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June 2020
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A Yoga Journal Moment with Tracy Mohr
Sonic Yoga
754 9th Ave
New York, NY 10019

Thu, 12:30 PM To 1:30 PM

Upon entering the room at Sonic Yoga, Sleuth felt something different about this particular studio. It wasn't the white flower-type lights hanging from the ceiling. Nor was it the intricate alter glowing near the sun-drenched windows. The shelves of props that sat neatly in the back didn’t strike me as unusual. And the devotional chants emanating sweetly from the speakers weren’t uncommon either.  

As I studied the space carefully, it finally dawned on me -- this room was filled with men! Out of the 25 or so people settling onto their mats, half were shirtless guys. One was practicing his straddle split (he was close to the floor!) while another was involved in a friendly chat with the instructor, Tracy Mohr. Clearly, this was a spot for yoga dudes.

Taking her seat up front (at the alter), Tracy asked how we were feeling and considered the answers of "low energy" and "a little tired." She paused for a moment, then told us we’d start with the breath, and focus specifically on Ujjayi.

"I know a lot of my women have a hard time on the inhale," she said referring to the taking in, or receiving aspect of the breath. "On the exhale, let go of everything that no longer serves you."

We stayed with this Pranayama for several rounds before fluttering the eyes open, preparing for the movement portion of class.  Beginning with a gentle seated flow -- hands resting on the knees, we opened our chests forward to encourage some soft back bending. We then got onto all fours for Cat Cow, and extended a leg back for bent-knee leg lifts, all the while continuing the chest opening vinyasa.

The theme for the class was back bending. Tracy told me that she thinks about a peak pose, and designs the class around that. Our class peak pose was Dancer Pose, a leg balancing backbend, so she worked in specific stages of that pose to get us to the peak at the end.

“I like moving slowly with the breath, feeling each movement happen with each breath. I think prana moves much more fluidly if we just slow it down a bit.  The mind-body connection also becomes much clearer to the practitioner when they take their time in the flow.”

The pace of the class did stay slow, but there were many challenging moments for the body. In a series of Forearm Planks, with knees on the floor, we held the pose for several breaths. We also had an extended stay in Dolphin. And Forearm Stand (in the middle of the room) was offered as a culmination to the previous prepping postures.

In Bow, with a strap wrapped around the ankles, Tracy exclaimed, "Look at all these men in this gorgeousness of a backbend with such open shoulders!" 

Our peak pose, Natarajasana, was also strap-assisted which allowed a deeper expression. According to Tracy, it was our “Yoga Journal moment" as the entire class stood together, breathing into the collective dance.

“I think my job as a yoga teacher is to help guide the student into a place where they really feel their breath and can move their bodies in connection with their prana,” Tracy explained to me after class.

Along with all the men, there were a bunch of regulars in Tracy’s class. She walked around the room, calling students by first names while lending assists on most poses. It felt like a real family affair--so it was no surprise when after class I heard Tracy introduce people to her daughter, who was there to practice as well.

Other postures we played with from the back bending family were Crescent Lunge ("For my bendy people, drop deeper into the front thigh”), Sphinx ("a powerful little back bend"), Bridge and Wheel ("You know who you are if you've got Wheel in you.")

We also took Ardha Chandrasana with the option of bending the raised leg into a bind for more of a back bend, along with Virabhadrasana III which also had the binding back bend variation.

Janu Sirsasana came up towards the end of class (before back bending on the floor) with Baddha Konasana practiced in between.

Once we were lying on our mats, all the back bending behind us, Tracy said, "You can't really stay angry after a back bending class," referring to the heart opening that had been happening for the entire hour.

“I hope the student will feel joyous, happy and free after my class, Lokah Samasta Sukino Bhavantu, and I hope they leave class feeling both energized and relaxed at the same time.”

After some supine stretches, Savasana, and a final Om, I felt both invigorated and grounded—a testament to Tracy’s teaching style, and a solid explanation to why so many regulars attend her class.

Drop-in: $20. New student monthly member: 30 Days for $30 new student special.

--Elysha Lenkin for Yoga Sleuth

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