There's nothing quite like observing the summer solstice with a sunset yoga flow. This time around, Yoga Sleuth had the opportunity to spend his longest day with the community at Jai Yoga Arts, in a class taught by its owner, the joyful Ella Luckett. Ella started out by telling us a story about a trip to Ecuador she'd recently taken with friends. It's a country of formidable elevation, and the group had to decide whether to climb a certain peak to get to the other side or hike around it. The members of the party who went around the mountain found it took them much longer to journey than their colleague who boldly took the climb. The moral: sometimes it's better to rise to the challenge than find a way around it. This thought emboldened our practice as we commenced kapalabhati breathing. From there we began a dynamic flow that included all the classic poses plus a few surprises. Ella's training in the Ashtanga, Prana and Jivamukti traditions all came into play. We built up to a lively pace by first doing a vinyasa that comprised knees, chest and chin to baby cobra. This evolved to half chaturanga (knees on the mat) and full cobra, and finally blossomed into chaturanga and up dog.
From here we added on jumping back and forward and practice hops into handstand. From down dog we bent a knee and pulled forward into plank, tapping the knee to the left elbow, the right, and finally center to fire up the core. We brought the leg back for a three-legged dog, then kept it airborne as we lowered into chaturanga once more. Progressing to the standing sequence, we took took our peace fingers around our big toes for a forward stretch, then deepened it by sliding our palms under our feet. Ella's exuberance and encouragement kept us from giving into any fatigue we may have felt, and her adjustments kept us aligned and focused.
She had me bring my shoulders away from my ears and coaxed me to bend my knee over my ankle in warrior two, then gave me blocks for my hands in prasarita padottanasana so I could straighten my legs. All the while she encouraged a sonorous ujjayi breath from us all to keep us company as we took side plank and rock star, attempted binds in extended side angle, opened up into a lunge twist and gazed to our reaching hands as we balanced in half moon. Ella had us come down to the mat and roll our blankets up under our rib cages to support the diaphragm as we rested prone and then rose into sphinx. Coming up to sit, we bent a knee beside our torsos and then brought the opposite foot to rest on it, attempting to reach around for it with the other hand if we were so inclined.
Our peak pose was krounchasana, and we all gave our it our final burst of energy before coming down to paschimottanasana and bridge. Savasana was much longer than anticipated, fitting for the longest day of the year. Ella placed a blanket over our feet and gently pressed into our soles as we let it all go. We completed our solstice flow with nadi shodhana breathing, seated meditation and the traditional tea among friends, old and new, feeling grateful for the true sense of community that Ella and Jai Yoga Arts, a warmth apropos of the start to the summer season.
—Jim Catapano for Yoga Sleuth Drop-in classes are $18 with $1 mat rental. New students can buy four classes for $40.
Monday 6:50-8:15pm Intermediate Jai Yoga Arts 47 Thames St., #102 Brooklyn, NY 11237 (347) 460-7510