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Sunday, February 26, 2006

i WILL continue to improve...

level 1/2 yoga classes are usually attended by an assortment of students who are beginners with some yoga experience, first-timers who want to prove to themselves that they're "good enough", yogis who are rehabbing from an injury, and more experienced students who just want to tone things down and take it easy. the pace in these classes is slower, the poses themselves may not require much strength nor flexibility, and teacher will usually explain what needs to be done and will usually check to make sure the students are doing them correctly.

will duprey's level 1/2 class at santa monica yoga on sunday mornings is one step above that. not only does he check to make sure his students do the poses correctly, but he also takes time to show them how to do them better. they learn how to stand taller, bend deeper, reach farther. in a sense, each of his classes is a mini-workshop. this morning's class was the perfect example.

will starts each class with breathing exercises. unlike some teachers who merely go through the basics of ujjayi breathing, he spends a good amount of time going through different pranayama techniques, like belly breathing and alternate nostril breathing. today, he had us picture our breath as it traveled through our body. for example, as we inhaled, we followed the breath from our heart center to our third eye. and as we exhaled, we followed it in reverse.

the breathing/meditation exercises are then followed by chanting. he starts with a few oms, then leads the class through a mantra. many of the students follow along quite easily, but since he doesn't pass out a lyric sheet, all i usually do is guess at the syllables that i'm supposed to chant. it's a bit frustrating that even after all the classes i've taken with him (ok, maybe less than a dozen), i haven't memorized a single phrase. i suppose that, in time and with a little patience, i'll be able to chant along just like the others.

for the asana portion of the class, he has everyone go through some basic poses to get warmed up. he walks around the class and corrects students as needed. i've found that my form sometimes gets sloppy, so i really appreciate any adjustment that i receive from him.

using the contortionists in the class as examples (usually brandi, debbie, and/or ray), he then has the students partner up and work together on a few poses. today, we helped each other get into the proper posture for chair pose, utkatasana, then from there, revolved chair pose, parivritta utkatasana. for the latter, our partner supported our hips while we gently increased the twist of our torso in the opposite direction. i never realized just how much more of a twist i could get by leaning my upper arm against my thigh and pushing my hands together more.

from there, we worked on getting a deeper forward fold in standing big toe pose, padangusthasana, by concentrating on lifting the thighs towards the ceiling and stretching the rib cage down and away from the navel. by following his instructions, i could immediately feel myself being able to get my face closer to my shins! then he made us reach around behind our legs and grasp our elbows. i wasn't perfect, but my partner insisted that i was doing well. of course, just when i started believing i was hot stuff, will told us to reach between our legs and hold our heads... yeah right. the best i could do was touch my chin :(

after all the fun and games, he gave the class a few minutes for "yogi's choice", that is, we could do whatever we wanted, whether it be something we wanted to work on, something we thought we could do well enough to show off to the others, or something that just felt good. after all those forward folds, some backbends seemed to balance everything out. as well as some reclining leg twists and a shoulderstand. ahhhh...

the class ended in the usual way with a short meditation and some oms.

i walked away from class knowing that i'd have to continue practicing what i just learned at subsequent yoga classes. i also knew that if i were truly serious about furthering my yoga practice, i needed to attend his classes on a regular basis.