by Seka Ojdrovic-Phillips, Spirit Fire Yoga
Life hurts. This helps.
Though initially skeptical upon learning that Yogi J hails from Williamsburg, Brooklyn (AKA the hipster incubation tank), his sincerity is undeniable.
The timing of this DVD release coincides with a time in my personal practice when I’m over the “brand” of the yoga world —probably more prevalent in Seattle than in New Zealand — and J Brown’s straightforward approach is a reminder that there are others who still teach the kind of yoga that I fell in love with. Yoga stripped of its superficial glitter.
The practice itself, offered in segments from seven to 75 minutes, is nothing revolutionary in terms of pose sequencing, and that’s why it’s brilliant.
It’s not about dripping with sweat and barely-concealed exertion with the aim to look great in a midriff-baring yoga top; it’s about getting on your mat, confronting what’s there, connecting to your breath, and allowing it to change you from within. Free from pomp and circumstance.
Each session is filmed at AbhyasaYogaCenter and features just J and his yoga mat. The camerawork is quite beautiful in such a simple space, focusing in and out as J moves through his practice. Apart from a brief instrumental song played during Savasana, there’s no soundtrack other than verbal cues (you can select whether to include detailed or simple instruction) and deep Ujjayi breath.
I practiced the 60-minute class. The class started with a warm-up to create fluidity in the spine, moved into a basic sun salutations and standing poses, and finished with a mindful warm-down including backbends, meditation, and a mostly silent Savasana.
By the time I got up to roll my mat, my mind was quieter and I was ready for deep, peaceful sleep.
This yoga felt good in my body and it was nice to move in a more gentle way than I’m accustomed to; I loved the reminder to take the asana down a notch and simply enjoy being in my body every once in a while. Like a smooth chamomile tea instead of a high-octane espresso for the body.
The bonus features include a moving interview with J Brown about what set him on the path to yoga: the death of his mother when he was 16. It’s an inspiring story and an example of how yoga can be a seed for healing.
Forrest yoga, which I teach, is intensely focused on using breath to facilitate movement, and I find some classes woefully negligent in espousing its importance. That’s why I particularly appreciated a detailed explanation of Ujjayi breath as another bonus — how to do it and why it’s good for you.
With its slow movements, clear and bullshit-free instruction, and non-threatening poses, I would recommend this DVD for people who are new to yoga, have been putting off trying it because they’re intimidated, or someone looking for an introspective practice.
I’m happy to add it to my collection for times when I need the reminder to take care of myself, and that it’s okay to just be.
In a culture increasingly dominated by the glitz of yoga selfies and a desperate need for external acclaim, this DVD is an Ujjayi breath of fresh air.
Yogi J Brown’s DVD trailer.
Answers to Questions You May Have:
Who is J. Brown?
J. Brown is a lifetime yoga student in the lineage of Krishnamacharya – J. started his yoga journey with Astanga Yoga, who’s guru Pattabhi Jois was a student of Krishnamacharya’s. After sustaining a number of injuries, he shifted to Iyengar Yoga – again, Iyengar was a student of Krishnamacharya.
However, it was after a trip to India and studying with Swami P. Saraswati that J. finally found his way to a practice that truly sustained him and nourished him. It was on his return to New York that he met Kiwi teacher Mark Whitwell, who had studied with T.K. Desikchar, Krishnamacharya’s son.
Mark became J.’s most influential teacher. J.’s been teaching for fifteen years, and is also a well known writer. You may have seen his articles in Yoga Therapy Today, the International Journal of Yoga Therapy, Elephant Journal, and Yogadork. As a teacher, J.’s focus is on helping the student develop a breath-led practice that provides a vehicle for slowing down and learning to truly take care of oneself.
What’s Ujjayi Breath?
Ujjayi breath is a form of breathing or pranayama (breath work) always used in Astanga Yoga and sometimes used in other forms of yoga too. Sometimes referred to as Darth Vadar breathing, it has a distinctive rhythmical sound. Because the breath is more audible to the practitioner, it helps to draw the attention inward.
Ujjayi Breath also heats the body up from the inside. You’d never use Ujjayi Breath in Bikram Yoga or Hot Yoga because there would be a chance of over-heating the body. The external heat plus internal fire would be too much! The breath is done all the way through a practice in tandem with the postures, as compared to pranayama such as Alternate Nostril Breathing, which is a separate pranayama done seated.
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