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

 

 

A Writer On Practice

You can dig a hole in a cemetery but that doesn’t mean you’re a grave-digger. 

Maybe read that again…

You can dig a hole in a cemetery but that doesn’t mean you’re a grave-digger.

It’s okay, I had to read to read it twice, too, when I came across it in “Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing” by Margaret Atwood. It was a Christmas present I’m late getting around to reading. It’s been on the nightstand with the next installment of “Outlander” I have assigned myself to read. Be very impressed I didn’t pick up “Outlander” first. I can’t wait to find out what’s happening with Jamie and Claire…

Do you give yourself reading assignments? Furthermore, do you give yourself writing assignments?

I do both. Currently, I am reading my writing assignment to see what in the hell was going on. If I lose a little momentum in a piece of work more than a couple thousand words long, I have to go back and be reminded of what happened. Perhaps this is why Stephen King’s main instruction for wannabe writers is writing equals ass in chair. It’s gotta be a daily practice or you lose your place. Excuses abound, of course; I had to get my hair colored, I sprained my butt, the air-conditioner isn’t working, the cat was mad at me.

Still, writing equals ass in chair. For more sound advice on the path of penning books read “On Writing” my Stephen King.

If I don’t write every day it’s the equivalent of digging little potholes in the backyard. Dig a little bit here, root a little over there. If you’re gonna dig a grave you’re got to mean business. Stay in the same place and remain focused until at least six feet have gone by.

I was eating dinner with Atwood’s book on the table. I peered at its cover, which doesn’t look anything like the title implies. Certainly, from the prim lady on the cover holding what looks like a teacup and saucer in her orchid white fingers, you wouldn’t expect her to be talking about digging graves in the first chapter.

I am always intrigued by the parallels between writing and yoga practice, and this is just one more enchanting example of how they have so very much in common. When I looked to this book over dinner I considered how the very Lord of Yoga Himself is often associated with cremation grounds and Himself lays out like a corpse beneath the feet of the Goddess of Transformation, Mother Kali.

Even without getting into the rich symbolism behind the funeral pyre and Shiva’s fiery dance, the importance of staying the course, digging deep and remaining devoted belong to both yoga and writing.

For the moment, let’s even exclude asana, the practice of postures most people think of when yoga practice comes to mind. You know, as far as yoga goes, there are many avenues down which the yogi might experience union with their highest Self. Downward dog is but one of many paths.

And actually, this is such excellent advice for whatever it is you wish to give your life over to. On the path you may be inspired and discouraged in equal measure. You might think that you’ve been wrong and be proven right.

But Elvis Presley said, “When things go wrong, don’t go with ’em.”

In which case, you keep digging.

I’d like to know what kind of hole you’ve dug for yourself and how you’re doing with it.

Yoga Slug

Since last week, when I spoke about having to sub Monday classes because I lost my voice, I’ve fought the good fight against the microscopic asuras (demons) of cold and flu season. Today is the first day I’ve felt mostly like myself, though more than anything I’ve just felt extra tired this week.

Feeling extra tired, I lounged at every opportunity. I taught some yoga classes and sounded like a retired lounge act with my whisky voice and throaty laugh like cat scratches on a window screen. I worked at the restaurant all weekend, too, and managed to stay in pretty good humor because I had low expectations given my energy levels. I managed to have a great weekend at work, between lounging of course.

I practiced yoga asana this week. I have homework, you see, from my most recent 500 hour teaching certification training with the teacher of my heart, Swami Jaya Devi. There are many elements to this homework and yoga practice at large, but for the rest of this article when I use the word “yoga” I mean postures and flow (moving with the breath).

Aside from doing my assigned yoga sequences, which are really fabulous and I can’t wait to teach them to you, I was pretty much a yoga slug this week. Let’s say I wasn’t very successful in my practice, and I use this specific set of words on purpose.

Someone said this to me last week, while I was mashed in the middle of yoga slug-dom myself. This person has a lot going on right now but also she is in a yoga teacher training program, too. So she has homework and stuff she has to get done; but not this week. When she made an allusion to success in yoga practice it caused new areas of my brain to light up.

From one slug to another, this is what I said, “I try (try being the operative word) to consider ebbs and flows rather than succeeding and lagging in practice, but it’s hard to do this. There’s more to yoga than mat time, though that’s very important.”

Mat time is very important. Yoga strengthens and stretches the body, saturating the blood with oxygen and bathing each cell in the subtle unseen Grace that surrounds us all the time. However yoga practice isn’t meant to be something to make us feel bad about ourselves, though sometimes I know it happens. It happens to us all.

