“If you don’t like my class, that’s okay—you don’t have to come back, but be open while you’re here.” Straightforward and eloquent, Jason Morris commands your attention right away with his provocative tone, core-based cues and unusual sequencing.
A senior yoga teacher and Master Trainer for Sadie Nardini, Jason has worked within the body-mind/fitness industry for more than 15 years. His extensive study in world religion, classical philosophy, Sanskrit, in addition to thousands of hours of yoga, embodied anatomy and therapeutics training, give him the temperament of a seasoned, affable professor. He is teaching the Core Strength Vinyasa 200-hour Teacher Training this fall in NYC. Kathleen Kraft caught up with him recently.
Kathleen Kraft: You’ve been widely schooled in yoga, anatomy and philosophy. How did you get interested in Core Strength Vinyasa?
Jason Morris: I started in movement and dance when I was younger, and I got massively injured when someone fell on me during a rehearsal for Hello Dolly in England where I grew up. As a result, my MCLs were overstretched and my knees were in terrible shape. A voice teacher of mine was also a yoga teacher, and she used it to help rehab me.
Eventually I started teaching, but there were still things that weren’t feeling right in my body. I was running a studio in New York, and I wanted to be immersed in that style, but the asana didn’t feel quite right, and so I started practicing at Sadie Nardini’s studio because there were certain freedoms that she allowed in her classes. Because I came from dance, her sense of moving from the core, was familiar to me. That deep core strength was so incredible that I kept going back, and eventually I did trainings with her.
Time passed, and I had been in two different car accidents and went for x-rays. I knew I had scoliosis and degenerative joint disease and other stuff, and I thought I got the wrong x-
rays back because my spine was straight in them. Not only had I strengthened the deep spinal stabilizers, I had straightened out my spine.
In general, I noticed fewer injuries in my practice and my students’ because they were connecting to the earth. Sadie talks about finding your foundation, your core and your expression, which means your base of support. Many people fly into a shape versus really finding what it is to be connected and pull up through the deep muscles of the body, closer to the spine. When people look at Instagram, they see a picture of someone and say I need to be like that, so the external focus on shape. Someone else is the ideal, instead of you. What we teach is what is authentic in your body.
KK: You’re a passionate teacher. What do you love?
JM: I love that people start to realize that their movements are really a metaphor for everything they do outside. If I ask you to soften unnecessary tension in your physical body, it’s because I want you to let go of the past or anything you think you need to do to yourself. People come into a room and they pose… I want to help people soften the tension and not pose. People can’t shed everything at the door, but if I can let them put it on the shelf for an hour… Half the time we’re fearful because we think something is actually something else.
KK: For example?
JM: Arm balancing. Guess what, you’re two and half feet from the floor at any given time. It’s vidya versus avidya. There’s a beautiful grounding sensibility in pagan and wiccan traditions—they have you barefoot walk in the grass, because there is something phenomenal about connecting your feet with the earth, pulling up through your bones.
Anatomically when you access the psoas, it literally lifts and pulls up your spine; it attaches your deep core to your backbone. If you find your core strength, you’ll find your spine… If you find it physically, you’ll find it psychologically, and you’ll be able to speak your truth in the moment.
KK: If you could acknowledge one person who has been a big influence on your life and your teaching, who would that be?
JM: In the yoga the world, it’s definitely Sadie Nardini and Leslie Kaminoff, but if we really go back to who inspires me it’s my mom—she’s had a lot hardship in her life—she was a cancer survivor, and the relationship between her and my father was very chaotic. She was a pianist, and I grew up under her piano. She was always an incredible presence. She would not fire back at people; she would go to her piano and connect. She would start really dark, like with a Nocturne by Chopin, and by the end of the hour she’d be playing music from The Little Mermaid, she would let the emotions play out. I loved watching her transmute something through movement, through her fingers. Then she’d go back and have an idea of how she wanted deal with the problem, but she had let it go.