My third stop was so great. I crossed the mighty Charles River to visit JP Centre Yoga in the heart of Jamaica Plain. A number of pals had recommended practicing with Daniel Max, so I rolled in for a Saturday morning class.
Tour Stop: JP Centre Yoga, Jamaica Plain
Date: Saturday, February 3
Class: All Levels (90 mins)
Instructor: Daniel Max
Practice Pal: Justin
The JPCY website boasts over 60 classes per week, and describes most as being “threaded in vinyasa.” The studio is expansive. The walls and 20-foot ceilings of the former industrial building are a clean, bright white, and the morning light sent sunshine into every corner. The airiness of the room means that even with 45 or 50 students parked in there, the sense of space was not compromised. On the third floor above bustling Centre Street, the noises of the citizenry below mellow and mingle with the sounds of the students: breath blends with beeping horns, the rasp of feet sliding across mats softens the clacks, clangs, and clunks of the road.
What I observed: Daniel, a co-founder of JPCY, evidently has a dedicated structure for his classes. A quiet opening, a deliberately paced series of Sun A’s and Sun B’s as we awakened the body and warmed into our vinyasas, a series of shorter, faster sequences, and a slower restorative section to close. Strung throughout was a particular combination of spinal extension and shoulder opening. In Anjaneyasana (low lunge), in Crescent lunge, and at least also in Virabhadrasana I, we took our arms up alongside the ears, connected the palms, and then bent the elbows so that the thumbs came down along the base of the neck. That variation with the arms works the deltoids, the triceps, and encourages lift across the chest (so vital to finding deep spinal extension). It complemented the versions of Shalabasana (locust) and Ustrasana (camel) that we did as well.
Daniel spoke about mindfulness at the beginning and end of class, which is not unusual, but he also dropped little nuggets about awareness as we moved through the meat of the practice. If you’re new to mindfulness and meditation, it can feel intimidating to “get there.” Daniel laid it out in a ladder sequence, giving import to each rung and framing it as a process rather than something with an on/off switch. Attention leads to concentration; concentration leads to meditation; meditation to absorption; and following absorption, we are left with only the essence of the experience.
What I liked: Exquisite cuing. It’s not often an instructor drops anatomical phrases such as “plantar flexion” during a regular class. For a teacher who is practicing, this is pure ear candy. Daniel balanced precise cues at the start of postures, with a real economy of language for the remaining breaths. As we held a posture, and continued to make subtle adjustments based on the earlier cues, Daniel sometimes fell into complete silence. It was easy for me to feel in my body and my practice as a result.
I also appreciated Daniel’s gentle reminders to be present. We were working in an Ustrasana variation, the one were you lean back by hinging at the knees rather than extending the spine, and so were shaking as the core struggled to hold the body in a flat plane. Daniel said then, “sometimes as we build heat, we start to tell ourselves stories—try to stay focused on the truth of the experience.” Was I really going to fall over? Was my heart actually going to explode through my rib cage? Probably not, Jill, so just breath and hold.
What I missed: I would have enjoyed more standing balances (I think Ardha Chandrasana was the only one we took), as well as an opportunity to fly in an arm balance or an inversion. I didn’t receive any hands-on adjustments myself, but saw Daniel providing small assists to other students around the room (gently lifting the back knee in lunges, for example, to create a straighter leg, and speaking softly to a student about the inclination of the hips in a standing forward fold).
Justin said the structure of the class on that Saturday was pretty typical, except that he’s used to seeing a sequence dedicated to a more unusual or advanced posture. Daniel will cue the students into the pose progressively, so that students can pause at their depth. Justin said he likes this chance to explore and see how to enter more complicated asanas, as Daniel demonstrates the approach and “the insane limberness of his body.” I imagine, had I rolled in on any other Saturday, I would likely have had a chance to do the same.
Recommended for: Anyone! Honest. Justin, who regularly attends, said he has recognized that the class requires effort from everyone who attends. Even the most experienced students break a sweat, and he (as a beginner) never feels bored or, conversely, in over his head. I saw students occasionally skipping vinyasas or taking a timeout in Virasana. Students should always feel empowered to do just that, but kudos to Daniel for creating a safe and welcoming space for it.
Would I return? Oh, yes. Yes.