This review came out today of one of my recent yoga classes.
Yoga of Movement and Sound with Tamar Samir.
“With the aroma of delicious vegan delights wafting from the café, Yoga Sleuth settled in at the spacious Krishna room of Jivamukti downtown, piano music playing softly as it heralded the arrival of Tamar Samir.
The presence of this experienced and highly regarded instructor immediately gave an added air of calm to the room of 14 yogis. Tamar thanked us for starting our day with her, and we immediately jumped into action with a set of rolling Vinyasas. But this was just a warm-up. We quickly returned to a seated position, legs in Baddha Konasana and sit bones propped on our blankets, for a little Dharma talk.
Tamar revealed to us Jivamukti’s Focus of the Month, from Chapter 2 of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: “Heyam Dukham Anagatam”, which means that “future suffering is to be avoided.”
“We’re not in control of the present,” said Tamar. “Because everything happening in the present has already been determined by our past actions. We can’t really change it, we can only change the way that we deal with it. But we can change our future, shape our future to be what we want it to be, through the actions of the present.”
With this in mind we embarked on an extended session of the Jivamukti staple: devotional chanting. “Through this mantra, through this chant, the intention is to spread peace, love, joy, auspiciousness, tranquility, harmony, to all aspects of the universe through everyone and everything, including ourselves.”
We came to stand in Tadasana at the front of our mats. “Feel yourself extending in two directions,” said Tamar. “Pressing down through the feet and up through the spine. Breathe deeply and make that sound audible.” Soon the room was awash with the sound of Ujjayi breath as we reached our prayers to the heavens and then folded into Uttanasana.
“We go very fast in this class,” said Tamar, “so take a break whenever you feel the need.” And this was not hyperbole; the Sun Salution A and B portions of class were the quickest paced sequences I’ve experienced for some time. In Surya Namaskar A we stayed one breath in plank, one breath in Chaturanga, one breath in Up Dog, alternating the latter with “knees chest and chin” and Cobra.
We only slowed it down for five breaths roughly every third Down Dog. In Surya B we stayed for a nanosecond in Virabhadrasana I before opening into Warrior II, then going immediately into a reverent warrior and Parsvakonasa.
In the latter Tamar was not shy about pulling my torso and pressing on my bent knee to get me into my best expression of the pose. She did the same later as we went into Flying Crow prep; as I crossed my right ankle over my bent knee, she stood behind me and had me literally use her knees as a seat, releasing me finally so I could soar into my Eka Pada Galavasana.
In Ardha Matsyendrasana she was with me as well, assisting me to make sure I was keeping my spine straight and distributing the twist evenly, and that my front foot was properly grounded. In Paschimottanasana, Tamar suggested that we put blocks against our heels and grab on to them if we could, which kept our fleet flexing and allowed for maximum stretch of the hamstring.
From here we dipped into the Ashtanga playbook, challenging our soaked but energized bodies in Marichyasana A. Though not generally a “binder,” I found after the work we had done I was coming very close to joining my fingers behind my wrapped leg and thigh. Then we came down to the mat for 3 intense wheels. Tamar suggested we point our heels outwards to keep our knees from splaying, and the cue improved my foundation instantly.
Shoulderstand was followed by a foray into fish, and a climactic headstand spilled right into a lengthy Savasana, where we well lulled into yogic sleep by the strains of the poignant Jack Johnson version of “Imagine.” Rising once more we sat in Sukhasana for meditation before sealing our practice with a reprise of our chanting.
As I was putting my props away, I spied Tamar staying “after school” to give an eager student some help with her headstand practice. I smiled at the thought that Tamar was giving of herself by bringing her auspiciousness and wisdom to one who needed it.”
–Jim Catapano for Yoga Sleuth
Jivamukti Yoga Center
841 Broadway #2
Wed 10:00 AM to 11:30 AM