November 13, 2006 Monday
Vinyasa Yoga with Elle Tan
It's not everyday a yogini passes by Sagada and conducts a class. Such is Elle Tan, a certified Vinyasa Yoga instructor who visited Sagada with her hubby, Erwin. I met her at Bela Lipat's yoga class in Manila sometime back in August. I talked about my stay in Sagada then and encouraged them to come visit the place. After a few emails, husband and wife are now here.
I never heard of Vinyasa Yoga until Elle. I always knew vinyasa as a sun salutation, one of the asanas (poses) in the many forms of yoga. She explained that Vinyasa Yoga is a flow yoga, similar to Ashtanga, where the practitioner goes into a seamless flow of asanas in carefully balanced sequences. Like all yoga, breath is the priority (not the pose).
"The body becomes soft like the snow. Let it flow like water. Follow the breath and be moved by the air. Move through shapes and forms in a flowing state of grace."
It was simply a matter of free time before we got together and practise yoga. We agreed to take turns in conducting the class. For today, she'll be leading with her Vinyasa Yoga. Tomorrow will be my turn for Ashtanga Yoga.
Elle finely tunes herself with the energy and skill level of the class. The session started slow and easy but progressed into the more difficult asanas. Knowing my penchant to feel the edge, she pushed the boundaries by getting into the more advanced postures. Most of the asanas were familiar while some were totally new. It was an effort holding some of them. I cramped at some point. I was sore (in a good way) the following day.
At the same time, she keenly pointed out a few nuances of a pose to make it right - e.g. stress on a forward bend should be on the ball of the feet and not the heel. The subtle weight-shift is nearly unnoticeable, but the ensuing stretch on the hamstring was exponential. Yoga is pretty much like that - minor adjustments giving tons in dividend.
Ujjayi is a hissing breath that creates air friction on the throat. Good ujjayi breathing should be audible to you and the people within your radius. A deep and full ujjayi breathing is desirable - completely emptying the lungs of air and inhaling through the nose to expand the chest and then the abdomen. It is said to activate the chakras (energy centers) of the body. Additionally, it helps bring focus to the poses. This is crucial since the monkey mind can be restless and grabs attention to itself.
Elle was centered on her audible ujjayi breathing. This served as a guide for me and a reminder to keep breathing specially on those challenging asanas where attention gets to be more focused on holding the pose instead of the breath.
With my limited experience at doing various disciplines of yoga - Ashtanga, Hatha, Kundalini, Sivananda, Bikram, and now, Vinyasa, I notice that these approaches have more in common than they are different. They just have different emphasis. Ashtanga is more athletic, Kundalini is more meditative, Bikram is done in a hot environment, and Vinyasa seems a cross between the athleticism of Ashtanga and the extended-hold of Ayengar asanas. They all however, put priority on the breath, they all hold specific poses while doing full breathing, and they all aim to keep the mind still and present.
I'd been asked a few times. To someone beginning the practice, which is better? To a practising yogi, it seems like a ludicrous question. But I'll attempt to answer it anyway. Conceptually, you might have a notion of what suits you. However, until you try it out, you'll never know. I think it's more important to try out the first one that presents itself than figuring out which one to choose from. Yoga is a wholistic approach to achieving life balance - spiritual (and I'm not talking about the 'bearded one'), physical, mental and emotional. You can't possibly go wrong on which one you start with.
It's always a treat to be doing new yoga asanas and gaining new insight by practising with someone knowledgeable who is willing to share. Unfortunately, like all good things that come to an end, Elle and Erwin had to head back to Manila.
Thank you, Elle. Namaste.
(Nov 20, 2006) Gee, what a great story! Am humbled. Like I said, am privileged for you to have shared your knowledge and good energy at our yoga practice sessions. All I can say is: WELL PUT! You couldn't have hit it right on the nail more. Doesn't matter what kind of yoga you practice, as long as you're practicing it. Then all good things just come. :)
Didn't you find it more exhausting having to do the yoga from beginning asana til end, AND verbally teaching everything you're thinking at the same time? hehe
We had omelette Sagada style this morning, with etag and mushrooms --- YUM! Kinda futile sharing our experiences in Sagada with peoople here, guess you don't really get it till you've been to Sagada. hehe...Erwin and I are still bubbling over our memories and food pasalabongs from Sagada. Namaste
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