The body loves its breath.
Imagine yoga before it was transformed in its journey to the West. Imagine a personalized, breath-centered practice, passed down from individual teacher to student. Yoga for the well being of the whole person; not only the physical, but also the mental, emotional, and spiritual bodies. Something that would provide a vehicle for slowing down and learning to truly take care of ourselves. Something to ease the pains of life.
That something is the breath. The breath moving in and through the opening and closing body, carrying the prana or life force energy, seen by sages but elusive to scientists. Whatever the explanation, this yoga simply makes us feel better. Full, deep breathing into all corners of the body makes people feel better. Feel stronger. Feel more energetic. And it has been doing so for thousands of years.
Yoga changed when it came to the West. New styles and brands of yoga have developed which meet the desires and expectations of much of the American audience. Focusing on the outer, physical achievements, and perhaps losing something in the creation of a standardized, scaled and franchised approach to yoga.
But the older traditions have also continued, and there has been a wonderful resurgence of this 'old-school' yoga. The gentle, therapeutic, breath-centered yoga. Many teachers speak of the importance of the breath in a yoga practice. But just saying 'inhale and exhale' is a bit like the doctor saying 'eat healthier foods'. How do you create a true, breath-centered practice?
In order to put the breath at the heart of this particular practice, we employ a specific technique of breathing called oo-jai pranayama or “ocean-sounding breath.” All of the moving and working of the body organizes around this breathing. The regulation of breath soothes the central nervous system, relaxes the muscles, awakens joy, and focuses the mind. The body and mind are safer, happier, healthier.
Life hurts. This helps.
What makes this yoga practice different from working out at the gym or going to a physical therapist is that the exercises are intended to encompass more than physicality. We are making the body strong and flexible -- but we go about it in a way that also encourages useful patterns of thought and behavior. No struggling. No straining. No striving. Just strong and calm, even and measured work.
By simplifying, slowing, and centering on the breath, we cultivate a more patient mode of engagement. We have shifted our context -- we no longer try to transcend difficulties, but rather learn how to ease them, and enjoy the fact that we are here.
about J. Brown
For more than fifteen years, J Brown has been developing techniques to teach people how to practice yoga in a deeper and more fulfilling way. He is also a well known writer, having been featured in Yoga Therapy Today, the International Journal of Yoga Therapy, Elephant Journal, and Yogadork.
J Brown came to yoga by way of his mother's death. Reconciling that loss, and wanting to be free from the crippling grief and disillusionment that came with it, fueled his passion for learning to make himself well.
First, he gravitated towards an Ashtanga, power vinyasa style. The intensity suited his struggling temperament. After sustaining several injuries, he explored an Iyengar based approach to learn better alignment. But he soon discovered that better alignment alone was not the answer. Despite having achieved proficiency in both the Ashtanga and Iyengar styles, studying with renowned teachers such as Alison West and Richard Freeman, J admits: 'I still had chronic pain and was horribly disillusioned and unhappy.' The next phase of his search would be in India.
In Rishikesh, J found a rare and special teacher in Swami P. Saraswati. He taught J that yoga practice was not a linear progression towards some unknown thing, but rather a process of learning how to take care of yourself. Back in NY, J stopped going to regular group classes and devoted himself to a self-practice, ultimately finding his way to an entirely therapeutic orientation in the tradition of TKV Desikachar and T Krishnamacharya, the "teacher of teachers".
In 2007, After more than a decade as a popular teacher at various schools in Manhattan and Brooklyn, J founded Abhyasa Yoga Center in Brooklyn, NY. AYC was created to provide a home for yoga practice that adapts to individual needs. After 10 years in Brooklyn and two daughters, the winds of change brought J. to the Lehigh Valley, PA. 90 minutes outside of NYC. In 2018, J. opened a small studio in a loft space in the Cigar Factory in Allentown, PA from which he teachers small classes and produces his podcast and videos.
J’s blog and essay writing can be found at jbrownyoga.com
about the practice video
This video is a document of J. Brown's core practice sequences. Old school yoga 101. They are offered in 7 minute, 15 minute, 30 minute, 60 minute, and 75 minute programs, which progress in difficulty and can be easily adapted to suit a broad range of body types and conditions. Combined with supplemental tutorials and features, J Brown's Yoga Video is a comprehensive practice tool that anyone can use to learn and maintain a safe and effective yoga practice.
From Josh Sitron, the producer of J. Brown's yoga video:
"We wanted to make a yoga video that was different from other yoga videos, in the way that J. Brown's yoga practice is different from other types of yoga practices. And not so much a yoga class, as a yoga practice. J Brown doing his yoga practice, and his voice teaching it to you. We wanted to create a quality of intimacy, so we shot the video with the camera hand held instead of on a tripod. And we shot in lower light, to create warmth and some coziness. We often put the camera on the floor, to give the actual feeling of being 'on the mat'. Most importantly, we recorded the long and steady oo-jai breathing with a lavalier microphone, and boosted it way up in volume. So the practitioner becomes more firmly rooted in the long and even, ocean-like, quality of breath that is at the heart of the practice. And practically, we decided to offer the yoga practice at many different lengths to fit with people's schedules. This makes it a real practice tool. I have been a student of J's for 10 years, and I truly can attest, the benefits of J's practice are significant. Please, enjoy this video. I hope it makes you feel good. "