Yoga Sleuth had heard that Mindy Levine's Saturday pre-brunch class was spirited and unique, so I headed up to House of Jai on the freshly minted Q train to join in the fun. Mindy found yoga as a way to help with chronic pain; she studied with Matkin Yoga and continues to develop her teaching and practice with Leslie Kaminoff's Breathing Project. She had everyone in the packed room say hello to their immediate mat neighbors, then had us start standing. She promised that "the play is about getting real about the groundlessness of the present moment," but that we would come to the floor eventually—and possibly literally! "Shake it Loose" began to pulse on the sound system, and that's exactly what Mindy wanted us to do! One of the things we were going to shake free were any preconceived notions about ourselves, our practice, and life. As Mindy put it, "Expectations are premeditated resentments!" The centerpiece of our flow was a dynamic sequence that saw us begin facing front in a high lunge with the right foot forward, pull back into reverse warrior, then pivot to a twisted lunge over the left knee facing the back of the room. Then we pivoted back into a warrior 2 to the front of the room, and then soared into a half moon. After mirroring ourselves, we repeated the sequence faster, until the moves were almost dance-like. Next we placed our blocks on their lowest height in front of the mat. We pressed our right toes on the block; Mindy explained the purpose was to experience the tendency to sway into the left outer hip."Now find more verticality, that lift so the work in trying to balance can be felt in your lateral hip muscles." After lifting and lowering the toes a few times, we sailed the leg back into warrior 3, but at a 45 degree angle."This will help you find integration," said Mindy. We brought the toes back to the mat to feel the lift again, then pressed it into our thighs to blossom into tree poses. Just as Mindy foreshadowed, we found ourselves rolling up our mats and casting them aside. With our feet on blankets, knees on the floor and our hands on blocks, we began to move our feet back into plank, sliding back and forwards again on the blanket. Then we used the blanket to come into a modified side plank, our feet shifting with the aid of the fabric. Turning around to place our heads and torsos on the blanket, we put our hands behind our heads and swiveled our necks left and right, using the movement of the blanket to stretch through the side body. Then we came to a fetal position with our heads resting on one arm and the other stretching out in the air behind us, rotating the shoulder. For savasana, Mindy suggested that we take our already rolled up mats to prop up our knees. "And you're also welcome to come to the wall and stand in savasana!" (Told you it was different!) For those of us still taking it lying down, Mindy came by with lavender oil and a gentle tug of the earlobes and a press of our third eye. As she did so, she regaled us with a zen parable that perfectly summed up the purpose of our practice and the way to live every moment: "A man was being chased by a tiger across a field and over a cliff. He grabbed onto a vine, and as he hung over the cliff saw that there were more tigers in the valley below. Meanwhile two mice were chewing on the vine he was hanging from. Seeing a strawberry on the vine, he plucked it and ate it. It was delicious."
—Jim Catapano for Yoga Sleuth Drop-in classes are $30 with Manduka mat and towel included. New students can try 10 days for $45.
Saturday 9:30-10:45am Intermediate House of Jai 1456 1st Ave. New York, NY 10021 (646) 861-3659