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February 2020
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Beautiful Bodies with Clara Roberts-Oss
Prema Yoga
236 Carroll Street
Brooklyn, NY 11231

Fri, 11:30 AM To 12:45 PM

Yoga Sleuth squeezed into a full class at Carroll Gardens’ Prema Yoga one chilly spring Saturday morning. I had forgotten that weekend mornings are absolutely the most popular time to practice yoga in New York City, and Prema was no exception. Space was found for me at the very front of the large, open space in the beautiful brownstone building, so I had a good view out the gigantic front window, and also a good view of my teacher, Clara Roberts-Oss.  

I was a devotee of Clara’s class some years ago, when she taught at Sonic Yoga. I loved her lunch hour flow, and was disappointed when she announced she was moving away. Nine years later, while perusing Prema Yoga’s class schedule, I was delighted to see her name. It makes sense that yoga teachers’ styles evolve over the years, but I was glad to see that Clara’s class was still as strong, fun, and unique as ever. Maybe more so.

Class began with a strong, classic flow of Surya Namaskar As and Bs with variations like Warrior 2, Triangle, and Extended Side Angle. Many times throughout class we paused for a moment of stillness to retain or return the focus on breath. This occurred in Tadasana, Balasana, and simple seated postures, and was a helpful exercise. It allowed us to recharge for the next flow.

Throughout class, Clara offered different options for poses so that we could have a more individualized practice. In Extended Side Angle Pose, we began with the forearm on the knee, and as she expanded through more advanced variations of the pose Clara said, “You can always ignore me.”  She said this more than once through class, even going so far as to say that she really loves it when she sees students doing their own thing in class.

Clara has a very joyful, enthusiastic teaching style, and her energy is infectious.  She gave many of the poses or transitions their own sound effects (“whoosh!!” when sweeping from one challenging standing pose into another), and it’s clear to see that she’s very passionate about yoga and about life in general.  Her mostly upbeat, catchy playlist had the student next to me singing along while we were all in Balasana, and Clara said, “singing is always encouraged,” humming a few bars herself.  

Clara is clearly very knowledgeable and a serious teacher, but her instruction is very straight forward and in “layman’s terms.” For example, in Utkatasana she told us to “relax the ass,” and even had us shake it around a bit. Instructions like these required no interpretation, and were very easy to follow.

In the last half of class, Clara offered three different options for hip openers. There was Cow Pose, Reclined Pigeon, or Full Pigeon. After holding the hip opener for several breaths on each side, Clara informed us that we would be holding a backbend for fifteen breaths. It could be any backbend of our choice, but she warned us not to take it into the deepest variation from the start unless we felt very confident. I started with Bridge for five or ten breaths and then switched to Wheel. 

To close, we had our choice of inversion as long as we were able to hold it for five minutes. She also offered a Supine Twist for those of us who were not inverting. I liked this “choose your own adventure” style of the last portion of class. Clara made sure that our practice was very well rounded, but she allowed us the freedom to choose what felt right for our bodies.  

Before Savasana, Clara led us through a short, simple meditation, where she instructed us to focus on our breath hitting the upper lip. Since I seem to do the most thinking when I’m in yoga class, this very basic mode of staying present was helpful. It also helped keep the focus on the breath.

To close our practice, Clara had us show gratitude to our “beautiful bodies” by running our hands from the crown of the head along the body all the way to the feet. I loved this theme, and this way of closing class. I find it all too easy to get wrapped up in superficial ideas of physical perfection and beauty, forgetting that the most beautiful thing is that this body is here, working day in and day out, serving as a vessel for spiritual growth and for the simple (and sometimes not so simple) experience of life.

Drop-in classes are $17 with a $1 mat rental.  New students can purchase three classes for $30.

-Abby Payne for Yoga Sleuth

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