Monthly Archives: August 2012

Monthly Yoga: July, Jivamukti Yoga

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About this series: For 2012, I vowed to try a new type of yoga each month and write about it here. This is the seventh of 12 reviews–keep checking back for more!

Apologies for the wait in the write-up! August continues to be a busy month as my school year starts. I’m finally back to teaching after a semester off, and while it does cut into my yoga time, I’m incredibly happy to be back!

Before I begin this month’s Monthly Yoga installment, I have some exciting news. The first is big: Baron Baptiste is teaching a master class next week in Rochester! I signed up the day the enrollment opened up. Baron, as you know, is the creator of 40 Days to Personal Revolution, the challenge I completed in the spring, so I’m really excited to study with him. The second bit of news goes along with the first—40 Days is back! It runs from September 17 to October 26, and I’m participating again. Although my schedule will be busier, I am determined to make it through the challenge once more. (Due to time constraints juggling teaching and the 40 Days challenge, there’s a good chance that Baron’s visit will count as my monthly yoga requirement, but if I can, I’ll try to fit something else in.)

For the month of July, I visited Prana Yoga in Fairport for a Jivamukti class, which the studio offers in addition to their usual vinyasa classes. My instructor for the class was Carrie, Prana’s owner and certified Jivamukti instructor. So what is it exactly? Jivamukti is a style of yoga that originated in the 1980s in New York City, created by David Life and Sharon Gannon (who are kind of fabulous) and loosely translated as “liberation while living.” Essentially, it’s a vinyasa flow, but it incorporates a bit of philosophy and chanting. It is somewhat controversial for emphasizing a vegetarian or vegan diet through the principle of ahimsa (or non-violence/non-harming); however, this aspect was not brought up in class. Carrie said, toward the end, that doing yoga (asana) without the philosophical understanding is robbing yourself of a true yoga practice. While studying the philosophy behind yoga was not an initial goal of mine when I began practicing, it reinforced my assertion upon starting my blog that I am a “novice” with much to learn—and I’m glad for it!

Inside Prana’s studio.

This class was fairly small, perhaps because it was a Sunday morning, with only three other students (who all seemed to know each other and sat together, which could be awkward, but I didn’t mind). The class followed a pretty standard vinyasa flow; there were some variations on sun salutations and side angle that I wasn’t used to, but they weren’t too extreme. Carrie was very specific about side angle pose and where each arm goes (lower hand goes outside foot, not inside like I’m used to, and the upper arm hangs at a very precise angle). It wasn’t quite the “anything goes/take a modification” attitude I’m used to at breathe. To be honest, I didn’t really like that, but every studio/discipline is different. Since it was only one part of an otherwise very enjoyable class, I’m not too concerned. Toward the end of class we did frog for our hip opener, and we set up shoulder stand with blankets—something a bit different than what I’m used to.

Before our Savasana we got to the chanting; that day we chanted the mantra “lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu.” It sounded quite beautiful, actually, and has this very long meaning (from the Jivamukti page here):

May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.

Let’s look more closely at the meaning of each word of this invocational mantra:
lokah: location, realm, all universes existing now
samastah: all beings sharing that same location
sukhino: centered in happiness and joy, free from suffering
bhav: the divine mood or state of unified existence
antu: may it be so, it must be so (used as an ending here transforms this mantra into a powerful pledge)

Even though I’m not used to chanting, I actually kind of like this phrase. It sounded very pretty coming from all of us at once. I’m not necessarily sure that the chanting itself does any good, but I think taking the attitude of happiness and love for all off your mat certainly has benefits (power of positive thinking and all that!).

Overall, this wasn’t a bad class; it made me want to investigate yoga philosophy a bit more (especially after overhearing one of the other students discuss her teacher training, which is something I think I could be interested in eventually, if anything for the additional instruction on philosophy). I think studying some of these ideas might be a good way of keeping myself centered for 40 Days and throughout my semester—if I can get the time!

Monthly Yoga: June, Iyengar-based Hatha

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About this series: For 2012, I vowed to try a new type of yoga each month and write about it here. This is the sixth of 12 reviews–keep checking back for more!

Seeing as for the month of May I counted Seane Corn’s visit as my monthly yoga “requirement,” for June we return to our regularly scheduled series. This month, I visited the Beyond Center for Yoga and Pilates in Brockport, NY—not too far from where I live and work! The Beyond Center is one of very few places on the west side of Rochester that offers yoga (although good news on that front is that a studio just opened in Spencerport and there will be another one sometime soon in Greece). Still, it’s a strange trend that we have so few over on this side of the city and so many concentrated on the east, but it looks like this is slowly changing.

