Monday, February 22, 2010
Noah Maze Yoga Workshop
I took an "active rest day" in the most literal sense of the phrase on Saturday in Truckee, CA at an Anusara Back Bending Workshop presented by Noah Maze at Tahoe Yoga.
The four hour workshop was part of an immersion being presented by Noah to about thirty area yogis who packed into the intimate studio.
The workshop began with Noah playing the harmonium - a sort of Indian version of the accordian, chating OM three times followed by the Anusara invocation three times. Basking in the sound of thirty voices singing words I am not familiar with - as I am not a regular Anusara practitioner, it really struck me at that moment how closely knit the Anusara community is. There was a feeling of familiarity and comfort between these yogis that was absolutely lovely to observe and be a part of.
Noah then spoke for about a half an hour about "kleshas" and "lakshmis" as they appear in Patanjali's Yoga Sutra and in the Tantra.
I am going to briefly summarize what he so eloquetly discusssed: He explained kleshas as "afflictions/stains and/or the absence of something that should be there" on the character. "Lakshmi" are "beautiful, auspicious, helpful traits." He related the two by inviting us to turn our kleshas into lakshmi. The idea of turning our liabilities into our strengths completely resonated with me.
We then put this lecture into our bodies ... for the next three and a half hours. No FOOLIN'!! There were no breaks ... just three and half hours of thick, focused yoga practice.
We began with a slow, standing series to warm up the body for the forecoming backbends.
Noah is a gentle, yet precise technician with the way he presents anatomy, making yogis able to adjust themselves with his specific cueing. He uses much Anusara verbage like, "inner spiral," "outter spiral," but he puts his own spin on the language and demonstartes with such anatomical clarity in his own body that it makes the words translate extremely clearly.
We moved on to just about every backbend imaginable from an early focus on Bhujangasana (cobra,) to Ardha Bhekasana (half frog,) to Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (bridge) and Urdhva Dhanurasana (wheel.) We then took a moment to work laying supine with a block on it's wide side placed under the shoulder blades and on the tall edge between the shoulder blades while working the arms over the head for an almost restorative, heart opening, relaxing back bend.
A huge lightbulb went off for me in this workshop during Noah's instruction of wheel. He was very specific about plugging the arm bones back and opening the upper chest which created more room in my upper body than I have ever experienced in back bending.
Then the real meat of the workshop came ... working Two legged inverted staff pose (Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana,) by itself then transitioning into headstand and the inverse - head stand into Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana. Intense.
Continuing with dissecting Vrschikasana(Scorpion Pose,) using the wall and a chair to walk the legs over.
Culminating with Lord of the Dance Pose (Natarajasana)we played with opening both shoulders with a strap and without.
Thouroughly "cooked" as Noah (a former pastry chef) likes to liken a yummy, deep practice, he concluded the workshop with seated postures than included forward bends (paschimottana,) twists, wide leg forward bends and twists and finally a deep shavasana (corpse pose) during which Noah once again played his harmonium.
The chest holds quite a lot of emotion and therefore backbending practices can release pent up feelings. I actually found myself a bit agitated afterwards, but in a good way, like something had been released and stirred within me.
I expected to wake up on Sunday morning sore in unlikely places, but Noah's instruction was so spot on, I experienced no residual discomfort at all (at least upon writing this), just a refreshed, energized more open body. The "agitation" I experienced had totally disappated and left behind a more open, newly sculpted upper body that I will continue to cultivate.
Learn more about Noah Maze here: http://www.noahmazeyoga.com/
And be sure to visit Tahoe Yoga: http://tahoeyoga.com/
(image from: istockphoto.com)