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Friday, July 25, 2008

A Really Big Yoga Class

On two consecutive Thursday evenings in July, I taught a free yoga class in Bryant Park. I was somewhat prepared for a large crowd because Lululemon, the event sponsor, told me that there had been over one hundred people on the lawn in the park just the week before. I did my best to prepare for this special NY event, practicing and reviewing the sequences that I planned more carefully than usual, writing them down and even studying it. But how do you really prepare to teach yoga to a large number of people outdoors in the heart of NYC? With all the combined years of teaching and being taught, I managed to somehow teach this huge crowd of yogis, which, on my first Thursday, had set a new attendance record of 212 people. This was a night of firsts for me. It was the first time I had ever taught a yoga class to that number of people, indoors or outdoors, and the first time I worked with a microphone headset. It was an opportunity of a lifetime.

In the first class, we started standing up. Since everyone was standing, no one could see me. But my voice was everywhere, just like Big Brother. It was overwhelming to hear my voice projected back so large in my ears, like hearing your voice on an answering machine, only multiplied by a 100 times, and with everyone else listening too. I did my best to stay calm and focused on the practice of the people all around. In the second class, we began with a seated warm up. I remained standing so that people were able to see me. I was definitely feeling more familiar and confident with the process of engaging this many people, even though that night they achieved another attendance record of 223 people. I told the group to interlace their fingers, press their palms up over their heads, and, while keeping their pelvis grounded, to bend towards the right. Can you imagine directing a sea of bodies, minds and breath connected together, to move as one? The amazing wave of humanity leaning uptown in unison was an unforgettable vision. It was a glorious moment and an extraordinary sight, my first wave.

Afterwards I floated for several days. Then, in the debriefing process that I put myself through after these two classes, it occurred to me that these may have been among the biggest professional things that I have done so far in my life. I love the idea of sharing what I have learned and how the ripple effect of just one small seed can easily spread. Perhaps one of those 223 people who practiced last Thursday in Bryant Park will begin a yoga practice because of my class? Perhaps one person went home that evening feeling buoyed by the experience and was more pleasant to their family? Perhaps someone else realized that they had never really done a Triangle pose in quite that way before? The possibilities and ramifications of our actions are indeed breath-taking.

Jennifer Brilliant is a Park Slope mother and the owner of the Jennifer Brilliant Yoga and Personal Training Studio in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Jennifer has nearly 20 years of experience guiding people in athletic, therapeutic and creative movement. She is a regular contributor for Hip Slope Mama. For more about Jennifer Brilliant and the classes she offers visit JenniferBrilliant.com