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February 2020
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Stand Well with Daba Briggs
Sun Moon Yoga
413 Monmouth Street
Jersey City, NJ 07302

Fri, 6:30 PM To 8:00 PM

It may seem like an obvious and casual thing for a yoga teacher to say in class, to “stand well,” but I assure you it isn’t as easy as it seems. Daba Briggs’s Friday evening hot power vinyasa class at Sun Moon Yoga is a clear indication of that and a true lesson on what “stand well” can really mean.

Daba’s classes focus more on posture and alignment and deliberate movement as opposed to tricky transitions and a fast flow. Her classes will often begin with a series of neck/shoulder circles and seated side bends, as did our class this evening. Then it’s onto some Sun Salutations.

Within moments of the first Downward Dog, Daba encourages everyone to “spread your fingers well,” and to “spread your toes well.” The class is paced by these kinds of reminders, ones that actually get you to look at your fingers while you are in Downward Dog and consider how well spread they actually are.

One variation of Downward Dog I’ve experienced more than once in Daba’s class, and which we try on this particular occasion, is to grab the sides of our mats with our hands, bringing us into this wide-handed Dog. From this position we get a better and heartier stretch, a stretch that really forces you to connect with the ground.

Through our salutations, every time we return to Tadasana Daba asks that the class make an “earthy” connection with the ground. To “stand well.”  It is in this moment that Daba encourages us to come back to our intention, invites us to close our eyes for a few breaths, to feel the ground we stand upon.  

To stand well suggests that you are mindful of the way you are standing, that you take a moment to do a full scan of your body, making note of your posture and your presence. What a statement like “stand well” also encourages is adjustment. What happens after you make note of your posture and your presence (physical, mental, or otherwise)? You make an adjustment. You become conscious of something that you previously were unconscious of. You flip off the auto-pilot switch. You become better engaged, and as a result, experience a better practice.

Helpful adjustments are also constantly given throughout the class by Daba, both physical and verbal. There is a lot of bending and straightening and re-bending of legs in Virabhadrasana 2. A lot of holding. A lot of dropping our tail bones under, a lot of guiding our knee in.

Even though you may not be challenged to flow as fast as you would be in other power vinyasa classes, you are challenged to be deliberate and that sometimes ends up being more difficult. The form of each posture is important to Daba.

More than once during class we are instructed to place our hands on our hips before we sit back into Eagle and keep our hands there until after we are fully in the posture, as a way to actually feel what happens to our hips when we sit back. Daba wants us to keep our hips squared.  She wants us to be aligned.  We are welcome to add the arms after, but only after, we’ve squared our hips.  

Props, such as blankets and blocks, also play a big part in Daba’s classes.  She encourages everyone to sit up on a blanket at the beginning of class and then to sit up on a blanket again when we return to seated stretches such as Paschimottanasana toward the end of class. Blocks should always be handy, even if they are to just be placed behind you so you can lean into them with your weight while sitting up on your blanket and stretching out of your waist. This kind of deliberate and mindful movement is what Daba is all about.

Drop-in classes are $17. First time student special: first class $17, second class is free. Mat and towel rentals: $2 each.

-Jackie Clark for Yoga Sleuth

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