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Monday, February 27, 2006

heart-oriented yoga

Yoga Inside Out
8741 Santa Monica Boulevard
West Hollywood, CA 90069
(310) 855-YOGA
website: www.yogainsideout.com

"Founded by John Friend in 1997, Anusara Yoga is a powerful hatha yoga system that unifies a Tantric philosophy of intrinsic Goodness with Universal Principles of Alignment...

Anusara's remarkable popularity is due in large part to its uplifting philosophy, epitomized by a "celebration of the heart," that looks for the good in all people and all things... This life-affirming vision sets the basis for a yoga system in which the harmony and joy of a tightly knit community is exulted. Not only is Anusara an elegant system of alignment principles and non-dual philosophy, but it is also a wonderful community of highly trained teachers and fun-loving students. This community feels like it has the tightness of a family, yet the looseness of a merry band of bohemian artists...

The poses in Anusara Yoga are considered to be "heart-oriented," meaning that they are expressed from the "inside out." Instead of trying to control the body and mind from the outside, the poses originate from a deep creative and devotional feeling inside...

Individual creativity and investigation are always encouraged within the bounds of basic alignment principles and philosophic precepts of Anusara Yoga..." - from About Anusara by John Friend

it was dark, damp, and dreary on busy santa monica boulevard as i made my way to the yoga inside out studio in west hollywood. as is always the case on the first day of a rainstorm in los angeles, the traffic was practically at a standstill during the evening rush hour, so i made it a point to give myself twice as much time to get to the corner of santa monica and hancock (just west of la cienega) so i wouldn't be late for class.

when i walked in the front door, i was greeted warmly by ross rayburn, the studio's owner, who was seated behind the front desk. i told him that i was there to attend his 6pm class, and he seemed genuinely happy to see me. i showed him my KCRW card and he charged me the discounted rate of $12.75. according to the sign on the counter, i was also eligible for the new student deal: my SECOND class would be FREE! i knew immediately that i would have to schedule a return visit.

there was a definite sense of community in the class. as people started slowly trickling in, they smiled and chatted with the others. ross made it a point to walk around the room and greet everyone individually by name. to accommodate many of the latecomers who were stuck in traffic, ross waited until the room was comfortably full before he started the class.

as with all anusara classes, the session started with chanting and a brief meditation. thanks to the lyrics that were printed on index cards and handed out, i was able to chant along with the group. or at least made a gallant effort to follow along.

ross taught the class in a lighthearted and easygoing way. he took the time to make sure we all got into each pose correctly, to the best of our ability. he joked around with the group and apologized for his corny sense of humor. he encouraged us to ask questions as we moved in and out of what seemed to be difficult poses. we were working hard, but more importantly, we were learning and having fun.

there were a few differences, however, between ross's class and the other yoga classes that i've taken.

while other teachers usually give the students the option of doing a vinyasa (chaturanga, cobra/up dog, down dog) between poses, ross just asked us to go straight to down dog. not knowing what was coming up in the class, i followed along and welcomed the saved effort, although i sometimes found myself going instead into plank out of habit.

there was also the issue of how to stand on the back foot while in warrior 2 pose. every other teacher has said that i should put my weight on the outside edge of my foot (the little toe side). ross, on the other hand, insisted that we push on the inside edge, with the outside edge coming off the ground. i wondered if it was an anusara thing (although i don't remember any of the teachers at city yoga, another anusara studio, telling me to do that either). hmmm...

besides crane and headstand (with the help of a partner), we went through an assortment of "only in anusara class" poses, all supposedly in preparation for more advanced poses. they all emphasized going deeper while keeping the proper alignment. i don't know if it was because we did fewer poses or because we were doing them in a different way, but i somehow felt tighter in my hips and lower back while we did some of the more familiar poses. i'll have to find out if i feel the same way the next time.

the class ended in savasana, to the steady sound of rain coming down on the roof. it was a very safe and comforting feeling, knowing that at least for that moment, i was warm and dry. and that my car was getting a free carwash while it was parked outside on the street.

thank goodness the happy feeling in the class lasted until i got home; not only didn't i mind that it was cold and wet as i walked to my car, but it didn't even seem to bother me that i had to make my way around all the locals who always seem to forget how to drive whenever it rains in los angeles.