Day Ten, Lizzie’s 30 Day Yoga Challenge: Black and Light Yoga Event

I have to admit, I’ve broken an official* Yoga Challenge rule by practicing with a teacher for the second time in the course of my Yoga Challenge month, but as it was a very different type of class in the form if a dance event, I have forgiven myself.

The event, called Black and Light Yoga, is the brain child of Charlie Kelly, a Lululemon employee and Jivamukti Yoga teacher. The format at is as follows: a one hour Jivamukti-style asana practice in black light with yogis wearing neon and glow in the dark clothing and body paint, practicing to a live deejay. After the back bending sequence, the mats are rolled up and a dance party ensues. After an hour or so of black light dj’ed dancing, mats are unrolled and seated postures and inversions are followed by savasana, meditation and a little dharma talk.

Overall, it was a lot of fun. Emma Henry was a great hostess and emcee yoga teacher, the music was great and the venue was cosy. If you are into dancing and yoga, this may just be your ticket. The asana class was clear and felt good, including basic standing postures and a few balances (most notably, revolved half moon pose into dancing shiva), and a flow that was designed to get your feet tapping and hips bumping to the beat. There were some vegan goodies afterwards and everyone seemed to really enjoy it. As this was only the second time the event was offered, there is a tremendous amount of potential for decorating the space more fully and turning it into a full evening preceded or followed by food and/or alcohol free drinks.

The event will likely be running again in a couple of months, and listed on Facebook. Hope to see you there!

*I’m only supposed to practice with each teacher once within the month. Oops!

Yoga Challenge Week Two, Upcoming Schedule

It’s been three days since my last yoga class. I have to admit, some of the pain I was having around my wound that is still healing has gone away, but I’m really missing the mat. I’ve traded it in for a massage couch and have been giving Rolfing sessions, which is a different kind of practice of sorts, but one very much wrapped up in the breath and intention, so I’m in familiar territory as we watch each other work in this phase. In any event, if all goes well, my Yoga Challenge week starting Monday the 13th of January will be:

Monday night, 6-7:15pm The Life Centre Islington, Tanya Mickwitz
Tuesday, 9:30-11:30am Indaba Yoga Studio, Helen Stylianou
Wednesday, 12:15-1:45pm Triyoga, Primrose Hill, Kate Walker
Thursday, 3:30-5:30pm Triyoga, Primrose Hill, Alaric Newcombe
Friday, 5:15-6:30pm, Yotopia, Marcus Veda
Saturday, 7pm, Black and Light Yoga
Sunday, 12:30-1:45 The Life Centre Notting Hill, Leila Sadaghee

Please Join Me!

Day Four, Lizzie’s Yoga Challenge: Jivamukti Yoga with Emma

Perhaps I need to begin this next post with a few caveats. Emma Henry happens to one of my best friends, and I’m a Jivamukti yoga teacher. What this means is that I love Emma as a person and the method of yoga she teaches makes sense in my mind and my body. What this doesn’t necessarily mean is that Emma is my favourite teacher or her classes are phenomenal. But as it turns out, she is one of my favourite teachers in London and, in fact, her classes are phenomenal. Today when I took her class it reminded me why I love the Jivamukti yoga method, and why (in my opinion) Emma has become one of the more talented, and popular yoga teachers in London.

As I entered the full classroom at Triyoga Primrose Hill this morning, it was wonderful to see many friends and familiar faces, and in a sense, this is also what it feels like to return to a Jivamukti class. The chanting, sequences and overall gestalt of the class are recognisable between teachers that share the teachings of their teachers, Sharon Gannon and David Life, in earnest. We have all had different experiences in life and on our yoga mats, and we all have different preferences in music, how we articulate, and how we sequence asana, so no two classes are identical, but there is energy and vibrancy that many Jivamukti classes share. But anyway, back to the class. Emma spoke for several minutes at the beginning of class about the yoga sutras, and why we come to a yoga class, highlighting three of the sutras in particular, which we then proceeded to chant. She was engaging and spoke simply enough that everyone in the room seemed to follow along and ‘get it’ without getting lost in intellectual jargon. This was also how the class flowed as we evolved from sitting, to warming up, to sun salutations, standing postures, inversions, back bends and seated postures before ending with shoulderstand and savasana. It was a challenging sequence, but available to many levels of practitioner without having to offer lots of complicated variations or leaving the less fit having to sit out parts of the class. The practice was balanced, safe and was fun to practice, and throughout the class Emma spoke about the relationship between the sutras that were chanted, the yoga practice, and life. This, paired with an uplifting music selection meant that the time flew by, which is a sign of time well spent.

