In yoga class, as in Awareness Through Movement® and Movement Inquiry, we begin with the sensations of the body. During a short sit we draw our attention to our breath, then we move through gentle and more rigorous movements, continuing to bring our attention back to our sensations.
I prefer to think of the yoga asana as movements, rather than postures, so we experience them as constantly changing landscapes for the journey of our attention, rather than as destinations. This may imply to some that my classes are vinyasa, or flow, style, which is not the case. I do include flow sequences most days, but generally we are holding soft, lively poses for longer. In stillness, we have the time to develop awareness and tune in to the subtler sensations.
Each yoga class weaves together specific alignment information with reflection on a larger theme. The themes are organized over weeks, sometimes months, to create a line of development for the returning student, though individual classes are approachable to newcomers as well. The themes seek to help participants reflect on the question, “What brought me here today?” connecting your physical experience to your life experience. Themes have included: the yamas and niyamas (restraints and observances), the qualities of the chakras (energy centers), the gunas (qualities of nature), the doshas (qualities of individuals), and more.
During class we often practice pranayama, or breathing exercises. We end with savasana, the reclining rest, or with sitting meditation, or both. The meditation practices I offer vary, coming from my eclectic background, and may include meditations from yoga and Buddhist traditions. It is my hope that participants are taking away from their weekly class concepts and practices to guide them in their daily practice, in whatever form that daily practice may take.
My experience, both as a yoga student and teacher, is that in class we enact, silently, our best intentions in concert with others. I strive to cultivate a feeling of openness and support in yoga class, so that those who want to experience the group as community may do so, and those who want to practice independently have space as well. We begin with the body, and by bringing attention the body we notice that the body is not “other,” but is our self, and that self lives in a web of connection.
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© 2010 Sheri Cohen