Yoga City NYC has a feature that they call “Yoga Sleuth,” where they send journalists around the city to take yoga classes and then write about their experience. The teacher doesn’t know that they are taking the class, or that they’ll be writing about it later. Jason was “Sleuthed” during the Spring of 2009, while he was still teaching Zenyasa® at Pure Yoga. Below is the transcript of what was written up over at Yoga City NYC -- just search for “Zenyasa" if you want to read it there.
"Jason Ray Brown’s Monday class at Pure Yoga is a fusion of Zen Buddhism, Vinyasa and Exercise Science he created two years ago. Always up for something new, Yoga Sleuth went to see how he’d put all these pieces together in one yoga class.
Inspired by his teacher, the Vietnamese monk, Thich Naht Hahn, Jason weaves Buddhist readings and breathing exercises throughout the class.We start with a 10-15 minute meditation. Hands folded in a "Dhyana" mudra (hands form a circle and join at the thumbs), we are told to follow our thoughts carefully. Instead of judging emotions and thoughts, we simply notice and label them, then move our attention back to the breathe. "It's like training a puppy," Jason says, "we have to use gentle repetition in meditation." I feel the breathing calm my nervous system, connect me to a deeper inner silence, and prepare me for the rigorous class ahead.
Then we do a "Gasho" practice, as an expression of goodwill. To honor our practice, we step off our mats and bow to them. We then honor the teacher by acknowledging Jason, and look around the room to everyone in class to acknowledge our yoga family. Lastly we invoke a simple wellbeing prayer in honor of all beings.
The warm-up flow is a series of unique yet simple sequences that involve the front and back bodies, with an emphasis on opening the shoulders. We move slowly through sequences of grasshopper (forward bend with bend knees and elbows reaching towards ceiling), side plank, and downward dog. When we hold downward dog for twenty breathes, I feel the strong focus established during the opening meditation.
Each class is based on one of the five elements in Chinese medicine: earth, fire, water, metal and wood. Today, Jason focuses on Earth, which is associated with the body's spleen and stomach organs. In order to ground and strengthen the inner and outer meridians that run along the length of the leg, we do a "hero" series that involve deep lunges, standing balances, and forward folds. In the spirit of the theme, Jason calls one particular lunge “touching the earth.” Right before the Buddha was enlightened, Jason explains, thoughts of women, luxury and food overwhelmed him. In order to rise above these distractions intended derail him, the Buddha knelt down by the Bodhi tree and literally touched the earth to get grounded and centered. As we sweat through the countless repetitions, Jason laughs and says: “you can see this pose from a Buddhist angle, or just from an exercise viewpoint, where we are doing a single leg squat that strengthens the gluts and quads.”
We also do core work and hip opening stretches that challenge me physically and mentally. I realize that because of the thorough meditation at the beginning of class, we are technically only doing asana for one hour, however, Jason is very thoughtful and certainly provides a fully-body workout. It's also great to be reminded how vital meditation is to our practice. Stay tuned for an in-depth article about his Zenyasa® philosophy."
-- Katie Clancy