“Mika encouraged us to center, relax and push ourselves. She gave us both individual and class attention; she really cared about the feeling in the room and our form. It was a true gift to work with her. She reminded me how much more yoga I need in my life. I also want to emphasize how amazing Mika was throughout the class, especially with my sister… who is great and I’m sure a bit hard to teach. She is on the autistic spectrum, high functioning and supremely honest. She always needs an extra push, support, guidance and most of all patience. She doesn’t have a lot of confidence in her ability to get things right, in this case the positions, and Mika was extremely attentive to her and careful to guide her though the positions. She gave practical tips and reminded her how well she was doing. We have been wanting my sister to do yoga for a while, she was reluctant and the right opportunity didn’t present itself. We needed someone caring, attentive, kind, skilled, and understanding. Working with Mika was a wonderful start. She really enjoyed the classes and is now open to continuing to do yoga. So thanks Mika, it has been a true pleasure.”
-Rachel, Group Yoga, NYC

“I have been working with Mika for the past 5 months during my pregnancy and she is amazing! There are so many strange little aches and pains during pregnancy that can be very frustrating, but Mika seems to make them all disappear. I can walk into her studio in the worst mood and after practicing yoga with her for an hour my spirits are completely lifted and my body feels so much better. She knows exactly what I can and can’t do and I trust her completely. As for massage, Mika’s hands just melt away the stress. Within five minutes of her working on my back or neck I can literally feel the tension in my body release. Working with Mika has been such a pleasure and I plan to keep up the practice long after my baby is due!”
-Lauren, Prenatal, NYC

“I started doing pre-natal yoga and massage with Mika at the beginning of my pregnancy and I have had the most enjoyable experience. Now, I am in the 9th month of my pregnancy and I can honestly say that I have not had any of the typical pregnancy aches and pains. I feel strong, flexible and well prepared for childbirth, which is amazing! I have learned a great deal about my body while working with Mika and the hour spent together each week has done wonders for me, both physically and mentally. Mika’s knowledge of pre-natal yoga, massage and pregnancy has been a source of comfort and I know it has had a positive and enlightening affect on me throughout the last 9 months, which can often be challenging. I am so thankful that I decided to work with Mika and I will continue working with her after my baby is born!”
-Dana, Prenatal, NYC

“I tried various styles of yoga over the years but, for whatever reason, it just wouldn’t “stick.” Despite believing that yoga would give me physical benefits I both needed and wanted, I couldn’t get into it. Then I met Mika. Mika designed a yoga program specifically for me and I’m now completely hooked! In the few months that I’ve been practicing with her, I feel an increase in upper body strength, increased flexibility and relief from a chronic injury. Mika is a knowledgeable, talented instructor with a winning personality. I’m so lucky to have found her.”
-Carrie, NYC

“Mika is a consumate professional. Her massage work is exceptional. She is profoundly sensitive, knowing exactly when to back off or go further. She is a natural teacher with a calming yet authoritative presence. Her sequences are creative and logical, encouraging flow and alignment. She would be an incredible asset to any studio.”
-Flannery, NYC

“Mika is supportive and patient. I am not flexible and find yoga difficult but was supported by Mika’s calmness and “can do” inspiration. I feel much more relaxed and flexible with a sense of joy after each session. She is wonderful.”
-Simone, NYC

“Mika is a terrific teacher with wonderful spirit and knowledge and care. She is mindful and a super person who is encouraging and inspiring. My technique has improved and I am calmer and more meditative after each session. I feel more fit and flexible and a greater sense of well-being.”
-Sari, NYC

“My massage with Mika is like a mini-vacation. From the moment that I book her in my calendar it is something I look forward to. Upon entering her massage space, everything is relaxed and peaceful. The music she plays, the scented oil she uses, and her amazing touch all contribute to a fabulous hour long massage. So, when getting away to the Bahamas for a four day beach vacation is not in the cards due to time contstraints, Mika’s wonderful massages are the next best thing!!”
-Melissa, NYC

Yoga City NYC Sleuth

Community Bliss Hour with Mika Oakes
Greenhouse Holistic
445 Grand St.
Thu 12:15 PM to 1:15 PM

Yoga Sleuth discovered the excellent Mika Oakes (formerly Mika Samuel) a few years back, and was thrilled to find that she teaches a discounted Thursday “community” class at Greenhouse Holistic. Like most yogis, I am a fan of a great yoga class at a reasonable price, and I knew that with Mika as the instructor, I was getting a great bargain!

