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June 2020
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Anatomically Focused with Jen Whitney
East Yoga
96 Avenue B, 2nd floor
New York, NY 10009

Thu, 10:00 AM To 11:30 AM

The neighborhood-y vibe from East Yoga emanates warmth down the stairs from their second floor studio. After removing my winter gear on the ground level, I entered the yoga room, and was greeted by Jen Whitney from behind the desk. She was checking in and chatting lightly with the others there for class. As I stashed my personal belongings into a cubby, Jen announced that we would use a lot of props and we should get two blankets, two blocks and a strap.

The class found their spots while Jen walked around with chant sheets. No one aside from myself took one which led me to believe this was a bunch of regulars.

After a group chant followed by Om, Jen said, “We’re going to have a dharma talk in supported Baddha Konasana.” Then she asked us to loop the belt around our sacrums and extend it to the balls of our feet. We used the blankets and blocks to support our knees before closing our eyes.

She began reading about the essence of wisdom as oysters opening up their shells to create pearls. She said how it’s important to have, “the ability to open up your softest, most vulnerable parts in order to grow and expand,” adding that we were going to work with “keeping our hearts open and not letting the shell close around it.”

We soon made our way to Standing Forward Bend. “The curling inward, gazing towards the floor is cultivated a lot during the winter,“ Jen said. “Can we let our hearts stay open in this pose, and expose all the mushy stuff to the movement?” she proposed.

This led us into Surya Namaskar A which was immediately followed by variations that included Anjali Asana, Squat Twist, and Crow Pose.

Surya Namaskar B was traditional for the first round then we went straight to Warrior 2 and Triangle. Jen gave very detailed, yet subtle explanations of the poses. “Lightly bend the right knee, roll the inner right knee forward and the outer right knee back. Have it happen from your thigh bone, but keep the big toe mound pressing to the floor. And from there re-extend the leg so you are not feeling the stretch from behind the inner knee.”

Her adjustment to my Crescent Lunge Twist helped me feel exactly what her instructions meant. This enabled me to grow into other postures by myself in a way I’d usually only experience with the aid of a teacher’s assist.

In Tree she explained how we should keep our hips squared downward, and then we could pull the flesh out from our calves. From there we went to Half Lotus (bound for some), half Ankle to Knee, and then into Flying Crow.

Jen’s class activated both strength and balance, while also providing deep stretches to release the muscles used. In Pigeon we did the conventional variation before moving into a modification with our shins parallel to the front of the mat and our back ankles flat. This stretched the outer thigh in a hard to reach spot.

Another intense stretch came by cradling our ankles in our hands, and with a flexed foot we folded our torsos forward. Jen pointed out that the front of our ankles are being strengthened by walking through the snow, and this pose specifically targeted that area.

Other poses mixed in with the vinyasas were Navasana, Handstand and Ardha Chandrasana. Our back bending came through Camel.

Towards the end of class we partnered up. In either Full Lotus, Half Lotus, or Ankle to Knee we faced each other, came up to our knees, and used our partners for support. This brought a lot of laughter as it loosened up both our bodies and attitudes.

Before closing postures, we returned to Baddha Konasana (without the props) and opened our hearts from behind the shell in an upright Kurmasana.

When I left class, I felt not only open and refreshed, my ankles were stretched and ready to trudge back through the snow.

Single drop-in classes are $20; $2 mat rental.

-Elysha Lenkin for Yoga Sleuth

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