Building blocks in asana practice with Desiree Rumbaugh

Photo: yoga lies prone on mat, as instructor correct back bend
Lucky stiff! My friend, Glen Buco, demos cobra with Desirée applying pressure.

I went to three of five sessions at. Desirée Rumbaugh‘s workshop at Thrive Yoga, “Align With All You Are,”  this past weekend. Desirée was her usual exuberant, generous, gracious self, evangelizing the virtue and benefits of Anusara Yoga. I have taken two previous workshops with her and each time was an fresh, eye-opening and challenging experience. This time was no different.

When you walk into a Rumbaugh yoga class, the first impression is that the focus will be on beginner poses even if it has a title like “Inversions to turn the world upside down,” which implied that she’ll take you beyond your edge; after all, she is one of the best Anusara teachers. She always starts by breaking down asanas to basic components of Anusara — spirals, loops and breathing. After the introduction and she send you back to the mat, and you’re going through poses like Downward-facing Dog, Forward Fold, Plank, and Cobra, and you’re mumbling to yourself, “And I paid $55 for this? We don’t even get to flow.”

But Desirée always introduces something insightful that makes me reexamine my practice. This time, she emphasized the Th12 vertebra as a linchpin in body integration and the need to loosen the shoulders/rib cage/shoulder blades in order to get deeper into poses, especially back bends.  (The Th12 was covered in depth on the Friday evening session, so I can’t give a full accounting of her explanation, but the concept was reviewed in the following classes.) She introduces a concept, applies it in a demo with a student as guinea pig, and then sends us to the mat to drill it into us in the a range of foundational poses until we make a breakthrough.

But in short order, I am not doing easy poses, but more advanced ones that I had never accomplished with ease before. But all the time, the alignment principles are the same. Only by accessing the alignment in the simple poses can you then access the acquired muscle memory in the more advanced poses.

There may be a detour in a different direction because Desirée likes to point out the collateral benefits of alignment that are not immediately evident.

Even though we did little vinyasa flow both days, I ended up physically exhausted through my whole body, but with only minor muscular soreness, but thrilled at how deeply we had gotten. It’s odd that this kind of torture can make you feel so good!

I have posted about 20 photos from the workshop on the Thrive Yoga Facebook photo gallery.