Saturday, May 9, 2009


That pretty much sums up the day. I woke early this morning to sunshine, but by the time I headed to class the skies were dark and rain was coming down in sheets. This continued all day - sun interrupted by rain, interrupted by sun, and so on. It cleared into sunshine when I was ready to leave downtown, so I enjoyed a lovely walk home in the bright sunshine, but more clouds rolled in as I approached my building.

Spring fickle!

A downtown yoga studio was having an Open House today, including three free classes. Sadly, the Nia class overlapped a morning class I teach near the Market, so I signed up for an Intermediate/Advanced class taught by the studio's most senior teacher (and owner).

I've been to this studio a few times before because my teacher H occasionally teaches classes there. Coincidentally, I ran into her in the change room as I was arriving. What a lovely treat! It reminded me how much I miss her classes. We talked about our dogs and I promised to come to a class soon.

The main room of the studio is big and bright, with light streaming in through tall windows. I unrolled my Manduka in a spot near the back, close to the window. When visiting a class (especially when it's complimentary) I try to keep a low profile, carefully doing the postures exactly as taught and not drawing attention to myself.

But I think H gave this teacher a heads-up that I was there, because she non-chalantly walked back and spotted me for Pincha Mayurasana as she instructed the rest of the class in a prep pose. I went ahead and kicked up and was so surprised to be vertical that I just hung there, as if suspended in space, then lightly came down. This is *not* my rock-star pose, so I was bit stunned. She also gave me several fabulous adjustments, mostly for pelvic alignment in poses like Virabhadrasana I and Parsvottanasana.

In Shoulderstand, she called out some really fun variations for the advanced students. These included bringing one leg to the floor by the head while keeping the other leg vertical (Eka Pada Sarvangasana) and twisting the body to the side while bringing the opposite leg to the floor by the head (Parivrtta Eka Pada Sarvangasana). She quietly came over and supported my torso as I brought one toe to the floor behind me to touch down while keeping the other leg straight (incredibly difficult without support; in Iyengar Yoga, this is called Eka Pada Set Bandha Sarvangasana).

The class started with modified sun salutations, interspersed with various lunges. This progressed into several vinyasa sequences of standing poses. I really liked the Utkatasana to Parivrtta Utkatasana to Parivrtta Parsvokonasana sequence (coming into the last pose by stepping the opposite leg back, while the torso is twisted; that one played with my brain). We also did a sequence that included a bound Parsvokonasana moving to Svarga Dvijasana (Bird of Paradise) pose.

Also of note, Parivrtta Krounchasana with extended arm and an Ardha Virasana variation of Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana, with opposite arm binding to the foot (underneath the leg) while the other arm reached in a side stretch. I know, I know, that barely makes sense - it's difficult to describe. I tried to draw a stick figure of this and it looks like I'm trying to invent a new language instead of conveying a yoga posture.

Irony: I've been demoing Astavakrasana all week in my classes (as a fun intro to a hip opener/preparation) and discovered that I can now do this pose equally well on both sides. She taught the prep for Astavakrasana as the token arm balance, so I had a chance to do the full poses in-situ, holding for five breaths. I only fell on my face once :-D

This studio is known to be a bit quirky. The music was eclectic and sometimes bizarre. During the floor poses, I realised we were listening to the Beatles. I swear I heard some Led Zepplin too. A hip-hop ballad boomed out of the speakers during Savasana so I can take that one off my life list: “Doing Savasana to Rap music. Check”

They're also big on the aromatherapy *cough*. There was incense in the washroom and during the beginning of the class, the teacher walked around and smeared a Tiger Balm-esque lotion on our backs. During Savasana, she annointed us with lavender oil. I'm not a big fan of this stuff, but it's part of the whole experience, so I went with the flow and tried not to get the stinky stuff on my Manduka.

Overall, I enjoyed my yoga tourism excursion very much. I learned some new poses, and variations on old ones, had a few nice adjustments and some insights into my practice that will help me improve as I practice at home.

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