"Yoga Sleuths" are sent out into the NYC yoga scene by YogaCityNYC to take yoga classes and share their experiences. Dana Melillo, one of our early teachers, was “Sleuthed” at the Zenyasa® Studio in early 2011... shortly after we first opened. Below is a transcript, which can also be found at Yoga City NYC ( search for Zenyasa).
Zenyasa with Dana Melillo
On a cold day, Yoga Sleuth headed over to the new Zenyasa® Studio on the Upper West Side. Up above the hustle and bustle on the street, I entered a cozy space with bright orange walls, large windows with sun streaming in and hitting the shiny wood floors…a little piece of heaven! I took my jacket off and checked in with Dana, my teacher for the class. While I filled out first time student paperwork, Dana set up a mat with a meditation cushion and a blanket on it for me. I immediately felt welcomed and warm inside.
Dana, a long lean woman with a big smile and a sunny disposition asked me to sit on my cushion in the middle of the mat. She explained that Zenyasa® classes are a combination of seated meditation, slow-flow yoga and mindfulness-based fitness. The classes are based on a five-element theme that work specific muscle groups and meridian pathways. The themes rotate, so every body part gets worked. The class theme for today was wood; we were going to embark on grounding, rooting poses in our legs.
We began with a Gassho Practice: several bows of gratitude. We stood at the center of our mats with our hands together at the center of our hearts. We bowed to ourselves, our community, the teacher and then to all beings. This simple gesture was a really positive way to start the class. Next, we sat down on our meditation cushions. Dana asked if I was comfortable because we were going to meditate for fifteen minutes. The idea was to count our breath, inhale one, exhale two when we reached ten we would start over. We focused our eyes on one point in front of us on the floor with our hands in Dhyana Mudra, the gesture of balance and concentration. We moved our cushions to the side and lay down on our backs. Dana explained that we were moving into the warm-up part of our practice to lubricate our joints. We lifted our legs up ninety degrees and rolled our ankles in circles, then we bent and straightened our knees, we did this with our wrists and elbows too. It felt silly and fun, especially when Dana had us roll up to stand.
Sun Salutations were a little different in Zenyasa®. Dana was careful to go through each pose, step-by-step a few times before we flowed. Our feet were hip distance apart, we moved from “high chair” to “rag doll” with our arms behind our backs. Dana called out the breaths as we began to flow from pose to pose. After six repetitions we moved to Warrior II and Reverse Warrior. She had us going back and forth from pose to pose several times on the breath. After we did both sides, we had a similar flow from Warrior II to Side Angle. There was a nice build up of poses and everything felt approachable. We moved on from Parsvakonasana to Trikonasana to Ardha Chandrasana and then lowering our lifted foot coming into a V shape with our feet, we grabbed our big toe and lifted into Utthita Padangustasana, grounding down into our standing leg.
Back at the front of our mats, we balanced in Vrksasana, tree pose. Dana suggested we close our eyes, test our balance and make it playful. I fell right out of my pose on the first side, but managed to focus and balance better on the second side. Once we found balance on two feet, we moved to the wall for handstand, another grounding pose. After kicking up several times, Dana came over and assisted me. She gave me a helpful hint on where to look and everything became easier.
Once again we made our way down to our mats for several seated forward bends like Badha Konasana and Pachimottanasana. After a nice supine twist to each side we came into Savasana. I felt calm and melted into the mat. Dana talked about Erich Schiffmann’s book “Moving into Stillness” and the push and pull we find in every pose and everything that we do. Throughout the practice, Dana constantly reminded me to ease up, maybe bend my knee a little, or not turn my head so far, let go of what I thought I was supposed to look like and find the balance.
Zenyasa® is a well-rounded practice that is good for all levels and ages. I left class feeling calm, energized and excited that I tried something a little different. Dana is full of positive energy and a knowledgeable guide for new students.
--Margie Suvalle for Yoga Sleuth