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Back to Balance with Amber Paul
from Yoga Sleuth

After a typical Christmas schedule of eating, drinking and sleeping, Yoga Sleuth was eager to return to practice. The beautiful Chopra Center was the place to do it, with a combination Meditation and Asana class taught by Amber Paul.

Amber is the founder of Yoga for Actors and is a CUNY faculty member as well as an Asana instructor, and her intention for class was to get us moving and centered after the long holiday.

The studio at the Chopra Center (which also features renowned spa services) is one of the most beautiful, serene places you’ll find in the city. Its spacious, windowless room is like an isolated space cut off from the rest of the world; there is no traffic noise, no changes from sunny to cloudy or light to dark. The room is lit by a soft, steady glow. Mahogany cabinets filled with yoga props and students’ belongings flank a shiny floor of reddish wood. The instructor teaches in front of a tall archway. It is a magnificent space, ideal for practice.

We began in a circle, blankets draped over our legs, for the meditation. Amber began the cleansing of holiday excesses with three Oms. We deepened our breathing and commenced a half-hour meditation on the mantra “So Hum,” ending in 3 soft chimes.

Opening our eyes, we reconfigured for Asana, the three meditators joined by two more Yogis. One student was completely new and asked many questions, not only of Amber but the other students. Together, we were determined to give her a positive and encouraging first experience.

The slow but invigorating class began with us at the mat, twisting gently and threading our arms under each other as we pressed our cheeks to the mat. The twisting was as juicy as the turkey I had consumed for two days straight. This opening sequence, with its supine twists and bridges, was similar to the closing of most flow classes, but worked well in the “easing your way back to the mat” theme of this post-holiday practice. Amber reminded us that even positive things like holidays and family time can throw us out of equilibrium, and it is important to get back to balance.

Amber’s style was soothing, even as we got to our feet for traditional Sun B (skipping past Sun A). She spotted an alignment issue in my chair pose and got me where I needed to be. She also found plenty of time to work with the new student without disrupting the flow of the class. Her instructions were crystal clear, and I observed the new student keeping up with deftness.

Before I knew it we were in Savasana, and my practice was back on track. Amber confided to me after class that with so many students, she gets to know them more by their bodies than their names: i.e., what their needs are, what their bodies can do, where they are in their practice and where she can take them. Amber’s care and insight combined with the idyllic atmosphere of the Chopra Center is a great way to start that journey.

-Jim Catapano for Yoga Sleuth