One of the perks of yoga teacher training (YTT) is that you do a lot of yoga (duh!), in the case of an intensive program like Thrive Yoga‘s, everyday. We take a class first thing each morning. Right now, I’ve had 10 days in a row of classes (really 13 since I started my consecutive streak on July 5, but I get my first full day off this coming weekend). These can be grueling classes, such as the one Monday when we had a hot vinyasa class with the room’s street door open to the DC area’s humid heat wave. I ended up drenched, my sweat soaking my clothes and yoga towel, and pooling on the mat. Other times, mercy is shown by offering a yin class (long holds of mainly passive poses using props) or a change of pace predominantly focused on the legs (today). But don’t think that even these less intense classes don’t leave their mark on tissues and mind.
The morning class at Thrive has a roster of top-notch teachers (Susan Bowen, the owner herself and two high-energy instructors, contrarian Sarah Winsatt and Jivamukti-trained Kirsta Block) who put together challenging classes. Some sessions may be extensively thought-out while other times the instructor improvises as she reads the class, adjusts to the needs and skills of inexperienced students, or cues modifications for more advanced students. Continue reading Daily practice anchors yoga training→
Last night, I went to a hot yoga class (intermediate) with Krista Block at Thrive. Fewer people showed up than usual for an evening class at Thrive, only four, perhaps because it was one of the first hot spring days in Washington and daylight seemed to stretch on forever. Krista did not back off, though; she led her usual up-pace session, strong on repeated vinyasa sequences that grow longer with each iteration, adding an additional pose to extend and deepen the work. I had to stop a couple of times, but I did not get knocked completely off despite my lack of exposure to hot classes over the past few months. After 45 minutes of vinyasa, we went into inversions and mat work, with long stretches.
While we were in the final, restorative poses, Krista said that tapas (Sanskrit word meaning “heat”) in yoga practice is the inner heat that helps us get the mental knots out of our system, in other words, a practice of purification. It also generates a lot of sweat. I walked out of the class without any muscle soreness or discomfort, just a sensation of whole-body exertion. When I got back in my car, I took a couple of long sips of water and some deep breaths before backing out because this intensity of practice can leave you in a more inwardly oriented state, not the best condition for driving in DC traffic.
I got home, had a light meal, took out the garbage, and showered. I realized that there was little chance of doing any writing or other work. My body and mind had been squeezed of energy and mental knots. I went to bed to complete the last phase of purification, a deep, restful sleep that purges the residue that the yoga practice had left.
I took in two classes at Thrive Yoga this weekend, Vinyasa Flow I with Lisa Johnson and Hatha Yoga with Marylou McNamara. Both instructors pay close attention to the details of alignment. Marylou led us through a series of poses that really helped my psoas. I’ve been looking for poses and routines that will help me open my hips, but won’t put pressure on my knees. A lot of poses, like One-Legged King Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana), jeopardize the stability of the knees. I want to start using the safe poses in my home practice.
I fit some core strength routines into my Sunday afternoon because level one classes rarely put a strong emphasis on building up physical strength and stamina.
I went to Thrive again this evening, after giving myself 48 hours to recover from my first yoga session in four months. Tonight’s class was with Elizabeth Pope, a new teacher for me, who joined the studio after I hurt my knee. She’s been exposed to a range of teachers, from Kasthaub Desikachar to Ana Forrest. It was a good solid class for all levels so I modified most of the poses to concentrate on my knees. Where I really felt it was in my shoulder and upper arms: all the chararungas in the vinyasas were punishing me for wimping out during my convalescence and not maintaining my core strength. Elizabeth confirmed this conclusion by making us do multiple sets of abdominal exercises that left me barely able to lift my head and neck off the ground. I sweated profusely and had to take child’s pose on several occasions because my conditioning has lagged far more than it should have, especially in the last few weeks when I was struggling with resistance to going to the gym and the studio.
I have mastered a small maneuver when moving from Downward-Facing Dog to Lunge that saves me a hassle. I used to move one leg forward, then drop the opposite knee to the floor so that I could use both hands to get the forward leg directly under my shoulders. It made the whole transition between Downward-Facing Dog to Lunge a more complicated process than it had to be, breaking the flow.
Obviously, the ideal would be for me to swing my leg all the way up between my hands in one graceful, flexible movement. But remember that this 55 year old is trying to erase decades of sitting at a desk.
I now move one leg up as far as I can reach (I am getting closer to my target, especially after warming up a while). Then, supporting my weight on the opposite arm and leg, I scoot my advanced leg forward with the free hand. It’s mainly a question of a little more strength and balance. It’s faster than what I had been doing and fits into the flow better.
When I’m in the middle of a vinyasa at class, I don’t have the time to think through the best way to modify the pose or movement. I just want to keep pace with the class. During home practice, however, I can pause (a button on my DVD player) to step through the movement and find an easier way.