Down to Earth with Jeffrey Scott Duval
It was a packed house at Sonic Yoga in Hells Kitchen when Yoga Sleuth stepped up to the mat, ready for an invigorating afternoon Prana Flow sequence with Jeffrey Scott Duval. We got right to business, standing in Tadasana and taking our hands up to the sky. “Press your palms all the way down to the base of the spine,” said Jeffrey. “Connect to the root, the Muladhara Chakra.” Jeffrey explained that one of his meditation teachers, Christopher Thompkins, was recently in a “Raiders of the Lost Ark”-style adventure in Kashmir, uncovering ancient tantric scrolls that tell of further chakras. “Before the root chakra there is a universal chakra -- Sadā chakra -- that is the foundation of everything,” said Jeffrey. “Start in that space where you can feel connected to all sentient beings. Release anything that separates you.” We chanted the seed sound of Muladhara -- Lam -- then folded forward and massaged our hamstrings, calves and quads to circulate energy. Coming into Plank and feeling the four corners of our bodies against the earth, we began to pulse, coiling up through the navel on the inhale, and radiating out in all directions on the exhale before lowering into Anahatasana.” We lifted into Sphinx and then into Forearm Plank to find the beginnings of Chaturanga, chanting as we ascended. “Any separation or fragmentation from yourself,” said Jeffrey, “see if you can draw it back into the Source.” We found a pulse in low lunge, coiling the belly and releasing tension in the backs of our heads. Then we shifted to the side and held onto our ankles as we coiled and rounded in a wide-legged squat, exhaling with a Lion’s Breath. We proceeded through our flow slowly, every movement precise and deliberate. We continued to chant the sound of Muladhara on the out-breath. Our movements were linked by turning in all directions in each asana, shifting to the side walls and then emerging to face the back of the room before returning to the top of the mat. Under Jeffrey’s instruction one can’t helped but be fully absorbed in the practice; the regrets of yesterday and the worries of tomorrow disappear as you become fully grounded and engaged in every pulse and coil of the prana flow. “Every time you coil, bow down and dissolve,” guided Jeffrey. After the flow sequence, the room became a playground, as we tried out variations of Bhujapidasana. “If you fall, it’s not a long way!” reminded Jeffrey. “So take the chance. Chaturanga arms!” We came into Bow Pose, then a half Happy Baby in preparation for a challenging peak pose. “Coil up, hold on to your foot and draw your heel towards your navel,” said Jeffrey. “Thread your arm under, and if you’re ready start to tuck your head under and wrap your head behind it for Eka Pada Sirsasana.” We accepted the challenge gamely as Jeffrey reminded us to keep breathing, then came into Wheel as we again chanted the sound of the root chakra.
Finally, we came into an essential grounding to the earth posture, Baddha Konasana. Jeffrey urged us to unclench our jaws as we let any remaining tension disperse. Our inversion choice was Headstand to Shoulderstand and Fish. “Or, you can be a diva and go right into Savasana!” cracked Jeffrey. “Savasana is the grand earth posture.” The class was followed by the weekly seated meditation. We chanted 108 times to Ganesh, intoning “om gam ganapataye namaha” for each bead of the mala. After a full two hours on the mat, we were grounded, blissed out and ready to get back into the action of Hell’s Kitchen. As I left, Jeffrey reminded me to keep my jaw loose and relaxed, because the rest of me would follow! Drop-in classes at Sonic Yoga are $20 with a $2 mat rental.
-Jim Catapano for Yoga Sleuth