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Sunday, May 20, 2007

yoga for your stage in life

The Yoga Center
1848 South Elena Avenue
Redondo Beach, CA 90277
(310) 375-6722
website: www.theyogacenter.com

Viniyoga is not so much a name of a yoga but rather a methodology for developing personal practice using asana, pranayama, meditation, and other tools. Viniyoga respects the fact that as we grow, the methods we use in yoga must be modified and the very purpose of our practice changes.

The Viniyoga tradition transmits the teachings of the late Sri T. Krishnamacharya and his son T.K.V. Desikachar, the current lineage holder. The tradition teaches to respect totally each individual’s physical, emotional, and mental conditions working from where we are. The word viniyoga suggests the ability to recognize these conditions and to adapt the proper methods to each individual.

at long last, after a couple of failed attempts, i finally made it to a class at the yoga center in redondo beach. and there i found diane gilbert, owner of the yoga center, behind the front desk.

she greeted me warmly when i walked into the door and asked me to be very quiet because the class in session was in savasana. i motioned that i needed to use the bathroom so i could change, and as she pointed out where i should go, she took my yoga mat from me and put it in the classroom as i walked away. such a thoughtful gesture, i noted.

when i returned, the previous class was making its way out of the room. and after observing the interactions of the people now standing in the reception area, i realized that diane was the teacher of that class that just let out. maybe she had to leave her class to attend to something urgent? odd, i thought.

our small group of five filed into the classroom for the next class. it appeared that they were all regulars (by now, i've gotten used to being the "new student" wherever i go). diane greeted everyone by name, and when she got to me, she asked me if i had any issues she should know about. i decided to keep my mouth shut about how this was now my third time there and how i would have totally written off her studio if the online schedule was wrong one more time...

i smiled. i told diane about my lower back issue. about how i had visited an osteopath that morning. and how he had shot my back numerous times with lidocaine in an attempt to diagnose the source of my pain. unfortunately, not only wasn't the pain completely eradicated, but the needle puncture sites were sore. i told her that i had enough experience to know when to back off when things started to hurt.

after a brief period of meditation, diane ran us through a series of modified sun salutations. then told us to do four more on our own. after i had gone through my four (or what i thought was four), i noticed that everyone else was still going. wondering if maybe i left something out, i looked around to ask diane for help. and noticed that she was nowhere to be found. hmmm...

and sometime later, while we were holding a pose for an extended period of time, she seemed to disappear once again. honestly, i have no idea what it was that she did whenever she left. did she tidy up the retail area outside? did she return phone calls? did she attend to paperwork? did she have to go visit the bathroom? i've never had that happen in any other class before. nor at any other studio, including those where the teacher teaching the class had to also attend to administrative matters.

however, whenever she was in the classroom, she watched my every move. bend your knees, she kept insisting. so i had to bend my knees whenever i did a forward bend, whether i was standing or sitting. i kept trying to tell her that keeping my legs straight while folding forward didn't bother my back, but she wouldn't back off. so i complied and ending up feeling like a limp ragdoll. maybe that was the idea. i really don't know.

during savasana, she asked me how my back was feeling. and the only thing that really hurt was the pressure on the injection site on my lower back. she offered me some pillows to cushion my back and even brought a small stool to prop my knees up. later, after class, she suggested that anti-inflammatory herbs like ginger and rosemary and turmeric might help my symptoms. so how can one find fault with someone who's that helpful and caring?

i have to say that the yoga center isn't your typical studio. the style of yoga taught seems to be geared primarily towards beginners as well as those with injuries and limitations (the more warrior-like students might find the classes a bit tame). not only is the yoga different, but the items for sale aren't the usual name-brand yoga apparel and props that you find everywhere else. the eclectic selection appears to be comprised of various items that she may have picked up during her travels. besides an assortment of yoga-related clothing, there were pashminas. and bronze statuettes of ganesha and other hindu gods and goddesses. and unique jewelry. and if i had spent more time looking around, i probably would have discovered even more. as it was, i had to leave because it was getting late and i still had a long drive home.

... and in my rush, i promptly forgot that i could have taken advantage of my KCRW fringe benefits discount when i paid for my class. oh well.

diane wrote an article about viniyoga that was published in the march 2006 issue of yogitimes magazine.

according to that article:

Yoga is for everyone, at every stage of life. The student's present state of mind, body and spirit are respected above all else, including the attachments of the teacher.

The general rule is to follow vrddhi (youth), sthiti (midlife), and laya (old age) kramas (methods)... The main requirement in midlife is to ward off disease and maintain optimum mental and physical health. As one grows old the body begins to decay. The yoga practice will then be directed to maintaining mobility through asana and pranayama practice.

The viniyoga approach places a tremendous amount of responsibility on the teacher to possess the knowledge and wisdom necessary to provide proper guidance to students. Thus a teacher knows what to offer a nineteen-year-old professional surfer or a fifty-year-old menopausal woman with sciatica...

she makes it sound like a fifty-year-old woman doesn't have the strength nor the stamina of a nineteen-year-old athlete. i guess she hasn't come across gung-ho women like me! :)