did rain that day. I just had to be mindful of the shoulder. We did some shoulder stretches in class, which helped.

Me & Raquel

After class was over I had fully planned to get on my bike and head home, but Tamar and I started talking. Class let out at 3:30pm and the next thing I knew it was 5pm and time for Tamar’s belly dancing class. She encouraged me to stay because the first class if free and as tired as I was I stayed for her class, and what a class it was.

I had never taken a Belly Dancing class in my life. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy even though the women who do it make it look super easy, Tamar included. It was a hell of a workout and the biggest thing I learned is that I’m stiffer than I thought I was. I go out dancing and I think I’m moving freely, but clearly this is something totally different. I am going to try and find a way to add belly dancing into my life. Besides it being the crazy core workout it might help to bring out more of the lady in me. LOL!

The raqin' Tamar-kali

As I was biking home from class that evening I decided that I want to go to the 9/11 Memorial. I think something opened up for me taking those classes that day. I’m ready to leave my offering.  

The now iconc photo of Robert Peraza mourning his son Robert David Peraza

 [Breath. Life. Spirit.]


Yoga Passbook 2011 - YogaWorks: Soho/The Snob in Me

Monday September 12th

YogaWorks Soho, 459 Broadway, New York, NY 10013

The original plan for this day was to get up and go to a class at 9:15am in Brooklyn. Well, I got up and was going to get ready to go, when I really started to think about my schedule for the day. I needed to finish some work and then head into the East Village to do a bit more. Then I wanted to go to meditation, which on 27th and 6th Avenue later that night so something had to give or in my case nothing had to give, I just had to change some of the order of my day.

So I found a yoga class that started at 1pm and chose to stay home and do my work until it was time to heard the City. The class I found was at YogaWorks in Soho. YogaWorks actually has 4 locations in New York City and one in Westchester. I have been to the location on 5th Ave and 19th street so I decided to give Soho a try.

The studio on 5th Avenue has one room, but in Soho there are three studios. The place is beautifully designed and has all the bells and whistles. A clothing and yoga accessories boutique, Organic Tea Bar, showers with towel service, sauna and digital locks on the lockers for starters. I know there were probably a few things that I missed as I didn’t take a tour of the entire facility. Sounds great right?! For many people they would be joining right away, but I have to admit that I was a little leery when I walked in. I know it sounds crazy and it is a little bit.

I have this thing about large yoga studios that I need to get over. Sometimes I feel like the more amenities, the less serious the practice or wait maybe it’s the opposite. The more amenities, the more seriously people take themselves in their practice, which can sometimes translate to a competitive vibe. Yes I know this is a total stereotype. I know that this is totally a story that I’m making up. I know, I know! I have to work on it. If you recall that’s how I felt when I walked into Pure Yoga [Click Here for Pure Yoga Blog], which is the mega-mall of yoga studios in NYC, but I had a great class. Maybe because all 50 mats that were set up weren’t used. LOL! I think my old Jivamukti experience has got me shook people. LOL! Anyway back to YogaWorks.

A very excited young lady named Christen showed me around a bit and and told me to come check her out if I was interested in joining the studio. I went into the locker room, locked up my things and headed to Studio 1.

When I walked in the studio all I could think about was the fact that it was big. I found a spot toward the front of the room so I can see the teacher (I practice without my glasses on), got my blanket, blocks, sat and prepared myself for class. The class was filling up and soon the teacher arrived. Everyone was situated when she told us to all bring our mats to the wall. We ended up spending the whole class was there, which was cool. The teachers name was Libby and she was also a hands-on teacher. She would walk around the room and adjust people in their postures. She did a really great job considering how many people were in the class.

It was during this class that my shoulder really started to hurt. When I was in Triangle pose or anything where I would have to put pressure on my left arm or even just to have the left arm in the air it was killing me. I could barely lower my body to the ground and I wasn’t even trying Chaturanga. Well I tried it once and it felt like my arm would come out of the socket. So I was kind to myself and did what I could do. It kind of reminded me of my 30 days of yoga last year. By day 5 my shoulder and the rest of my body were angry with me. That’s how the shoulder was feeling, angry. It was even hard to get up into bridge pose. I’m not even talking full wheel. Well you get my point. I was hurting. So I took my time. We did a lot of work in that class with blocks and straps so that was really helpful.

