It’s 9:30 a.m. on a Tuesday at a yoga studio in McLean and a room full of students are lifting spongey, purple balls above their heads while arching their backs in unison like Cirque du Soleil performers. The balls aren’t a common prop in a traditional yoga class, but they are in the studio of Sytera Field.
After years of working with students who had chronically tight muscles that kept them from fully experiencing the benefits of yoga, Field turned to her background in Thai yoga massage and ball rolling (a technique used in physical therapy to loosen tight or strained muscles) to find a new way to help her students. “Yoga has a purpose of moving the body through areas of tension, tightness, weakness so that you can feel good in your body and these balls get you there quicker,” says Field.
After experimenting with foam rollers and hard massage balls and not finding the exact right fit for her yoga students, Field developed her own Nadi & Nice yoga rolling balls, which she introduced in her classes at her studio, SyteraYoga, in August. “Nadi” is the Sanskrit word for the body’s energy lines. Unlike the balls found in physical therapy, Nadi balls are squishy and forgiving, allowing for massage-like quality and, better yet, they serve as a multidimensional teaching tool.
“You have something to work with and against and around; and its texture, its temperature and the squishiness responds to you as you use it,” she explains. Essentially, the Nadi balls help students refine their yoga practice—while also getting the added benefit of a self-applied deep tissue massage in one class.
Nadi balls help students understand their bodies holistically, says Field. The balls work into the fascia lines, creating openness and encouraging correct alignment, and students can feel how sensations are connected throughout the body.
In some instances, the balls serve as a prop or, as in the case with the Cirque du Soleil pose, a focal point. In that pose, students need to support their shoulder. With the ball in hand, students unconsciously activate the correct muscle group.
Fields’ Nadi ball invention wasn’t only inspired by her students’ struggles. She herself, is no stranger to injury. At 19, Field sustained a compound leg fracture after falling in a rock climbing accident near Austin, her hometown. She turned to yoga to assist in her recovery and soon found a passion. After working briefly as a model and earning an art history degree from the University of Maryland, she settled in Falls Church with her husband, Chad Thevenot, where they are now raising three kids.
After a decade of teaching yoga in the area, she opened SyteraYoga in McLean in January of 2018 (and moved into a larger studio in November 2018) with the mission to build a studio with a “coffee-shop atmosphere.” True to that goal, the studio boasts room for post-class chatting, 26 weekly classes, 12 expert teachers and in December 2019, she and her team rolled out the first-ever Nadi & Nice training classes.
Her hope is that the class will catch on in the coming year and help those struggling with muscles issues. And, in keeping with her belief that it’s important to have a fun community atmosphere when working out, she often tells her students during class, mischievous smile on her face, “If it feels nice it must be Nadi!” // 6888 Elm St., Suite 1-C, McLean; drop-in classes begin at $25