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Allaying the fears about ‘the hard yoga’

May 4, 2012
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Looks like a few changes going on at Eddie Stern’s Ashtanga Yoga New York. The most superficial, perhaps, is the pretty new picture that adorns the shala’s website.

That’s not superficial in a pejorative sense, by the way.

The more substantial is the announcement that beginning today — it finished just a little ago — the shala will be offering Friday beginner’s classes. Here’s the lowdown:

Starting Friday, May 4th, we will have a Beginners led class from 8:15-9:15 am. In this class you will be introduced to the opening poses of the primary series, called yoga cikitsa, which is aimed at aligning the body and purifying the internal organs. The class begins with gentle breathing that creates both relaxation and warmth in the body, followed by the sun salutations, and six standing poses that give strength and flexibility to the legs and waist. Following the standing sequence, you will learn several seated poses that strengthen the back and increase the flexibility of the hips and legs, and then close with a short seated meditation.

For those who are interested to learn Ashtanga Yoga but have been intimidated by its reputation as being “the hard yoga”, this class will allay your fears.

For an even gentler introduction that will gradually increase your endurance, stamina, and levels of concentration, you can try our five day introduction, that runs every monday thru friday morning at 7, 9 and 10 am, and then try the led class at the end of the week.

Eddie — I’ll just broadly give him credit for the wording, and if I hear someone else wrote it I’ll pass that on — does a wonderful job of both making the practice seem approachable and explaining what the benefits are and what physically is the target. I would imagine that translating Guruji’s Yoga Mala would give someone a pretty strong sense of those benefits, no?

I also have to admit I’m intrigued — from a business of yoga point of view — about addressing head-on the knock against Ashtanga as being too hard. I feel like different studios I’ve been at — or checked out online — all address this in a different way, including by trying to ignore the rigor of the practice entirely. This is about as straight-forward on the subject as I’ve seen. Perhaps it is the different target audience (New Yorkers) that accounts for that?

Eddie also has added a broader description of yoga, which I find interesting:

Yoga is an ancient practice that originated within the wisdom traditions of India. The methods of yoga have shown that by using our body, breath and mind in a particular manner, we may find harmony within ourselves. In this fast-paced world we easily become detached from our bodies, lost in the world of worries and stress, and find ourselves rushing forward in an effort to keep up. Yoga pulls us back into our bodies, and teaches us an embodied awareness that keeps us healthy, filled with a sense of well-being, and a gives us a renewed ability to remain aware in the present moment. It is a holistic practice that supports all other aspects of life.

And, yes, I’ve just about quoted all of the front page.

The yoga description, I imagine, forms the basis for the sequence he put together for the current study on yoga and hypertension. It’s also one — quite frankly — that speaks more to me than something a bit more … hmm… what’s the right words? Touchy-feely? Open-hearty? Eddie’s description seems practical, which I think befits a yoga style that’s grounded in the notion of “practice.” It’s a systematic way of improving physical and not-so-physical aspects of ourselves. Makes sense to me.

AYNY also has started a guided meditation class on Monday nights, from 7:15 to 8 p.m.

See, it isn’t just about that “hard yoga.” (Note: The meditation class, I bet, is really the hardest one of all.)

Update: As of late Friday, Eddie has thoughts up about the passing of Adam Yauch.

Posted by Steve

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