Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Yoga Caliente! with Gabrielle Barnstone

-Jim Catalpano for Yoga Sleuth

After honing his alignment in a series of Iyengar and Ashtanga based classes, Yoga Sleuth was ready to move again. This took me up to New York Yoga on York Street, and into the joyous and fast-paced Vinyasa class of Gabriella Barnstone.

With stone walls, bamboo floors and a huge fountain urging Yogis to “turn off their minds, relax and flow downstream” as The Beatles would say, the studio is everything a Yoga haven should be. Gabriella, a professional dancer with her own company, began by congratulating the eight of us for coming to the mat that afternoon. She noticed that half the class was brand new, and took the time to visit with each of us for a quick meet and greet. Then she cranked up the Salsa music.

“Gotta have fun too,” she said as she led us to our backs for some leg stretches. Then we came to an early pigeon, a pose we would return to throughout class, sinking deeper into it each time. A modified side plank saw us bending one knee for stability, with the option to go into “Rock Star” if we were feeling feisty. Then the flow began in earnest, which began slowly, with cobra and knees down for our Vinyasa. Each repetition was faster then the previous one, and in each we added on another pose. Before we knew it we were moving like lightning from one pose to the next. Gabriella, in a voice angelic and encouraging, found time to adjust and assist even in the hectic pace of the flow. “For your Yoga Journal photo,” she quipped as she straightened my arm in Parsvakonasana (extended side angle). We stretched into Prasarita Padottonassana and most of us embraced the challenge of tripod headstand, benefitting from Gabrielle’s motivating presence.

As class wound down the music shifted to Frank Sinatra’s romantic Bossa Nova recordings, setting the new mood perfectly. As I moved into an inversion, I spied Gabrielle guiding a newcomer into a fearless and skillful Sirsasana headstand, presumably his first ever. Finally, we were treated to a supported fish pose. We placed a block on its highest setting behind our heads, and another at medium height between our scapulas, and enjoyed a long throat and chest opener.

After a luxurious Savasana we joined our voices in three triumphant Oms and scampered out onto sunny York Street, balanced and invigorated; many of us thrilled to have a new teacher to look to, to start our Saturdays off right.


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