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Yoga Sleuth Review on YogaCity NYC

Shine & Refine

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Yoga Teachers: Shine & Refine with Jennifer Brilliant
Jennifer Brilliant Studio
732A Carroll St
Brooklyn, NY 11215
718-499-7282

Mon, 9:30 AM To 10:45 AM
Advanced

Few people are as aptly named as Jennifer Brilliant. The beautiful basement of her Park Slope brownstone is the Cheers bar of yoga where everybody knows your name. And not only are you glad you came, you always come away with something.

Jennifer’s new offering, ‘Yoga Teachers: Shine & Refine’ is a class for deeply inquisitive practitioners. In this 75-minute class Jennifer provides nuanced and detailed information with workshop-level sophistication. Sleuth has been a devoted follower for years, and has found that Jennifer’s sage guidance enhances not only my personal practice, but also my teaching, and my daily life.

Each week Jennifer expounds on a theme that she clearly lays out in the beginning. With the wit and skill of a novelist she gently unfolds the plot throughout the class. Creatively choreographed warm-up sequences foreshadow the peak poses to come, and colorful imagery and metaphors engage the imagination.

Today Jennifer happened to start class with one of Sleuth’s most-loved poems by the Sufi mystic Rumi. In ‘Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,’ Rumi describes a field where all duality collapses into one-ness. Jennifer adeptly related this poem to our practice of forward bends in today’s class. “Sounding OM together brings us to that field,” she smiled as we rose for Sun Salutations.

This week, inspired by her recent study with Rodney and Colleen Saidman Yee (the former, she playfully noted, once slept on her couch – ‘back in the day!’), we explored forward bends in a new way. “Create space in ‘the field’ by moving the sit bones, tailbone, and pubic bone away from the head,” Jennifer advised. “Now we’ll isolate the rib cage into four segments to deepen our breathing.”

As she guided us to pour the breath into the lower rib ‘ring’ by the floating ribs, and then sequentially into the horizontal cross sections above, I could feel greater awareness and opening in my thoracic cavity. My organs seemed to expand and sigh in relief.

A kind of magic happens in Jennifer’s studio: we cover a lot of ground, yet never feel rushed or out of breath. Today we traversed a course from gentle supine and seated movements to Sun Salutations, through standing poses like Warrior 2, Pyramid, and Revolved Triangle, into inversions, arm balances, and hip openers, ending with time to tend to our bodies’ individual needs before a soothing Savasana with a dreamy Arabian-inspired music backdrop.

Jennifer’s eagle eyes would not allow any of us to slip into unconscious patterns. She’s always on top of the game, sensing what’s needed and offering tactile and verbal guidance to elevate our practice and help us transcend habitual ways of moving or thinking that no longer apply. Today Sleuth learned to apply a little more pelvic tuck to forward bends to prevent over-stretching in the hamstrings and to promote greater abdominal support.

Even with her realms of knowledge, Jennifer has a beautifully humble way of inviting dialogue and exploration. “What is the promise of yoga?” she asked as we began class. This was not a rhetorical question, and we responded with answers including ‘possibilities;’ ‘freedom;’ ‘investigation;’ and ‘evolution.’ She welcomed our questions as well, and reminded us to engage our own inner teacher. “Let your hips tell your feet where to be,” she characteristically responded to a student’s question about foot placement in Uttanasana.

We practiced the external rotation of the shoulders that leads to greater stability in Pincha Mayurasana. Standing with elbows touching in front of our shoulders, we squeezed a block, long end parallel to the floor, between our palms. With this simple and effective preparation, Sleuth triumphantly breezed up into peacock feather pose, and stayed longer than usual without the support of the wall.

Our journey climaxed in the peak pose of Astavakrasana, the contorted arm balance named for the feisty ancient sage who talked back to his elders. Jennifer methodically prepared us for this pose, and coaxed us into it from a seated hip-opening stretch that demonstrated how to create access for practitioners of varying levels.

I left class invigorated and energized as I always do, with new ideas that will water my practice and grow my teaching over the coming months.

Single class $20; discounted class cards available.

— Lauren Tepper for Yoga Sleuth