Slow and steady gets you strong
I recently took over a class called "Vinyasa Flow" at a prominent studio in which I started teaching a few months ago. I'm new to the area and getting to know the students, but not by talking to them. As a yoga teacher, I get to know the students by leading them through several sequences and determining how they respond to them. I read their bodies; I sense the energy in the room. I may do an adaptation of the Primary Series from Ashtanga Yoga and learn if it's too rigorous for them. I may do a practice with more standard hatha yoga poses that are linked with a mini-vinyasa here and there. I may do a class with a dozen Sun Salutations scattered about to keep their heart rate up. What is "Vinyasa Flow" anyway but a label for a class that moves on the breath? Technically, "Vinyasa" comes from the Ashtanga Yoga tradition. But, in my experience teaching Vinyasa classes, many students are not interested in moving as quickly or as deeply as what Ashtanga brings. So I wonder, "What are the students expectations of this class?"
At the end of the day, I need to teach the class that is authentic with me and how I define Vinyasa Flow. I continually return to the questions: What is the purpose of this sequence? What is the purpose of this pose? What do we really need right now?
I did a couple of classes in which I disregarded the name of the class and I taught what I felt was right based off of the research I was doing in my office and on the mat. I have been deeply interested in fascial systems in the body and how our sense of proprioception comes from fascia. Our muscles are all saran-wrapped with fascia and tight fascia prevents any true connections to our bodies and minds (which inhabits the body through and through). I led the class with mindful movements that slowly flowed from one movement to the next, all while following the lines of fascia along the body. In order to move in this way, you have to attune with your deep core muscles to stay connected to the chains of movement from beginning to end. It's a flow. It moves on the breath. And it is surprising a wonderful challenge that feels fantastic. After my second class I finished with "Ommmmm...Namaste" and shared with the class that the style of that class felt the most authentic to who I am as a teacher and I would like to continue the class in that manner. The students enthusiastically nodded their heads with approval. We are all aligned. It was wonderful. I offered the name "Embodied Flow" to the studio owner and he changed it on the website without hesitation.
Every Embodied Flow class is safe for beginners because I teach the landmarks of yoga poses as I introduce them. But, it may also be a very hard class for advanced practitioners because we move with intimate awareness of how the deep core activates and initiates movement. It might be slow movement, but you may surprise yourself with a sweaty forehead. I teach my students to work intelligently. Stay curious about how the body/mind works as a system. No movement is truly isolated-- it's all connected somewhere. Stay grounded, stay humble, and marvel in how awesome it feels to integrate body, mind, breath, and spirit at once. And when we get to the yummy OMs in the end, yes, notice how glorious your voice feels in a body that has warmed up with focused breath for the past 75 minutes. It is truly magnificent. Come join me.