J. Brown, the founder and director of Abhyasa Yoga Center in Williamsburg just completed his first DVD. YogaCity NYC's Christie Roe wondered why the serious non-rock star, who teaches a deeply breath centered therapeutic form of yoga, was venturing into this high tech world, what it was like, and what was the point? Brown was characteristically honest and straight-forward about the hows, whys and surprises he encountered on his venture.
Christie Roe: When did the concept start rolling?
J Brown: Originally, we just wanted it as a practice tool for students I work with, including the producer himself, Josh Sitron. But as soon as we got into the process it became clear that it could also be a way for people who have never met me to learn the sort of practice we do.
But also, I have to admit that I have been been putting out my strong views on yoga via the yoga blogosphere for some years, now and I feel like its time for me to put my money where my mouth is.
There’s a chord out there, people want whole and sustainable. Gentle is the new advanced. It’s the idea that you don’t have to struggle, strain, or kill yourself to progress, that in fact you get way more when you don’t.
The video is an exciting way for what we’re doing here in our local sphere to potentially go out to other people who don’t have access to it. And they’re forms that pretty much anyone can benefit from.
CR: What was the most difficult part?
JB: The most difficult part was reconciling an idealized vision I had of myself and my practice with the actuality of what it is. When I watch the video, I see so much of what is going on with me as a person in my life. The footage we used was sort of an accident and I wasn't practicing with the camera in mind at all. You can read the post for the whole story on my blog.
CR: So it’s kind of a practice document?
JB: When Josh actually showed up with some cameras after we had reconnected at a Kripalu gig, we had some exploring to do. At first, we put all the lights on, made it bright, shot some tests and looked at it. But it was every other yoga video you’ve ever seen. Neither of us was cool with that. Neither of us wanted to make every other yoga video you’ve ever seen. And it wasn’t easy.
So we tried something different, and things progressed very organically. One of the things he wanted was to hear the ujjayi breath. So we recorded a breath track. I think it’s cool, it ended up replacing music and becoming atmospheric. It sounds kind of like the ocean.
CR: And when you aren’t watching the screen, is the ujjayi nice to hear?
JB: That’s the thing. I practiced with the scratch DVD the other day, and it was great. One ambitious thing we did was to include 7-minute, 15-minute, 30-minute, 60-minute, and 75-minute programs, and each one of those has two versions -- one with additional teaching soundtrack, and one without. With all the different practice options, it’s very adaptable to your daily needs. I am excited to showcase the personal, breath-centered approach that has proven to be so helpful both to me personally and to the people I meet and teach.
CR: Did it take forever in production?
JB: It kind of did. We didn’t do one yoga DVD, we did ten. Production-wise, we had to record separate audio tracks for all of them. The big debate was how much teaching to include. If you’re using this again and again and again, do you want to hear the same teaching? There’s a baseline that’s built in just for practice purposes, but then there’s additional instruction available as well. I’m pretty happy with it. Recording to the video was fun, I felt like I was teaching to myself, and it was really bizarre. I saw my practice in ways that I’d never seen it before.
CR: Is it a commentary on the visual of you practicing?
JB: That's the other thing -- it is just me doing it in a somewhat idealized display. The additional teaching soundtrack provides instruction on the fundamental elements – so it’s solid to learn from, but I think there’s more. What we want to do next is to have other people-- older people, younger people, bigger people, smaller people, all different kinds of people, and teaching to them. That's what we have happening at the center. And that's what we need to capture next.
CR: How do you envision the next video project?
We learned you can shoot a yoga video more like the way you would a documentary film. It doesn’t have to be a stock, still thing. You can make it more engaging. And next time it won’t just be me by myself, it will be about the community situation, the adaptability of the practice, and how to apply these principles. You can get some of that from the video now, but there’s more to show about how everyone can utilize this stuff.
CR: What yoga videos do you like?
JB: Honestly, I only have a few. I have one of Desikachar, and one with Mark Whitwell, and a vintage Lilias Folan that someone gave me. I have always thought that once you learn a practice then you can just do it on your own and you don't really need a yoga video. My producer is going to be so mad at me for saying that. This video is a way for people to learn a practice, and I know a lot of folks who enjoy using a yoga video as a disciplinary tool. If it helps people get to useful practice then I'm all for it.