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June 2020
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Follow Your Breath with Jen Guarnieri
Kula Yoga Project
28 Warren Street, 4th Fl
New York, NY 10007

Sat, 9:15 AM To 10:45 AM

A "creative and invigorating flow," the description on Kula’s website for Jen Guarnieri’s Saturday morning class, sounded perfect for Yoga Sleuth after a Thanksgiving weekend of über indulgences.

Though it may have seemed like a slow start, Jen’s class delivered more yoga than one would expect within the first few minutes.  One hand was placed over my heart while the other rested on my belly. Jen instructed the class to “feel your body in the space it’s in now.”  

On one level I felt myself on my yoga mat, amongst the 20 or so other yogis in the room  - a warmly rustic studio with exposed brick walls and wide plank floors. But on another level, I felt my body off the mat, and in the grander scheme of my life, even the world! This contemplation was centered around the breath, a major theme for Jen’s class.

After a few moments of conscious breathing we held a half Happy Baby Pose, still lying on the floor. One knee bent towards the shoulder while the other leg extended long on the mat. We did this on both sides before bending our knees into the chest, and took Eagle arms for a series of core strengthening crunches.

With our belly energy awakened, we came to sit and Om’ed in unison.  The breath continued to inform each movement while we rolled ourselves up to stand.

Surya Namaskar variations came next which included the expected (Warrior 1, Warrior 2, Extended Side Angle) and the unexpected (Horse Pose with Eagle arms and an undulating spine similar to a Cat/Cow variation). Jen reminded us about Mula Bandha, and how even when it seems like we’re dropping our weight down we can still be lifting up. Chair, another conventional Surya Namaskar B pose, was amped up with a round of Kapalabhati breathing, and Side Plank took a strenuous stance with one forearm on the ground and the other bent to 90 degrees, like a Chaturanga arm. Chaturanga, by the way, showed up many times throughout the class as part of each vinyasa.

“Find your rhythm of the breath,” Jen said over a back drop of deep Ujjayi breathing, and a selection of down tempo tunes emanating from the speakers.

This class was a true vinyasa flow. Each movement, guided by breath, set the foundation for what was to come.  First, we would move through the poses holding each one for several breaths. Then we would flow through the same sequence holding each posture for just one breath. We were encouraged to “maintain the fluidity of breath moving in and out” which matched up with our movement in total harmony.

There’s no question, the breath took center stage in Jen’s class, but alignment played a major role as well. Jen gave detailed descriptions which included both physical adjustments and verbal explanations of the subtle shifts that could edge us closer to a fuller expression of the pose.

The sequences got challenging as more advanced postures came into play. Balance was tested in Warrior 3 with Eagle arms, Crow, Flying Crow and Birds of Paradise. My body broke a sweat (the room was warm, but definitely not hot) and I could feel my muscles burning in some of the longer holds. Jen always provided gentler options for those who preferred a less intense variation. And with her constant reminder to stay focused on the breath, I could instill more power into each pose with a concentrated exhalation.

The final sequence brought us from Pigeon prep back to the half Happy Baby, however this time we were seated, poised to go deeper.  We hoisted one leg over the shoulder, and played with a fancy version of Flying Side Crow - one forearm stayed on the ground while the other elbow bent to 90 degrees (just as we had done in the Side Plank variation earlier in class).

Some more arm and core strengthening work came in the form of Forearm Downward Dog, Forearm Plank, and Headstand with a suggestion to wrap up in Eagle legs, and bring them in towards the chest.

We back bended with Bridge and full Wheel was a follow up option. Then came a supine twist with Eagle legs that brought our heart rates down in preparation for final relaxation.

Jen said, “Set yourself up to fully surrender,” which was a welcome invitation that I sunk into easily.  

Once we came back up to sit, we took a deep inhale, and exhaled an Om to close class. 

Drop-in classes are $20; New Student Special 3 Classes for $30; Mat & Towel Rental: $2 each.

-Elysha Lenkin for Yoga Sleuth

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