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April 2020
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Body Aligned, Soul Revived with Nicki Napier
Unity Yoga
350 Saint Nicholas Avenue
New York, NY 10027

Tue, 5:45 PM To 6:45 PM

Opened just under a year ago, Unity Yoga is a friendly new Harlem studio located just a few blocks from the 125th Street stop on the A train and the historic Apollo Theater. The practice space has wonderfully high ceilings and even though there were about fifteen people in class the room was very open and spacious.

Our teacher, the kind and colorfully tattooed Nicki Napier, introduced herself to each student and asked if any of us had any injuries. No one seemed to have any, except for one guy who quipped that only his soul was injured, to the response a few smirks and nods.

This was one of Unity’s unheated classes, but it was a muggy summer's day and there was no air conditioning so the room felt rather warmed up naturally. In this gentle alignment class, Nicki started us off in a supine position and talked us through a full body stretch from toes to fingers. While on our backs, Nicki encouraged us to engage our Ujjayi breathing to the count of three.

Then, squeezing one leg in at a time, we rolled the leg out to the side in a hip opener. We also took a Supine Pigeon while Nicki encouraged us to keep our bottom leg stretched out and active on the floor with the foot flexed. We then did a Bridge Pose rolling up and down the spine. Rocking up to sit, we came to Baddha Konasana can did a few a Cats and Cows with the spine before moving to Cat/Cow on all fours.

Making our way to stand, we lifted our arms up to the sky several times and then back down, melting all the way forward into a “ragdoll.” Here, Nicki encouraged us to take our feet hip-width apart and to slightly bend the knees. Walking back into a Downward Dog, we pedaled out the feet. Then Nicki instructed us to lift the right leg to no more than hip height, square off the hips, flex the foot, and then curl the knee into the chest to step it forward landing in a Lizard Pose. Here there was an option to take Lizard with the elbows on the ground for a deeper stretch. Nicki then had us stretch and re-bend the front leg to ease into the pose a little better.  

Following Lizard, we came back into Downward Dog and began a series of slow moving standing poses that included Low Lunge to High Lunge to Warrior 2 to a Wide-Legged Straddle. Nicki gave careful alignment instructions but kept the language simple making the cues accessible to everyone in the room. In our Wide-Legged Straddle we shook our heads from side to side, relaxing deeper into the pose. The second time around, Nicki had us stretch into a series of Skandasanas.

The pose of the month at Unity Yoga is Eagle Pose, so at the top of our mats, Nicki carefully walked us through the asana. It was a long hold - for about ten breaths on each side - and in between Nicki had us roll out our ankles.

In a Malasana squat, we took a twist with the arms outspread on each side. This was followed by a Purvottanasana, Upward Plank Pose.

Rolling onto our backs, we then took a gentle inversion of a Legs Up the Wall but with the block placed on the lowest height under the sacrum. After luxuriating in this pose for several breaths, we then took a supine twist. Here, Nicki instructed us to hold our arms out to the side or, for more shoulder work, raise the arms higher than the shoulders. With both knees bent we twisted to each side and Nicki instructed us to keep our knees hip height or higher.

During Savasana, Nicki walked around the room, giving each person a gentle neck rub with a peppermint scent.

I left class feeling quietly revived with my soul restored.

Drop-in classes are $22, which includes mat and towel rental.

-Marie Carter for Yoga Sleuth

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