It was a hot and humid afternoon, but students filed into the bright, spacious studio ready to practice. Mika seemed to know everyone in the room, and she greeted each of us in her personal, friendly way. As this is only a one-hour class, we got right down to business. We began in a Sphinx pose, using a rolled up blanket as a bolster right above our bellies. This feels interesting. It can be considered more or less so depending on how recently you’ve eaten food or gulped down a creamy cup of iced coffee. Luckily, my belly was appropriately empty this time.

After experimenting with our Sphinxes, the class began to build heat and strength with Surya Namaskara A. To prepare us for Chaturanga, Mika led us through push-ups with our knees on the ground (also known in my childhood gym class as “girl push-ups”), elbows in. I found this was a good way of learning the alignment of the pose one half of the body at a time. It seems that the most common problem with Chaturanga is hunching the shoulders and winging the elbows out, risking injury and definitely causing sore muscles. Breaking it down in this way made it easier to focus on utilizing the proper muscles to make it happen.

Mika seems to have a great deal of knowledge about the human body, and she puts it to good work in her class. She is also a licensed massage therapist, and students reap the benefits of her experience throughout practice. Her adjustments are light and simple, but highly affective. Barely laying a finger on my sacrum in Downward Dog, she encouraged me to lengthen my lower back, which allowed me to lower my heels and stretch out my ever stubbornly tight hamstrings a bit more.

One aspect of Mika’s class that I really enjoy is her tendency to teach in “waves.” She led us through an Asana flow that repeated each time with slight variations. The first flow included Warrior I, Warrior II, Triangle, and a wide legged forward bend. This was repeated using only one breath per movement and adding such poses as Side Plank and Lizard. Each time, a pose was added and another pose was taken away. This method of teaching makes for a more fluid, graceful class that is (for me) more fun. Besides, it’s nice to have some idea of what’s coming next!

I also appreciate Mika’s ability to teach an open level class (as this one was billed). Often times in this case an instructor will teach at whatever level the majority of the class seems to be at. Mika was able to teach several levels at once by offering variation options in almost all of the poses. She clearly and concisely gave the options without taking any extra time or causing any fuss. For example, in Side Angle Pose, there were students in several different variations, from resting the forearm on the leg (as the least challenging) to binding the arms (as the most challenging).

Toward the end of class (which goes quickly, with such an enjoyable asana flow), Mika had us bring our mats to the wall for Forearm Stand practice. Demonstrating the inversion herself, Mika showed us all how important it is to keep the hips even when kicking up. This wasn’t something I had considered before, and it made a lot of sense. It’s easy to get carried away with momentum from the kick, allowing one hip to open a bit. Keeping the whole operation more compact and centered can only help build the stability needed to sustain a Forearm Stand.

Alas, I can still only do one away from the wall in the relative safety of my own living room, where only my couch can be harmed by me falling into it. However, focusing on even hips has since spared my couch from a few falls.

After arm balancing, we were given the option of any seated forward bend before coming into Savasana. I took Baddha Konasana for several long breaths before releasing into a blissful rest. Harkening again to her training as a massage therapist, Mika gave wonderful adjustments in Savasana. We finished our practice in a comfortable seated position, with one ringing Om. Venturing out into the hot afternoon afterward, I was amazed at what a difference an hour can make.

Single Community Class $10. Mat rental is $1.

–Abby Payne for Yoga Sleuth