On a sopping, dreary morning, I splashed exactly one block from my apartment to visit Be in Union. My neighbor and fellow teacher, Kate, accompanied me for a warm and mellow vinyasa class.
Tour Stop: Be in Union, Union Square, Somerville
Date: Sunday, February 25
Class: Vinyasa (90 mins)
Instructor: Blanca Alcaraz
Practice Pal: Kate
The studio was founded by Blanca Alcaraz, who is also a co-owner. According to her website bio, Blanca has existed as a migrant worker, an international competitive athlete, and a firefighter. I knew none of that before I went to class, but was struck by Blanca’s presence. She seemed to me so very grounded, exuding deep stillness. Her being hummed with some deep, earthy magic that I wanted to tap into. Kate said, “I just wanted her to keep talking to me and reveal all the secrets of the universe.”
What I observed: According to the thermostat, the room was heated to about 95 degrees. There were 20-25 students in the room, largely female, and they demonstrated a wide range of abilities. I noticed one student at the front of the room who took the fullest expression of every bind offered, and jumped back to chaturanga for every vinyasa. There was another woman who spent most of the class seated on her heels in a time-out with eyes closed, seemingly more interested in basking in the warm space than engaging in an active practice. Be in Union makes a point of welcoming both kinds of practitioners to the studio.
What I liked: Kate said she felt like Blanca was acting more like our yogic spiritual guide than an instructor of postures, and I agree with that. Rather than dictating each moment of the class, she called out the asanas she wanted us to take and provided suggestions on how to get there. At one point in Samastitihi, she described the posture as a way to reset our focus and come to attention, clarifying that the attention was not for her, but for ourselves. The last posture we took before Savasana was Paschimottanasana (seated forward fold), and as we released and sat up, Blanca simply sat with her hands on her lap and said quietly, almost apologetically, “well, folks, that’s all I had to offer you this morning.” She humbly withdrew from her role as guide, and let us take charge of our own journey to rest.
Blanca made copious hands-on adjustments and other physical connections (like a soft press at the tip of my middle finger to remind me where my gaze should land in Warrior II). She made steady eye contact and frequent verbal affirmations. My favorite affirmation was beautifully simple, and voiced after several students let out exhausted sighs:
Yes. I hear you.
And! As a delightful and dreamy surprise, Blanca massaged the soles of my feet while my legs were in the air for supported shoulder stand. I can’t explain to you how good that felt.
What I missed: As with many other visits to “all levels” classes, we didn’t take any unusual or advanced postures. There were points in the practice where Bakasana and Parsva Bakasana were mentioned as options, and at the end of class we were welcomed to take whatever inversion we might wish to take, but none of those were specifically cued as part of the given sequence.
I felt a little rushed into certain postures. We were offered “an early Wheel” about ten minutes into class, and I generally think that posture, with its deep spinal extension, needs some prep before entering. The high heat did make my muscles feel supple early on, and as a result, I went deep into a number of twists, even as I questioned whether it was a good idea.
Recommended for: Yogis who want to sweat it out with a straight forward, classical sequence. Experienced yogis who know themselves well enough to expand upon those basic postures and customize their classroom experience.
Would I return? Yes! Like I said, the studio is comically close to my home, and I generally roll in a few times a month to practice. Norm Brzycki, about whom I’ve written before, is my favorite instructor there, so I like to circle round to warm up and pay my respects. Now, I’ll make a point of returning to practice with Blanca as well.