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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Jivamukti with Jessica, Live Music Yoga Fridays with Jessica Stickler.

    I was so blessed to be able to attend a Friday night Jivamukti Class, fully equipped with live music and an incredible ambiance, with Jessica Stickler.  The first thing I do after New York trips are booked, is to go to the Jivamukti Yoga calendar and see what classes I can make.  Their location is steps from Union Square and their practice rooms are like churches.  Beautiful floors, high ceilings, colorful walls, lighting, windows, lots of wood, adorned with altars and photos of past and present gurus and spiritual teachers.  A lot of people start doing Jivamukti and then flirt with veganism.  I went the other direction.  I started Jivamukti because it aligned with my veganism and it is integral to the practice.  They also incorporate Nada Yoga (Sound Yoga, think hip and varied music), Chanting (a room vibrating from Sanskrit Mantras belted out by all walks of life), Dharma Talks demonstrating principles from the Bhagavad Gita and Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, Pranayama (breath control), and an invigorating asana practice.  This is not your Iyengar Yoga.  The emphasis is not on the perfect alignment or that you do asanas first, pranayama in later stages.  It's not Bikram or Ashtanga.  You don't do the same class over and over again until you complete it and move to the next level.  Jivamukti is "Yoga Church".  You get all elements of yoga in one class.  

    It's clear that their philosophy is to merge with "The Divine".  Whenever I first enter Jivamukti, as a midwesterner, I am always a little overwhelmed with the "hipness" of it's clientele.  Of course it's in the middle of the city and you have dancers, actors, hard core yogis, and the movers & shakers of the world.  But once you enter their practice area, and 5 minutes into class, that is all forgotten.  There isn't a lot of "fluff" in their practice.  The teachers tend to get to the nuts & bolts of yoga, the cessation of chitter chatter in your mind, very quickly.  It's a no BS arena.  Your "Prana" pants or "LuluLemon" designer yoga gear means nothing here.  Although half of the people in the room have perfect bodies, the Jivamukti peeps emphasize that the body is just a "coat" to be worn.  You wear it, you rid yourself of it when it is no longer useful.  It is a covering on your bones and has no bearing on your inner life.  So don't get too attached to that thing!!  Which is a really PERFECT teaching in the middle of New York City, land of runway models and fashion galore.

Listen to this group!  Try to make out the lyrics.  They are SILLY! and really fun.  Jessica collaborated with fellow Jiva Teachers, Matthew Lombardo and Christian Montegut.  The guys provided the musical groove and Jessica provided the mental/physical one.

    I had no idea what to expect for the Friday night class with live music.  It looks like Jessica Stickler does live music classes on most Friday nights, always with different music groups.  Jessica is a beautiful gal, incredibly radiant, and with a "lightness" to her that is really refreshing.  I overheard her telling someone before the class that she had never worked with this musical group (fellow Jiva teachers Matthew Lombardo and Christian Montegut) before and was a little nervous as she was doing this on the spot.  But she was so excited about it and embraced the opportunity.  She created a really inclusive, comfortable space and worked with the musicians beautifully.  The musicians were great, creating a casual, fun vibe and they did some funny improvisations also.  During a few difficult poses we hear these repetitions of "This is so Hard.  And I Paid for this??".  Over and over!!  This made the class laugh, while trying to hold some pose in which  I think we were all "suffering" a bit. 

 The room was dimly lit and the light coming through the window was magnificent.  Jessica sat at the front of the room, in front of the Altar.  Cars honking outside.  So much noise, commotion, hurriedness outside on the street, yet so much inner calm in this place.  This class had a lot of different types of people in in (not like an afternoon class I had taken there, which was very small, and most of the students could do free handstands!!!!) and it was very clearly about "the experience" and not about doing Downward Dog 50 times in a row.  I was in bliss for the entire 90 minutes.  You have to be careful leaving this place because you are totally zenned out and then you go onto the streets of Broadway and have to focus on not getting struck by a car crossing the street!  Jessica's class will put you in another place, one you won't be in any hurry to leave.  Jivamukti rounds up different musicans each week for this rockin' class.  If you are in New York, or just visiting, you have to look up Jivamukti's schedule and give it a try! And of course take a tea or vegan lunch at the attached "Jivamuktea" cafe.  And if you don't live close, then subscribe to Jivamukti with Jessica on itunes (FREE) and do your yoga at home and prepare your own little vegan brunch afterwards!

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