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February 2020
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Burn-N-Chill with Melissa Allerton
511 West 20th St.
New York, NY 10011

Sun, 2:00 PM To 3:00 PM

“Yoga. Here. Now,” said the sign outside of Yoga216. And who is Yoga Sleuth to turn that down? I went in and was greeted by my soon-to-be instructor, Melissa Allerton, who gave me a tour of the spa-like studio. Two changing rooms complete with primping supplies, beautiful lockers with personal keys, a shower with robes and towels, and complimentary tea and cookies. I was in bliss before I even hit the mat!

Yoga216 only allows 6 students at a time in each of its asana rooms. When I went in, the blue Jade mats were already set up, complete with blocks. The white room has no windows, and no noise from the busy west side streets gets in. It was like an isolated space cut off from the rest of the universe, a place to just breathe and be. “And we can turn up the volume on the singing monks!” said Melissa, referring to a special treat on the playlist.

The room was warm and cozy, giving us respite from the late fall chill. Melissa had us begin in Savasana. “Open up the heart, lungs and chest, and on an exhale melt into the mat,” she said. “Eliminate the to-do lists, the critic and the judge of the mind.” (Don’t mind if I do!) “Be present and have serenity. Maybe floating into the energetic body.”

Already incredibly relaxed, we brought this tranquility into the movement part of class. We first did a cross-legged seat variation of Cat/Cow before getting onto all fours for the standard version.

Yoga216—the 216 represents the Sutra “Pain that has not yet come is avoidable”— has a monthly flow, and Melissa explained that the December flow would bring together everything practiced in the past eleven months. We did a lunge in stages, from low with hands on the mat, to medium with arms at our sides, and finally blooming into the high version. Our flow consisted of five transitions from Plank to Down Dog, adding the option of lifting one leg later in class.

These were followed by a traditional vinyasa of Plank, Chaturanga, Up Dog and Down Dog. The class had a very fluid progression, and as Melissa cued in a soothing ethereal voice, we built to standing poses like Warriors 1-3, Extended Side Angle (with both arms extended to work the core), lunge twists, and Half Moon, both standard and revolved. This is where we really benefited from the small class size, as Melissa actually came around to place our blocks exactly where we needed them.

Coming into Malasana, we readied for the climactic pose of Crow. Melissa complimented me on my pose, just as I fell back on my bum!

“Let’s do a couple of quick pigeons,” said Melissa. She gave me a shout out, as I had mentioned my liking for them earlier as a tonic for my piriformis issues. She gave me a very welcome adjustment in both this and a later seated forward fold, allowing my spine to straighten and my lower back to melt in a way that’s not always easy to achieve on my own.

We had a choice of more inversions or getting to the “chill” part of the proceedings. We chose the latter, and came into Gomukhasana legs, twisting our torsos over them. Then we added our arms behind our backs, opening the heart and shoulders.

Melissa then asked us all to move to the walls, leaving mats behind. We pressed our toes to the wall but left our heels on the ground for a nice stretch in the feet. “We’re going to do Bridge pose a little different,” announced Melissa. “Bend the elbows and walk the arms in to the side ribs. Lifting the fingertips towards the ceiling, really stretch them out.” We did this variation several times. “Push through the elbows and fire through the arms to lift the heart,” guided Melissa. “By doing that you’re making this more about the heart lift than the hip lift.”

From here Melissa had us plant our feet against the wall. “The ankles and heels should be directly forward of the knees,” she said. “So if you close one eye you can’t see the toes…or maybe just the big toe!” We again pushed with elbows to lift the heart, slowly coming up and slowly coming down (it felt like a really good back massage!)

We brought one leg straight in the air, then replaced it with the other, before culminating in a full Shoulderstand. Then Melissa brought us all eye pillows, nice and cool from outside the asana room, and we brought our legs up the wall for one of my favorite Savasana variations. A little aromatherapy and neck and shoulder assist from Melissa upped the bliss-factor even more. Well-restored, we retired to the lobby for our well-deserved tea and cookies reward.

Drop-in classes are $39 with mats and towels included. New students can try a 3-class pack for $75.

-Jim Catapano for Yoga Sleuth

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