Slow Flow Is Not Old Lady Yoga

First, let me say that there is an eighty something year old woman who comes to my yoga class and she consistently makes the young and the nubile look weathered and worn, such is the grace of her practice. So “Old Lady” yoga by definition is a little bad ass which makes this blog title a misnomer.

When I began taking yoga classes I don’t think there was even that much of a class description on the schedule; it was Yoga at whatever time with whomever teaching. There was no distinction between newbie yoga and advanced burn your ass up flow, so in a way I was spoiled with the simplicity.

Slow Flow is a staple class description here in small town Florida. There is a little bit of a stigma attached to slow flow, namely that it is easy. It is the yoga class one chooses when they don’t want to work too hard or put forth too much effort.

Back before yoga teacher training was a flicker on the event horizon of my life, I went to Slow Flow weekly. I thought it was Just Yoga. The class had all the stuff one thinks of yoga class as having; opening and chant, sit, breathe, warm-up, sun salutation, standing poses, twisting poses, balance and back-bends, forward folds and inversions though not in that particular order. Things wrapped up with a nice relaxation period and some meditation. That’s a hell of a lot of stuff happening in an hour and a half. It was anything but easy.

I inherited two Slow Flow classes which I now teach at Uru Yoga and Beyond. Since Uru opened its doors and a whole new world of Yoga practitioners crossed its threshold let me tell you something, people act like slow flow yoga is the easy yoga. They act like it’s the yoga you go to when you’re recovering from an injury or sickness or childbirth.

This, my friends, is not the case.

I teach my Slow Flow classes the way I learned to practice, and then teach, yoga. We sit, breathe, warm-up and flow. What distinguishes these classes from what is typically considered an “advanced” or “strong” class is the pace at which the class moves. Hence, the slow flow.

The transitions between poses are given the same amount of importance as the postures themselves. Students spend more time in the postures, deepening their experience of the pose in relation to their own body and breath. This style of practice builds a strong body and a steady mind, neither of which is easily won.

Because it grows tiresome trying to change students’ ideas of what a Slow Flow class is, I have renamed my classes on the schedule. The new class title is Vital Yoga: The Principal Practices.

Here’s the clip from the class schedule –

“Vital means both “absolutely necessary, important and essential” but it also means to be vibrant and full of energy.

The Principal Practices of Yoga is predominately a flow yoga open to seasoned yogis as well as practitioners with minimal practice experience, as postures may be modified for challenging sequences. Flow practices emphasize the unity of breath, movement and intention which leads to increased physical strength, flexibility and mental acuity. In addition to the flowing class style, anatomy and postural alignment instruction is offered.

The classes are designed to strengthen and enhance flexibility of the body through movement and postures. Practices designed to bring stability to the mind through breath work, meditation and mindfulness are also included in the practice session. This hour and a half yoga practice is balanced to support the yoga student in their pursuit of health, wellness, strength and serenity.”

There is nothing necessarily easy about pursuing health, wellness, strength and serenity. However, it is vitally important to do so.

While I’m doing up-dates and all, my Monday 6 pm class is now Kali Natha Yoga so we can practice it together twice a week now. The main difference between the Saturday and Monday class is that on the weekend we will work with the same sequence for a month whereas on Monday the offerings will vary week to week. I love this style of yoga like no other.

The class description from the website says, “Like the dance of Shiva and Shakti keeping the Universe in perfect equilibrium, a balanced and consistent yoga practice balances body, mind and spirit. Kali Natha Yoga brings the exotic and essential elements of yoga to all levels of experience so practitioners can safely and effectively deepen their yoga practice.

Kali Natha Yoga is a series of flowing yoga movements. It is suitable for students of all levels and abilities. The instructor will guide you through movement accompanied by breath techniques. Together, these practices enhance your energy system, energize you, calm the nervous system and leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated on all levels. Founded by Ma Jaya at Kashi Ashram, Kali Natha yoga allows the student to feel Yoga’s deep essence and meaning.

At the end of the practice, you will feel a deep quiet as you restore in final relaxation. Kali Natha Yoga is a moving meditation, a prayer in motion and the unspoken poetry of the soul. Prana Devi cannot wait to practice with you.”

I used information from the Kashi website to make sure I represented Kali Natha yoga well on my own teaching schedule. I love the language used to express the practice but really, you’ve got to experience it for yourself. I hope you can join me.

Lastly, for those of you who have been taking my Slow Flow and suddenly see a new description, don’t worry. Nothing is changing in the actual class, just the language used to describe it so people who might benefit won’t stay away just because they equate slow with infirm. Yoga is unity and effort for the good. Most importantly, Yoga is for everyone.

