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Cooling Flow with Susan Kraft
“On a steamy Saturday I rode a heat wave into Jaya Yoga Center in Park Slope for Susan Kraft’s intellegent and well crafted (no pun intended!) intermediate class. Mercury rising above 100, she made two disclaimers: first, that Sun Salutations would not be part of today’s class, and second, that she was using music, which generally she doesn’t do. This made me curious to come back and try her class on a cooler day as well, but I was certainly glad I came to this one.

“Just like trees and plants reach down to draw up water from the cool depths, we can use our rootedness in the practice to cool us, rather than rooting down in a fiery, effortful way,” she explained. This recurring image coupled with her gently articulate voice, and a slow pacing that perfectly suited the day, made for a sweet meditative flow. She incorporated an alluring playlist that took us from subtle harmonies through Caribbean-style roots/reggae and back down again into precious stillness.

The class began with a brief restorative Supta Baddhakonasana, to give us “some surface area for evaporation.” From there we commenced into a thorough supine then seated warm-up, interspersed with cooling Sitali Pranayama. A slow standing series then melted into an expertly sequenced backbend series at the wall, culminating in a creative and restful variation of shoulder stand with hips on a block and feet on the wall.

All throughout I appreciated her responsiveness to the weather and the needs of the class. Noticing that some students were still exploring Supta Virasana variations, she encouraged us to stay in the pose longer. Prompted by a student who expressed lower back discomfort in Urdhva Dhanurasana, she urged us to “integrate the tailbone into the pelvis so there is a bit of pelvic tuck within the spinal extension.” I found this direction useful for creating space in my lower back.

Happy Baby is a pose that’s often thrown in to a Vinyasa class willy-nilly, but Susan took the time to break it down, offering the most articulate explanation I’ve ever heard of how to get the most benefit from this back and hip opener: “With forearms inside your knees and hands on the outer edges of your feet, stack your feet above your knees and move your knees toward your armpits. Now reach the pubic bone toward the floor to get the best lower back and hip release.”

One of the Siddhis (special powers) that yoga bestows according to the Yoga Sutras is mastery over the elements. Not too many yoga instructors could boast that their classes bestow supernatural abilities, but by the time we arrived in Savasana I was no longer aware of the heat. Entering the class soggy and over-stimulated, I left cool and relaxed thanks to her sensitive teaching. As the cooling flow of breath rippled through me, I offered gratitude for this healing practice and for the masterful guidance of this magnanimous teacher.”
Lauren Tepper for Yoga Sleuth

 

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Beginner’s Night at Jaya Yoga
A combination of an older demographic and an often-small class size makes this a good fit for the absolute beginner. Instructor Susan Kraft uses accessible imagery, describing one move as “Kate Winslet in Titanic.” Intermittently, Kraft also discusses a philosophical focus of the month; January will be devoted to shraddha (commonly translated as “faith”), an interesting diversion into some of the thinking that underpins the practice. 1626 Eighth Ave at Windsor Pl, Park Slope, Brooklyn (718-788-8788, jayayogacenter.com). Thu 7:45–9pm; drop-in $15, packages available.
Entry Level Yoga Classes, TimeOut New York.