Somewhere in the midst of my shoulder pain and just the sheer focus that I had to have to make sure I wasn’t hurting myself, I totally forgot about all the other mess I was thinking about the studio in general. Another impressive thing about YogaWorks Soho is that they have a light up sign outside of the studio door that say “Shhhh… Savasana” to remind people walking by the studio to be quiet while people are in Savasana. Crazy!

Once I got over myself I realized that I would really like to go back, but I might use my last pass to go to the Eastside or Westside studios just to mix it up a bit. As I headed out and on to my next destination for the day I knew it was going to be a soaking in the tub night. My body was killing me. I know it’s that good pain, but damn if my legs didn’t feel like lead.

I told you. LOL!

Yoga Passbook 2011 - Area Yoga/A New Home Down the Road

September 13th

Old Home of Area Yoga

I made a schedule of where I was going to go for this week in yoga. It didn’t work out yesterday, but I was determined to go to Area Yoga today. Area is my yoga home. That is where I did my 30 days and I know many of the teachers there. They also moved to a new location just down the street on Court St. in Cobble Hill, but I hadn’t been there so I was looking forward to seeing it. I decided to go to Keely’s class because I hadn’t seen her in a while. She was teaching the Open Level class at 9:15am.

I got myself together this morning, jumped on my bike and headed to Cobble Hill. When I got to the spot I could tell already that it was a nice shift. At the old place the downstairs part of the building had been under construction forever. At the new spot you enter on the ground floor and there is a small boutique carrying clothes, mats, candles and even yoga underwear. But what exactly are yoga underwear? Sorry I didn’t get a close enough look at what make them fit for yoga, but I did see someone buy a pair.

I got there a little early so I went upstairs and put my mat down in the new studio. The room seems like it’s a little smaller than the old space, but it’s much nicer. The floor doesn’t creek and the windows are beautiful. It would be a hell of an apartment!

I settled in and people started coming soon after. I thought it might be a nice small class, but boy was I wrong. Clearly the 9:15 open class at Area is the class to hit. That spot was packed. I’m always surprised when I see people at yoga a 9:15am as if I’m the only one who has day time space in their life. I forget that people are stay at home mom’s, work the night shift, work for themselves and the list goes on.

By the time Keely got there and started we had to readjust to fit more people in. It was so stacked that we had to get to know our classmates intimately. Lol

I always like Keely’s classes because she starts with chanting. Before this class the only vocalizing that I have been doing was Om, but today I added the chant. It felt good, but I’m not going to push it.

Keely’s Open classes are always challenging, but today was extra. It was rigorous and I was sweating like it was nobody’s business. Classes like that always make me wonder why people do hot yoga. Yoga is hot enough without all the extra heat. I know you Bikram folks love your Bikram, but I’m still trying to understand. Especially in Vinyasa Flow so much heat is generated and on this day I was drenched. I don’t usually bring a towel to class because usually I can work with the sweat, but today I needed a Rasheed Wallace basketball sweatband for real!

Keely had us doing poses, many of which I had to modify because my body has not caught up with my mind yet. I also needed to remain mindful of my shoulder. Chaturanga was still feeling a little funky. So in this class there were not too many vinyasas for me. Just straight into Downward Dog for me. Today she had us try Crow pose. Again not so much for me and my shoulder, but I did give it a little try. The shoulder didn’t hurt so much in Side Angle or in Triangle today. Vasisthasana (side plank pose) was a little tough, but I made it through with some modification. We went through all the Warriors, Tree pose, Virasana and the list went on and on. I was a sweaty mess about ½ way though, but it was worth it.

After class I felt great and got a chance to reconnect with Keely and a couple of other folks I had taken class with in the past. It was a really sweet ending to a wonderful class.

I’m so glad yoga is back in my life. Although my outsides are screaming (I have a heating patch on my lower back right now!) my insides smiling. Until next time…

New Home of Area Yoga, 389 Court Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231