Cute studio! (Prop room/office in the back, pilates machines [which we did not use] off to the side.)

The class I attended back at the end of June was actually the Level I-II class offered at Beyond, which basically puts it at the beginner-intermediate level. I decided to try this level, seeing as I hadn’t yet taken an Iyengar (or Iyengar-based Hatha, according to the web site) class before and wasn’t sure what to expect. The owner, Stephanie, greeted me when I arrived and was very friendly, asking what kind of yoga I regularly practiced and explaining some of the differences between Iyengar and vinyasa; Iyengar focuses primarily on holding poses rather than using a flow sequence like vinyasa yoga. This particular class took on more of a foundations-style environment with a focus on correct alignment, so while it moved much slower than what I’m used to (even slower than the foundations classes at breathe yoga), I still found it enjoyable.

Class started with a meditation in a variation of hero’s pose (using a bolster). This definitely started to wake up my feet and calves with how long we were in the pose, and I really had to fight to not be so restless. Oddly, I think just sitting there and breathing in this pose was the most difficult part of the class; if you remember my experience in a restorative class in February, you know that I don’t do well not fidgeting after long periods of stillness.

We used several props throughout class: two blankets, a bolster, a strap, a block, and a sandbag! After our meditation, we moved on to some cat and cow pose to wake up the spine. When we worked our way into downward facing dog, we spent a lot of time focusing on alignment with regard to our shoulders and wrists. One way we accomplished this was by setting a block between our hands and gripping that to get more of a feeling of openness in the shoulders. (We also practiced this by coming down onto our forearms for dolphin pose, still keeping the same alignment in the upper back.) The class also included some forward folds and leg stretches (basically reclining big toe pose, or Supta Padangusthasana, but with a strap), the latter with a focus of keeping our hips even on the ground to work the hip joint.

When I had first grabbed the props I was told to take before the start of class, I was pretty confused as to what we would use sandbags for. I had never actually seen anyone use these small weighted canvas bags in a yoga class. Toward the end, we finally got them out to use. The students in the class stood with one foot on a block and the other foot set on the window sills around the room (about three feet from the floor). From here, we used our straps to hook the sandbag so it hung from our outstretched legs. The idea here was to be able to find flexibility in our hip joints, like with the reclining big toe pose. We then worked trikonasana (triangle pose) into the alignment that we had just found with the sandbags; we all partnered up to help each other find the same action in our hips and legs. Stephanie walked around the room checking students’ alignment and helping them make adjustments and modifications based on their anatomy and any conditions or injuries they may have had. She was very attentive to their needs and didn’t try to overcorrect anyone, from what I could see; correcting students rather than providing assistance or adjustment is a pet peeve of mine, seeing as it tries to make your yoga into someone else’s, in my opinion, and thankfully Stephanie didn’t do this. As she said to one student who mentioned having back problems and was trying to determine whether she did the pose “right,” a little bit “incorrect” can be good, especially if you risk injuring, or re-injuring, yourself! This part of class was my favorite, and seeing as trikonasana is one of my favorite poses, I really appreciated the insight on improving my alignment in triangle.

For our savasana, we took supta baddha konasana by reclining with a bolster propped up with a block and our knees supported by a rolled-up blanket tucked around us. The entire class did not use music, other than a bit of relaxing music before class began. Sometimes silent savasanas like these are very relaxing and enjoyable, so it was a nice change from hearing music. At the end of class, Stephanie read a quote from B.K.S. Iyengar, which I unfortunately don’t remember, as it was rather long, but it was inspiring.

The class had been a bit more relaxing than I anticipated, but with how Type A I can get about yoga if I’m not too careful, sometimes this is actually a good thing. Overall, however, I enjoyed my trip to the Beyond Center and would like to try one of the Level II-III classes when I get a chance. If you’re interested in attending, the studio offers one free week of classes on their website. (Just sign up and print out the form emailed to you. Be sure to actually fill out the new student free class request in the box provided; I had forgotten to do so the first time I filled it out.) The schedule changes throughout the year, so there are always new offerings. In addition to the Iyengar-based classes, they offer gentle yoga classes, along with a newer vinyasa class and a community class once a month; the rest of their classes are pilates. In a nutshell, they provide many different types of classes to suit all types of needs, making them truly unique to Rochester’s west side.

In the future, I may try another Iyengar class to get a better idea of this type of asana practice and the philosophy associated with it, so don’t be surprised if you see one here! This is a very popular type of yoga, and with how different it is from what I’m used to, I definitely want to understand it better (and getting more comfortable holding poses for an extended period of time is a good way to do that).

Exciting news coming to The Novice Yogi soon! I’ll announce it shortly!