It had been awhile since Sleuth took class at Jivamukti Yoga, but after entering the Union Square studio, it was as if no time had passed at all.
The front desk attendants provide warm welcomes as they ensure a smooth check-in. The small crowd that exited the elevator with me dispersed upon entering the space — some turned towards the Jivamuktea Cafe for vegan fare while others lingered in the boutique that sells a wide array of product including books, skincare, apparel, and jewelry.
I signed up for Jeffrey Villanueva’s 12pm which is described as "dynamic and high intensity" on the website. But being familiar with Jivamukti style, I knew that all their classes, no matter how physically challenging, will include a mix of spirituality (chanting), cooling poses (meditation) and a nice, long savasana.
After removing my shoes and coat, I noticed the inspiration gallery directly across from the coat rack. It was a wall of greats including Pattabhi Jois, The Beatles, and Bob Marley.
When I arrived in the asana room, Jeffrey was already there exhibiting a friendly demeanor. As he placed chant booklets next to each mat he introduced himself to those he didn’t yet know. He then took his seat up front behind the harmonium.
We chanted "Govinda Hare," "Om"ed three times, did a few cat-cows, and then went into down dog for the duration of the dharma talk.
Throughout the class, Jeffrey moved around the room giving plenty of personal attention to each of us. He was incredibly hands-on with his assists, displaying an acute understanding of how the body moves, and how it could be moved to go deeper into the poses.
Extended side angle was one of the many postures he assisted me on, and the way he guided my extended arm’s rotation, it lengthened from the shoulder girdle which allowed me to find more reach.
In addition to verbal cues and physical assists, Jeffrey demonstrated a few poses up front. He put extra emphasis on the subtle alignment details that would help strengthen the pose. In parsvottanasana, he demonstrated how to draw the hip back in order to find better alignment before folding forward.
His verbal instruction always included alignment details. So even though we flowed through vinyasa for most of the class, Jeffrey explained the positioning from an alignment perspective.
The sequence started off with an Ashtanga format including surya namaskar A and B and padahastasana before moving into variations that included trikonasana, parsvottanasana (with palms on the floor and reverse prayer), virabhadrasana one (he told us to find the pose from the heart) and two, along with several variations of backbends including crescent moon, hanumanasana, ustrasana, dhanurasana, bridge and wheel.
Forearm stand was practiced in the middle of the room. After we came down, Jeffrey had one of his students try again, this time with an assist. He did this also in backbends. When most of the class was resting, Jeffrey worked individually with a student on her drop backs.
In his teaching, it was also clear that Jeffrey noticed many little details. I’d hear him tell a student across the room to step their feet closer together. Or walk their hands more forward. When I was in forearm stand he told me to draw my legs together.
When we got to savasana, he came around with oil and a simple head massage.
The benefits of all the back bending and deep assists became apparent immediately after class which I was thankful for. I felt an invigoration and sense of clarity that stayed with me for the rest of the day.
—Elysha Lenkin for Yoga Sleuth
Drop-in classes are $22. New students can try one week for $45.