Emma is a gifted teacher with an angelic voice and deep understanding of the physical body and the ancient yogic texts. She offers excellent adjustments and has a great sense of humour. I’m only sad that this is the only time for the whole month I’ll get to go to her class.

Day Two, Lizzie’s Yoga Challenge 2014: Power Vinyasa with Celest

I have to admit, when I woke up this morning I could not imagine going to a yoga class. The scar from my liver transplant is a reverse L shape on my torso that is only partially healed, with several more months ahead before it will close properly. I’ve been having strange pains in my torso as I resume the yoga practice; it feels like someone has sewn my two halves of the body together and the seam is too tight. In the morning it can be pretty intense. Anyway, I was as surprised as Celest was when I walked into her class a few minutes past two. As we started the sun salutations, there were quite a few variations offered including jumping into handstand, three-legged plank to three-legged chatturanga to knee to elbow in preparation for koundinyasana. The class progressed, and Celest demonstrated ways to progress into a variety of challenging postures including padottanasana to pinchamayurasana, parvritta surya yantrasana (compass pose) to astavakrasana, and more.

Celest has a down to earth approach to teaching that provides students with personal insights about how she has overcome physical obstacles to the postures, and she radiates a love and enthusiasm for the practice. Asana practice is the gymnastic aspect of yoga, and for all intents and purposes this is one of the most gymnastic classes that I have been to for quite some time. Even so, there were enough variations offered throughout the class that even someone like me with the goal of ‘taking it easy’ could follow along and feel connected to the energy of the group. The aspects of the class that I most valued was the time Celest gave to demonstrating and talking through the process of building into several more challenging postures, and the time allotted for students to try the postures several times. This was not a class laden with insights or wisdom about the state of being human or finding inner peace, but if you are looking for a fun and challenging physical practice, I would highly suggest giving this class a try. Celest is a true beauty inside and out.

A note about the studios: Every yoga studio is a little different physically and energetically, and at Indaba, it feels like there is a party going on pretty much all the time. The teachers, employees and students alike are lovers of life and there is a real sense of community that permeates throughout the centre. I truly feel blessed to have the opportunity to both practice and teach at Indaba.

Day One, Lizzie’s Yoga Challenge 2014: Vinyasa Flow with Mimi

Today’s practice, the first of yoga challenge 2014, was at Triyoga Primrose Hill with Mimi Kuo-Deemer. The class was busy with about 20 people in one of their large studios. Mimi started the class with some funny thoughts about the new year and her personal resolution which definitely lightened up the tone of the class–she wants to chew her food more slowly, at least 30 times a bite!

I haven’t been to Mimi’s class in a few years, but what I do remember is the integration of the Buddhist practice with other Asian influences such as martial arts and qi-gong. The class today was very similar to what I recall from my last experience, with her lovely, peaceful presence juxtaposed with her strong (and good) adjustments. The asana practice was varied with enough options for a diverse group of practitioners to stay engaged, but with a gentle and reflective hand at reminding students to adjust the practice to where they were today. There was some music in the background that kept things flowing but grounded.

I have never been particularly drawn to the martial arts, tai chi or qi-gong, and actually felt rather foolish trying to follow Mimi’s soft, elegant hand movements, but this comes naturally to her and is clearly her mark as a teacher; she beautifully blends the masculine and feminine energies of these eastern forms of movement.

Towards the end of class Mimi left room for practitioners to choose the last several asanas and ended with a long savasana. Overall it was a balanced class with a few more challenging postures thrown in, and I left feeling relaxed. It left me questioning two things- first, where the divide is between yoga and integrating other practices into the construct of a yoga class, and second, whether the purpose of going to a class is to be pushed by a teacher or to have the licence to take it easy? There is no ‘right’ answer to either question, which is the beauty of the yoga practice. There are no hard boundaried edges to a class called Vinyasa Flow Open, only a variety of teachers with their unique backgrounds, experiences and personalities.

It was the right class for me to go to today, and I will certainly go back in a few months to check on Mimi’s chewing practice.

Depending on my sore front body from surgery, I will aim to be at Celest’s class tomorrow at Indaba Yoga Studio.

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