This week I have come to realize that I really am a yoga basics girl. I LOVE LOVE LOVE yoga basics. Seriously. Even as I have progressed in my personal practice, and though I’d like to believe I can teach a pretty strong vinyasa class, I always find myself coming back to the basics, both as a teacher and a practitioner. I find that going back to basics allows me to understand the dynamics of
yoga my body better which translates to a more integrated and whole expression of the asana for me.
I will admit, however, that I wasn’t really completely excited about the fact that the yin class I used to take almost regularly was replaced with a yoga basics class because it is almost the only time I really get to take a yin class. It is still led my my long time teacher, Dona Tumacder-Esteban, so even if it isn’t yin, I make it a point to go and show up every time I can because I LOVE Dona’s classes to bits. I don’t just say that because we’re friends, but because I always come out with more than just a physical workout from her class. It may not be your typical vinyasa flow, and Dona is far from the typical yoga teacher (in a superdidooper good way, mind you), but I have always loved how she patiently, consistently and insistently takes you back to the beginning of things. Sometimes we spend the whole class just trying to understand, feel through and find integrity in just a few poses. Well, looking back, maybe in the beginning I didn’t really like it that much teehee. It was hard, after all! After some time, however, I saw how valuable each of those classes were. Although it may not be a full vinyasa flow, I come out of the practice feeling so completely and utterly whole.
This weeks class explored concepts like tracing lines of energy from the feet to the crown of the head and from the center of the heart out of our fingertips. She also took us through imagining our tailbone as a third leg that roots us to the earth and as that roots down, our extremities just lift up and take flight. She also helped me understand what it means to not let your lower ribs pop out (other teachers would say knitting the ribs in) through a fun imagination exercise…think Where the Wild Things Are, hehe. That subtle movement gave me an understanding of how the ribs do knit in and how there is indeed an energetic connection between the ribs and the thigh. What I loved best from that class, however, was the discovery of a “second tailbone”, one that lies somewhere by the back of your heart, somewhere between your neck and your where your shoulder blades meet (okay, not the best description, but that’s the image in my head!), that when rooted down, allows for flight to happen. And so yeah, I realized how truly valuable going back to the basics really is. It dawned on me that by taking a step back from a strong practice and breaking down the nuances not just of the poses, but of subtle energy lines in the body (which, I must say, still are hard to grasp every now and then!), so much amazing things can happen.
Take this for example…
And we have lift-off!!! My first ever unassisted handstand. Kicked up to to the wall first, but managed to balance off of it a few breaths. Definitely far from perfect (or ideal, should I say), but i have come to realize that every little step should be celebrated. And today I celebrate that this is where I’m at for now, and that is all that matters. Maybe someday the legs will come together.
For a long, long, LONG time, I had dreamt of doing handstands all on my own. After having figured out my fear of inversions, I felt that this was something I could explore. However, I never could. During teacher training, this was one of my major frustrations, especially since our teacher, Anna Carbonell, is a Jivamukti teacher. As such, we would often do the Jivamukti magic ten as part of our sequences. Also, there were classes by other visiting Jivamukti teachers Will Lau, Purnima Langen, Lady Ruth Manenti and Jules Febre. And so whenever I’d attend classes with these teachers, I’d pick a spot near a wall so I can attempt to at least kick up. However, I’d never make it to the wall Boo hoo. Unless of course on those rare occasions when the teacher would be nearby and flip me into the wall. I had all but given up on this ever happening, to be honest. Yesterday, however, I had a private class and my student asked me about handstands and I said I could explain the mechanics but not really do the pose. So I walked through the steps of getting to the pose and demonstrated up to the point where you lift one leg up and bend the other to kick up towards the wall. While doing so, I kept the image of what I had learned in the yoga basics class the day before in my head, dropping that second tailbone, feeling the lines of energy, keeping the connection of my ribs and thighs in…I prepared to kick, expected to just land on the floor again, but out of nowhere, my legs just shot up into the air and landed GENTLY (mind you!) on the wall. After class I tried it again, went through the same visual imagery, and once again, I was up. And surprisingly, my hands were just so firmly rooted to the earth, shoulders plugged in, ribs knit and feet, though up in the air, felt quite like I was in tadasana as I pulled away from the wall and just balanced on my own. Amazing.
One of the things Dona always repeats and teaches is the importance of grounding down through softening to the back body, allowing for roots to take hold and allow the lines of energy to take over. And yeah, the same is true even when you’re upside down. It’s been a long time since I have had the pleasure of taking a dynamic class with Dona, especially now that I’m teaching quite a bit and I’ve gotten extremely busy. And so while I was not happy in the beginning about my favorite yin schedule being changed into yoga basics, I realized that I am lucky it did.
Yoga Basics at Beyond Yoga Bonifacio High Street are scheduled on Fridays, 9am with Dona, Thursdays, 7:30pm with David, and Tuesdays, 7am with Rianna. Check out www.igobeyondyoga.com for more details.