Monday, June 18, 2012

namaste: yoga day in fredericton

It's 7:45 on Saturday morning and the studio at Nirvana is bathed in candlelight and filling up with people.  It's Yoga Day in Fredericton and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. more than 30 yoga classes will be offered throughout the city.  I've opted to start with Kripalu with live acoustic guitar led by my friend Anne Cullihall.   On Friday afternoon Anne and I had met at Nirvana's juice bar to talk yoga, living mindfully and what to expect from a Kripalu class.

"I’d been doing yoga for seven years as a practitioner myself and it clicked right away for me as not just a physical practice but for what it did for me mentally in terms of being able to connect with myself, explore what’s in there, find stillness and peace,"  explained Anne.   "I’m someone who can get caught up in the rat race and you notice that all of a sudden all day you’ve been on a bit of a treadmill and yoga has given me tools to actually become aware of when that’s happening."

Two years ago she decided that she wanted to take her practice deeper and decided  to start her teacher training.

"I didn’t just want to learn the anatomy of teaching the postures, I wanted to study the philosophy.  So at first when I decided to do my teacher training I wasn’t doing it to teach yoga.  I was doing it for my own personal growth and study but then a couple of weeks in I realized that I was feeling compelled to teach yoga.  Because all these things I gained from yoga I want to share."

Her practice of choice is Kripalu, a form of Hatha yoga.  Anne describes it to me as an exploratory yoga; being in tune with your body and noticing what sensations arrive in what poses and what your body might be asking for next.

"One definition that I liked is that 'Kripalu yoga is the pathway to your yoga,'" Anne tells me.  "So there isn’t really a typical Kripalu class but there is a format.  One of the big things is the breath work at the beginning and there are the warm-up postures which prepare you for a more vigourous asanas midway through the class; often it’s taught with a Vinyasa flow.  Modifications are always, always offered because Kripalu yoga is supposed to be a yoga that anyone can do.  Then you move into the same thing on the other side – taking it down a level to less vigourous poses and always incorporating a savasana (“Corpse pose”  - the pose of total relaxation), sometimes  mediation and often more breathwork."

Which brings us to Saturday morning and the candlelit yoga studio and Chris Mercer accompanying us on acoustic guitar.  Confession: midway through the more vigourous section. I had to leave the studio for some fresh air.  This was the moment I realized that the afternoon session in hot yoga was probably not a great idea.  If Kripalu was the pathway to my yoga, it was also showing me which direction I probably shouldn't head in.  After a quick cool down, I returned to the studio to happily finish out the session and to listen, as Anne had suggested, to what my body was telling me.  I realized that you could draw a line right down my body and that the left side felt long and supple while my right side was all tied up in knots.  Something to work on, I think.

My second class of the day was Sivananda Yoga with Shauna Bird on the Lighthouse deck.  It was overcast but the breeze off the river was refreshing.   Like Kripalu, Sivananda is a form of Hatha yoga based on asanas (poses) and pranayama (breathing techniques). Unlike the exploratory Kripalu, Sivananda focuses very specifically on 12 basic Asanas.

We began the class with pranayama as Shauna led us through a breathing exercise.  After a spring of allergies and colds, this was the most clear-headed I'd felt in months.   From there it was on to a series of Sun salutations before spending the better part of an hour moving through the 12 asanas.   During yoga practice you are supposed to be focused on your practice but it was hard not to keep an eye on the more seasoned practitioners as they worked through headstands, locust or crow pose.  I loved the time spent on each pose and the benefits you could feel as you focused on each part of your body.  We ended, of course, with a savasana.  And I left the lighthouse deck feeling both energized and still at the same time and reminded of something Anne had said to me the day before.

"I believe everybody should learn to do yoga and learn to live more mindfully, more consciously and be more awake... You know children have this natural mindfulness that they’re born with.  They walk around thinking 'Isn’t it a beautiful day today?' They’re so in the moment.  It’s so beautiful I want to help preserve a little bit of that because it’s so important to me and it’s changed my life."

No comments: