Thursday, April 10, 2014

Weighing on my Mind

I've got a great teaching schedule going at the moment: good class times, generally good-sized groups, lots of variety...and I'm subbing a lot, too, which means meeting new students, trying my hand at different class styles, gaining experience with different populations, like pregnant women, and just teaching more, which is always a good thing.

I've got my standard alignment-based yoga class on Tuesday, which keeps me and my student grounded in those warrior series, and other vinyasa classics. I've got my aerial yoga on Friday, which keeps my spirits up, and my skills challenged, and, there's my yogi-toning class on Mondays, which I was very reluctant to take on initially, but is now one of my favourites to teach!

Here's why: the beauty of teaching yoga, as opposed to, say, sixth grade, is that everyone is there because they want to be there. Oh, sure, maybe they kind of pushed themselves into it and they're really craving a nap, but they signed up, paid, and got their asses onto the mat all by themselves. The difference in energy that makes in a room is unparalleled. BUT, in my other yoga classes, the reasons why the students want to be there vary quite widely. Some are there to cultivate inner stillness. Some want to get more flexible, some want to get their heart rate up, some want to lose weight, some want to tone up their muscles, some really aren't sure why they keep coming back yet (and yes, they're kind of my favourites...). It's simply not possible to craft a class that's going to satisfy all these hopes and dreams, and still be safe, accessible, and, you know, yoga. It's also crucial that I teach authentically, and that means honoring what I know students need but don't want, and what I feel needs to be put out there on a given day for reasons I may not be able to explain. Bird of Paradise in a roomful of newbs, anyone?
I know this isn't the best picture in terms of focus or size; I'm more concerned with following my commitment to show people of color, different body types, and people working toward full execution of the pose in my blog. Enjoy!
 But yogi-toning is different, because it's specific. We are here for yoga. We are here to tone. If you're into both of those things, you are going to love this class. We will probably also move fast enough to break a sweat, if only because I only have forty-five minutes to hit every major muscle group. When the class was first suggested to me, I was afraid that it would be yoga in name only, like so many other yoga-inspired workouts, but I figured that part was up to me. So, forty-five minutes be damned, we start every class in quiet, seated contemplation of one facet of yoga philosophy. We reconsider that philosophy as we breathe into shaking muscles, and we BREATHE. Everything in my classes is optional, accept breathing.

In a contradictory way that is oh so common in yoga, these strict parameters give me a lot of freedom: it doesn't matter if inner thigh jumps aren't part of the yogic cannon, anymore than it matters that mountain pose is just not all that taxing of a pose. I think my favourite part is refusing to offer chaturanga as an option. Not seeing a bunch of hunched shoulders and compressed lumbar spines makes my yoga class much more pleasant for me. Over the past several months, I've been pulling from many different sources for my classes: yoga, aerial conditioning moves, online fitness videos...and then this past Monday, a stroke of genius: there are small hand weights available for student use in the studio. Just two to five pounds, nothing crazy...but perfect for Warrior I Triceps Lifts!! And that's just what we did, along with Goddess pose presses, and high lunge bicep curls! My students loved the edition of weights because it added more toning potential, without requiring the subtraction of any of the yoga aspects. Warrior II with weights in your extended arms is harder, but still warrior II.

One of my regulars mentioned that she felt her core engaging more frequently and more strongly in addition to her arms, and really understood how the movements of her limbs should be originating from a strong center. Success!!

If we can use blocks and straps as tools for learning in yoga, then why not weights? The proof is clearly in the pudding. I'm beginning to think I was silly to fear that adding toning to yoga would automatically decrease the yoga. The fact is, if students are there for a full experience of as many yogic limbs as possible, that's what they're going to get, and if they're just there for a workout, what's the harm in giving them that?

Want to try it for yourself? Yogi-toning with me is every Monday from 3:15-4:00pm at Bella Vita Wellness. Sign up online at least four hours in advance to ensure your spot.

Live Omily,
~em

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