Align Your Vinyasa with Leigh Evans
Article by Jessica Mahler
Alignment is key to getting into poses safely and correctly. That’s why Yoga Sleuth decided to head to Brooklyn’s Greenhouse Holistic where Leigh Evans adds in preparatory moves to help yogis find deeper and proper postures once the flow of the class picks up.
After chanting Om three times, it was on to Sun Salutations, where Leigh had us come up into a high lunge and fine-tune our stance. She asked us to square off our hips and to lift our hip points up, making sure the front knee was directly over the ankle while simultaneously engaging the back leg.
It wasn’t until she brought us into our first Warrior I that I realized we needed to go through those “baby steps” to help our hips remember what it feels like to be squared, as many of the poses she would bring us into required this hip action; hello Warrior III, Revolved Triangle, and Revolved Half Moon!
Leigh certainly worked the whole class into a sweat, not only with a multitude of vinyasas, but also by having us hold poses for long periods of time. Keeping the hips in line is so important to so many yoga poses, and having to hold the pose for five breath counts really helps to find alignment.
After the last vinyasa, Leigh took us to the wall where we worked on handstand and forearm stand with split variations. In preparation for forearm stand, Leigh suggested those with a somewhat new forearm practice to use a strap to keep arms and elbows parallel and shoulders’ distance apart. “The strap is great to use because it acts as training wheels for this pose, but we can’t use training wheels forever,” she said.
As we attempted the pose, Leigh shared a quick story about when first moved to Pittsburgh as a kid. “There were these two 7-year-old boys in my neighborhood that still were using training wheels on their bikes! I couldn’t believe it!” She had to help them, she said.
And this is exactly the kind of passion that Leigh dedicated to each of us to make sure we came not only into forearm stand correctly and safely, but with every pose that she led us through, helping those that needed the assistance to find alignment and balance. This yogi had never in her life gone up in forearm stand, but with Leigh’s help I got up and received encouraging instructions – “Push down through your forearms! Reach up through your feet!” – to help me feel more confident while upside down.
Next, it was time to give our quads a major stretch. Still at the wall, we took a Downward Dog split with our right leg raised and pressing into the wall. Then Leigh had us slide our right leg down until our bent knee reached the ground with our shin pressing into the wall, sometimes knon as King Arthur Pose. “This quad stretch helps to circulate blood to the reproductive organs,” Leigh informed us.
“I know it’s intense, but we’re going to do it again because this is an area we don’t normally access or stretch,” said Leigh who then upped the difficulty factor the second go-round by having us outstretch our arms in front of us, interlacing the fingers, and then reaching our arms above our heads.
“If we do something and it is easy for us, then we probably aren’t going to learn anything new from it. It’s the things that we find difficult that are our greatest teachers, which doesn’t just apply to the poses we do on the mat but in our personal lives as well.”
Finally we made our way to Savasana, sinking into our mats, our bodies and minds letting go of all the hard work.
Leigh’s classes promise to make you more aware of your body and to work hard, but her precise instructions and encouragement will guide you through it all. If you’re looking for a challenge in your yoga practice and a true learning experience be sure to stop into one of Leigh’s classes!
Drop-in clases are $15.
–Jessica Mahler for Yoga Sleuth