See you on the mat. xo

 

 

List Maker

Sometimes I’ll make a to-do list to cut mental tension. I’ll use the list like a slippery wet rope handle I can wrap ’round my wrist for a short time before climbing the rest of the way up the water slide steps. Because my spine felt shortened by some imagined weight, I decide to make a list of simple silly words written one above the other…

buy cat food

practice yoga

make lentils

dust meditation table.

Everything on this list will probably get done sooner rather than later whether they are on the list or not. I think this is sort of the point; they take attention away from what ought to be on the list, or worse, what I don’t know should be on the list.

Working smarter, not harder should be on the list. I’ve been meaning to put my two weeks in at the restaurant where I work on the weekend for the last five years. Also, become a better business woman. Buy new socks. The unlisted items are a nebulous gathering of unspoken ideas playing peek-a-boo between sheets on my mind’s clothesline.

I had a particularly harrowing work weekend. I didn’t even work very hard, which bothers me in spite of that whole work smarter not harder item that ought to be on the list, but ain’t. This particular night at work creates a crossroads where some decisions need to be made and I don’t even know where to start.

So I made a list….

write a poem

brush the cat

read the poem to the cat

make coffee

practice yoga.

The list made me tired, because of what was behind it. The unspoken list that’s born from wild longing is spooky and real. This weariness made my spine feel shorter from the imagined weight of it all. The spine, my spine! The home of scintillating light and presence felt compressed. Yoga practice should help. Good thing it’s on the list.

Without putting down a mat or clipping up my hair, I just sorta lower to the floor like I’m bowing to a queen and don’t know really when to stop. At the bottom of the bow I crumple and envision myself the old woman who lived in a shoe. I hope, listlessly, that it is a very nice shoe.

Not sure where this new crumpling style of yoga is taking me, it doesn’t take long to realize my body is making its way very naturally to corpse pose. I’m not being funny, that’s a real thing and usually at the end of a yoga practice. Seems that’s where I’m starting.

Savasana, the posture of the corpse. I feel myself stretching out on my back with the sensation of the jute rug bristling comfortably against my skin. I tuck my shoulder blades beneath me like tired wings folding against aching muscles. My feet roll away from each other and my jaw becomes slack, just as I often cue students to at the end of each yoga class; there’s nothing left to be done but to lay there and play dead.

Sometimes I cue people to let the idea of their bodies completely drop away. Instead of seeing themselves on the mat, imagine all they can see of themselves with their mind’s eye is a horizontal streak of light on the mat. Just see that aquamarine white shot of lightening stretched out and pulsating in the space of the physical spine. When I remember this I see it in myself; light reclining against light.

high frequency 1

Stretched out as I am, one of the cats comes over to check on me. She settles near my head as I watch the ceiling. I feel restful and my skeleton starts to elongate some. The pressure is off. I see that streak of light in the middle of my body. I think of Shiva, wild sweet Lord of Yoga, who when nothing else could be done lay down at the feet of Mother Kali.

My to-do list dissolves. My spine feels taller, like a Yogi’s ought to.

Holiday

Kali Natha Yoga at URU Yoga and Beyond

I received some most exciting news last week! I’m adding another class to the schedule at Uru Yoga and Beyond. This isn’t just any ‘ole class either, folks. I got permission to teach Kali Natha Yoga at Uru.

Why would I need permission? You might ask. And from whom?

I’m studying with the Teacher of my heart, Swami Jaya Devi, in Atlanta in her 500 hour teacher training program. In that I am learning Kali Natha Yoga as taught by Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati. I want to teach this yoga because teaching is another form of practice. But also, when I practice or teach Kali Natha Yoga I am in the flow of that lineage and in such sweet harmony with the teachings. I feel that I’m in the presence of my Teacher no matter where in the world we are.

I inquired as to whether I may teach at the yoga studio in Pensacola because I’m still in training. Like novice hairdressers who need to practice on a warm body once they graduate from those infernal mannequin heads, teaching yoga is not very different.

I assure you, future Kali Natha Yoga practitioners, that I am an infinitely better yoga instructor than I am a hairdresser. No one needs to worry about losing an ear or their hair smoking and burning under a dome dryer! Having said that, it’s better to check in with one’s Teacher before teaching the things one studies.

My poetic heart doesn’t answer the question of what, exactly, this kind of yoga is. So I went to the website to help find the right language to describe it.

Kali Natha Yoga takes its name from Mother Kali, the all-embracing Mother who takes the pain and suffering of her children, and the Nathas who are ancient yogis from the lineage of Lord Shiva. It is this balancing of masculine and feminine that makes Kali Natha Yoga transformative. This yoga awakens the Divine feminine principle of Shakti and moves the practitioner to a deeper self-awareness.

Kali Natha Yoga is a root yoga, complete in itself, and can be used as the basis for all other yoga practices. It utilizes many of the yogic tools including mantra, mudra and pranayam and can change the breath and the quality of blood. It changes air to prana and prana to pure shakti. Every chakra is opened and stretched. The essence of Kali Natha Yoga interweaves together the mind, body and soul. 