Yoga is a weird thing. You’ll be in class having a great time, stretching those hamstrings and breathing deeply. You’ll reach your fingers to the ceiling and think, “This is great! I feel amazing! When is this gonna be over? What time is it? Maybe I’ll sneak out before savasana (arguably the best part of yoga practice).”

One interruption to practice, one hiccup in life that throws you off of your routine and BAM! No yoga for six months. Then there’s all this tension around going back. You think about it, write it on your planner, put your mat in the car; tap dancing and hedging around practice all. There’s not much difference between the tension of being a yoga slug for a week because of a cold or an extended yoga slug (which reads like a complicated supine twisting back bend posture) in which you begin to hide from practice.

This week in class we’ll be working with the push and pull of our yoga practice and how we might be able to use it in our favor. We’ll be looking at the ebb and flows of practice on the larger scale of life and the subtle rhythms of a practice session.

We’ll consciously flow into dynamic practices then ebb into the supportive arms of restorative yoga towards the end of class. Hopefully, realizing that there are many many facets to yoga practice and that many are suitable for whatever life situation the modern yogi faces, we will all find that the well trodden path is easier to return to after a hiatus than initially thought. Yoga isn’t a stick you use to beat yourself with, it’s access to your closest friend.

If you’ve never practiced restorative yoga my classes this week will offer a nice introduction to conclude a more vigorous practice.

Uru Yoga and Beyond Monday 4:30 pm and 6 pm Thursday 4 pm (Intro to Yoga Flow) and 5:30 pm open levels.

Root to Rise

salon

Since I was licensed to do hair in the state of Florida fourteen years ago I have not spent a great deal of time working in salons. I have become pretty good at rinsing someone’s color out in the sink with the hose. I learned the hard way that perms aren’t meant to be done in the time span it takes to cook a frozen pizza and I know for certain one should never ever trim bangs while the hair is wet, unless that person wishes to look like they belong in kindergarten.

Whether I’m working in a salon or not people think I’m a professional or something, so they ask me questions and usually don’t take my advice. Also people tell me how to do my own hair while I’m busy growing it out to look like a wild Himalayan sadhu. I believe that’s my ultimate calling – though I’m not entirely sure what that might entail. Sometimes someone will have a great idea for a hairdo, which I might be persuaded to do for them and it turns out really great. When the person hits on the hairdo of their dreams, I can tell you nine times out of ten it’s the same hairdo they had in the happiest time of their life.

I quit coloring my hair approximately twenty years after I began coloring it. I have grown my hair out so it lands between my shoulder blades. Aside from the bangs I have the exact same hairdo I had in kindergarten.

Yesterday my mom was watching a special on the Nancy Kerrigan and Tanya Harding case from twenty years ago. They interviewed Connie Chung who interviewed Tanya Harding twenty years ago and, I am not kidding, Connie Chung’s hair never changed. Google Farrah Fawcett or Dolly Pardon – an icon with a long history in photographs for comparison – and you’ll find there ain’t too much variance. It’s kind of comforting. If Dolly is still wearing those wigs then maybe we’re all gonna be okay.

We all have a way we see ourselves. I want to see myself as a wild Himalayan sadhu and so aside from righteous dread locks, I’m going with that look. It just so happens wild Himalayan sadhus look suspiciously like precocious kindergartners (though I hated school even then, I really liked that age; six was a good year).

How we see ourselves is a powerful thing, driving life choices, holding us back or propelling us forward. Combine this with the element of history, how we were, how things were, the way things used to be, we get caught up in recapturing moments that are, if anything, mists loitering in time.

No posture is ever the same, balance is never the same day to day, back bends and arm balances fluctuate like the tide- sometimes they’re up and sometimes they’re down. No hairstyle or wallpaper like grandma used to have can bring us back into the moment of happiness we remember for that time. We are here in the present to be happy, not to recreate it.

This week in class as we gather in the spacious Uru Yoga and Beyond let’s bring to mind our reason for practicing that day, in that moment and also bring awareness to the heart of the practice – to remember who we really are without the back pain and heart ache and thoughts and feelings from long ago that still effect us. It’ll take years and years to uncover even a little terrain but it’s such a glorious process, it’s infectious and others will want to participate and grow with us.

The more things change the more they stay the same. The more advanced practice becomes the more we should lean on the basics. The smarter we think we are the more careful we should be with the heart, which is where the essence of Yoga resides. As we grow, let’s return again and again to our roots and see what we uncover.

Monday Uru Yoga and Beyond 4:30 pm and 6 pm

Tuesday and Friday 3:30 pm Chips 24 Hour Fitness in Gulf Breeze

Thursday Uru Yoga and Beyond 4 pm Intro to Yoga Flow and 5:30 pm mixed level