I spent last weekend back in California, and obviously I had to get some yoga in there. The entire time I was in LA this fall, my friend Melissa and I kept missing each other, so we vowed to get together this time. She’s also a yoga teacher, so yoga was the natural choice.
To be honest…I’m not crazy about Y7. I consider it more of a workout than a yoga class, personally. I go to yoga, yes, partially to move, but also to connect with my spiritual side. While the fast pace can definitely lend itself to a meditative-type state, it’s not usually my preferred way of getting there. I prefer a slightly slower class.
The format of most Y7 classes is roughly this: a warm-up/class opening, slowly teaching a flow, repeating it at the speed of your breath and then repeating it on your own. (This pattern is repeated with three different flows.)
I hadn’t taken a Y7 class since before my own yoga teacher training. Pre-YTT, I DESPISED the flow-on-your-own with the fire of a thousand suns. I hated having to try to remember what the flow was. But this time, I kind of liked it. I had the muscle memory of knowing what typically followed a given pose, even if I couldn’t consciously remember the whole flow, and I felt much more confident and comfortable.
We took class from Ari, whom I loved because she was much more soulful and grounded than the typical Y7 instructor in my experience. She had a really calming presence, and we spent a long time in the opening on our backs and getting grounded in our breath before getting into the flow. Melissa and I chatted with her afterwards and found out that she had done her YTT at Laughing Lotus, my favorite studio ever. So it made sense that her class resonated with me.
I’d just flown in the night before, so I was a little nervous about my own practice. Well, I was tight AF when I stepped onto the mat and my balance was off, but I flowed into my own by the end of class.
Also, only in LA can you have lockers outside. My NYC was so bemused by this.
tl;dr: I was so pleasantly surprised by this class.
I’m thinking about starting some kind of Yoga Diaries series here. I’m doing a shit ton of yoga, as I attempt to learn more to inform both my own practice and those I am teaching. Obviously, every class and every instructor is different, and every day on the mat has a lesson to teach me. I’m sharing to have a record of this yoga evolution, but also to share about the great instructors out there.
Yesterday, after teaching Ashley, I needed to get my own yoga on. As a part of my YogaWorks teacher training, I got a three-month membership there. (I had been saying free…but nope, I paid a lot for the training, so it’s not really free yoga!) I’ve been trying to take at different studios to learn more about their styles, and also so I can potentially audition there.
I’ll be honest that YogaWorks wasn’t my first choice for teacher training. I always wanted to do it at Laughing Lotus, but the timing was just right to do it at YW, and I regret nothing—I was very pleasantly surprised. I’d wanted just as much of the spiritual as the anatomy and alignment, and YW delivered. We discussed a good amount of the spiritual, more than I expected, but they weren’t dogmatic at all about how we share that out in the world. Their classes are spot-on as far as alignment goes, but in comparison to Laughing Lotus, they’re not as soulful.
That said! I’ve still found some teachers with great personalities at YogaWorks—so far more on the other coast, but I’m still looking in NYC. I had a great one yesterday.
I took Caroline McConnaughey’s class, really only because of the timing, to be honest. It was a Level 1 class. Though my skill level is above this now, I’ve enjoyed Level 1 classes since teacher training. I don’t want to teach advanced yogis. To be honest, they probably know more than I do. But, I find that idea less rewarding. Fitness: running, yoga, movement have changed my life, and that’s what I want to share with others. That they can do this thing, too, they didn’t think they could. Whether they’re beginners, stiff runners or struggling with mental health and even getting out of bed feels like a burden, that’s who I want to help. These populations all require more attention than a Level 3 yogi would—but the potential for reward, for the yogi and the teacher, is so much higher.
OK, but back to the class. Upfront: if I’d been looking for a hard workout, this was not it. But I also didn’t expect it would be for me. I still think this was a valuable class, new yogi or not. Caroline taught a really well-thought out class and did a lot by the way of shoulder girdle “awareness.” What I mean by that is that we did a lot of poses in the beginning such as teaching knee push-ups with scapular retraction and protraction. When YogaWorks instructors use the word “awareness,” it usually means they’re going to focus on that area for a while…and if you’re anything like me, you’re going to hate them a little bit for it. Core “awareness?” Oh fuck you, yes, I am aware of NOTHING. BUT. MY. CORE. RIGHT. NOW. THANK YOU. (Which is the point, but…you know.) We also did seemingly a million shoulder and neck rolls. I was resisting my urges to look at my watch and see how far into class we were, when we were going to get to the “real” class. This was the real class. All of it. It’s all real. I was resisting this slower class because I needed it. I needed to slow the fuck down and listen. To the teacher. To my body (also a teacher.)
Caroline is a total (self-professed) anatomy nerd, and she did a lot of education around the different parts of the body we were working and why. One of the concepts we learned at YogaWorks in our sequencing was putting together a yoga sequence that led to a peak pose we were working towards. The idea is that poses before that prime your body to be able to get into that pose more easily. With all this shoulder work, I was wondering where she was going… (I’ll get there.)
Another cool thing we did was use the wall as a prop to do a verrrrrrrry slow roll down into forward fold and roll back up, one vertebra (NOT VERTEBRAE, one of my biggest pet peeves in the world) at a time. The idea here: the wall keeps you honest in honoring your spine’s natural curvature. So where was this headed? Camel (one of my least fave poses, but hey.) We did it facing the wall with our wrists in a strap and it sucked a little less than it usually does.
The takeaway from this class? Not every class or practice has to be a tough workout, and sometimes, it’s the slower/”easier” ones that have more to teach us.