According to Bernie Clark, author of Your Body, Your Yoga, yoga is a self-selecting practice. In other words, yoga attracts and keeps those students who can perform the poses that are taught. In more depressing words, yoga repels and alienates those who cannot perform these poses.
I am a vinyasa yoga teacher. I began as a power vinyasa teacher. I am fully aware of the stigmas that often surround power vinyasa and vinyasa classes. I have read articles on the dangers of chaturanga, heard both students and friends tell me that they “just can’t do vinyasa classes anymore - they’re too dangerous!”; I have even wondered, in my darkest hours, if I should trade vinyasa for hatha, yin, and restorative, exclusively, in interest of preventing my students from injuring themselves. But there’s just one problem: I love vinyasa. It is my favorite kind of yoga to practice, and as a result, the kind of yoga I am most passionate about teaching. Each time I wonder if I should move toward something slower-paced, something less movement-oriented, something more yin and less yang, I hear my inner voice say, “But vinyasa feels so great!! You love vinyasa, and so do plenty of other people!!”
Do some people get injured in vinyasa classes? Sure. Have I injured myself in vinyasa classes? Certainly. Is it yoga’s fault? Certainly not. When I have injured myself, it has been for one of two reasons: 1. I took a pose too far, or. 2. I did not know how to modify. Vinyasa is indeed a tricky beast, as there is generally an expectation that class will keep on moving. Occasionally, I will pause class in order to demonstrate a certain thing, but generally, I try to keep the poses and transitions fluid. That is, after all, one of the great beauties of vinyasa: your body moves so your brain doesn’t have to.
But what about those poses that are more difficult? What about those poses that we do so often that we stop thinking about them altogether? And what if we have aching wrists, if our arms get tired, our shoulders are unstable, or our spine is fused?! In these cases, the beauty of vinyasa - its movement - can become its greatest challenge, and even its greatest danger. In these cases we must, in fact, slow down in order to approach this movement safely. Sometimes, we must even stop.
On Saturday, January 28, there will be time for this. From 2-4 PM, Dr. Kara Giaier and I will take you through four of the most commonly taught poses and transitions in vinyasa yoga classes: plank, chaturanga, updog, downdog. In addition to helping you fine-tune your own alignment, we will highlight these poses’ essential elements, and offer several modifications and variations for each. Then, from 4:30-6:30 PM, we will offer you the opportunity to integrate what you’ve learned through a two-hour vinyasa practice. We will play with variety in pacing, transitions, and sequences (don’t worry - you won’t just be doing planks, chaturangas, updogs and downdogs for two hours!!). If you already love vinyasa classes, this workshop is for you. If vinyasa classes make you nervous, this workshop is for you. If you want to gain confidence before trying a vinyasa class, this workshop is for you. Yoga may be a self-selecting practice, but it is my hope that through equipping our students with more knowledge, it will at least become a more inclusive selection of people.