In New York—and particularly in certain neighborhoods of Brooklyn—one is hard-pressed to walk a block without passing a yoga studio. But while yoga studios are practically as numerous as coffee shops, few enable their students to do downward dog off the ground.
The Observer visited Align Brooklyn on Wednesday evening, our interest piqued by their Great Wall: a wall, equipped with various types of straps, that lets yogis perform airborne poses.
Okay, it’s not just about the novelty of hanging off the wall, though that part’s exciting, too. The wall’s real purpose, according to Align Brooklyn’s site, is to support students as they attempt new poses that might not be possible on the floor—like back bends—and help them work muscles and joints in hard-to-access areas.
The boutique yoga-based fitness studio is located in South Slope. As one might expect when journeying to the neighborhood, talk in the studio’s small but cleanly-designed reception area focused primarily on babies, organic vegetables, and tofu bowls. Everyone, both staff and students, was remarkably friendly—at least in comparison to the sometimes-snooty Manhattan spinning crowd.
We were using the wall right from the get-go—first, wrapping the straps just below our waists and bending over for downward dog. With the straps supporting our midsections and our feet off the ground, we could hone in on the positioning of our shoulders—the focus of that evening’s class.
Later in the class, we returned to the wall to do a similar exercise, though this time with planks. With the straps around our ankles and our feet in the air, we could turn our attention to broadening our shoulders as we held the core-strengthening pose.
The wall was not the only interesting equipment used in the class. At one point, the instructor, Frank, had the class place small balls under our armpits. If the balls poked out the front, it meant we were pinching our shoulder blades together too tightly. If they poked out the back, it meant we were overly-hunching.
The class also incorporated equipment-free exercises. There were sun salutations, lunges, and warrior poses. We partnered up, one person lying on their stomach, the other standing over them; the person lying down reached back and grabbed the standing person’s calves to deepen a back bend.
The hour-long class flew by—no doubt in part to the frequent transitions from one piece of equipment to the next. For those who tire of endless cycles of sun salutations, the variety will no doubt be welcome.
Do you necessarily need all that elaborate equipment to perfect your yoga practice? Probably not. There are certainly purists who are perfectly happy with a simple mat on the floor. But if the opportunity exists to take our poses a few feet off the ground, you can totally strap us in.