I couldn’t have said it any better myself.

Kali Natha Yoga is on the schedule at Uru Yoga and Beyond  beginning the weekend after Labor Day. Class will be Saturdays at 2 pm. There will be a monthly series, so we have a chance to dive into it and devote heart and mind to some of the variations that show up while visiting the same set of postures. This will provide Time and Space to investigate the challenges and growth born from repeated efforts.

Kali Natha Yoga is a moving meditation, a prayer in motion and the unspoken poetry of the soul. I cannot wait to practice with you.

nataraja

Wild Card

This week I’m going to see my teacher, Swami Jaya Devi, in Atlanta. I have four workshops a year with her for my advanced 500 hour teacher training and I love every minute of them. I also love the ashram in Atlanta, which is a mere five and a half hours away.

I know someone who is in India right this very minute. We did our training together at Dragonfly Yoga Studies in Fort Walton Beach. Now she is also doing an advanced training in Ashtanga, I think. There is a teacher from New Orleans who I adore and she and a merry band of yogis are in Bali. Travelling yogis abound and I admire every single one of them.

Atlanta is enough travelling for me. I’m the nervous type; the fraidy cat of yogis. I don’t care for travelling at all. My mind goes to all the things that could go wrong, not go right and generally terrifies me with all manner of dark imaginings.

What is interesting is that the workshop theme and title for this weekend immersion with Swami Jaya Devi is The True Surrender – Lay Down Your Fear. Yeah, that’s it, no big deal, right?

It’s interesting that since I registered for this workshop the usual neurosis that arise, the terrifying and dark imaginings that haunt me as I pick my outfits and catalog the small library I’ll take, get swatted way with (slightly) more ease.

I’ll share my theory as to why. Here they come, full tilt boogie, all the scary things that can happen while travelling in a foreign land! Buzzing like a dive bombing honey bee, scare number one tries to sting! The thought has occurred to me more than once that these are the exact thoughts that this workshop is coming for. There’s a great big trowel digging around in the weeds of my consciousness and its name be Durga.

I see the thought coming and with the alacrity of an obnoxious teenager throwing up a hand, regard this particular set of eccentricities as naturally arising due to the nature of the workshop. “Well, of course you’re here, I’m about to travel and also surrender my fear. You’re bound to show up.”

Like the mean girl at prom, just in time to see the nerdy kid having a good time, she’s going to try to ruin things. But this time, the nerdy kid brought silly string and a friend and Her name be Durga. That mean girl can talk to any one of Durga’s hands.

Who is Durga? Mighty multi-armed Goddess. The ultimate Shakti. Some simply call Her Ma.

Her many hands and multiple weapons are beheading monsters of insecurity and fear mongering demons all over Uru Yoga and Beyond already as she takes Her place on the altar in the blue room. For me She hails from Kashi Atlanta, a stunning yoga studio nestled right in the middle of Atlanta, Georgia.

Sure, She’s a Hindu deity, but She’s The Mother of Egypt, Her face feline and fearsome. She crosses cultures, seen deep and loving in Europe’s Black Madonna. She is relevant, present and undeniable – Ma.

Durga_Kali_Maa

My insecurities still arise with meaningful regularity. Already today I’ve imagined three and a half horrible things that could happen on my way out of town Friday. I find myself well armed against this thinking, even if I only have the two instead of sixteen limbs. I see my patron on a lion even though I’ll be riding in a black Dodge. The two realities overlap and I know that even though the actual workshop doesn’t begin until Friday at 7 o’clock, the work has already begun.

I would love to say that we’ll be working on this theme this week in my yoga classes. We could talk about the Abhaya mudra and the ways in which our demons of fear and insecurity can be slain by grace of the Mother. But I don’t so much instruct a theme until I’m a little practiced in it and I cannot say, dear Reader, that I’m very practiced in fearlessness.

It’s not even something I can say I’m working on. In some very real way the practices are working on me. The more I just hold still and let ’em go the more thoroughly I’ll be steeped in them – if I’m lucky. This week I’m just a wild card.

It’s always like that when I get ready to go see my Teacher. You can’t do anything with me, you can’t do nothing about it. I’ll just be a little wild and a little raw around the edges of my mind. It’s such a quick trip that changes me so much every time I make it. True change is scarier than anything I can conjure up to be afraid of. Transformation is what all of these spiritual practices are about and it can be terrifying – who in the hell will I be without this long standing neurosis? Who knows?

These practices are tools for transformation. Their name be Yoga.

In the Bhagavad Gita, chapter two, Krishna tells us, dare I say reassures us, “On this path effort never goes to waste and there is no failure. Even a little effort towards spiritual awareness will save you from the greatest fear.”