Legend: BLUE-open, RED-closed, GREEN-by donation
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Sunday, July 13, 2008

cirque du yoga

i finally achieved what i thought would never happen -- i kicked into a handstand, unassisted! not only that, but i was able to hold it for close to a minute before having to come back down (with some semblance of control, i might add)...

ok, i admit that i needed a wall to keep me vertical. nevertheless, it was an amazing feeling, from the moment my legs first felt somewhat weightless, to the time they landed gently on that wall. even i was stunned!

the miracle happened two weeks ago during stella valente's donation-based class at a pilates studio in the mid-wilshire area. it was a class i decided to attend at the last minute after hearing about it through vanda mikoloski, another local yoga instructor who also teaches donation-based classes. i totally credit whatever stella demonstrated to us that day to my attaining lift-off. and while i know that i've heard the whole spiel about how shoulder position is key many times before, it just didn't click until then. i know, call me a slow learner...

i suppose it would have been more rewarding if i had been surrounded by people i knew, people who were well aware of just how long i'd been working at this. alas, i was in a room full of strangers, including stella, whom i'd never met before. and i'm sure they all assumed that i'd been doing it all along. so much for receiving cheers and high-fives for my biggest accomplishment yet :(

anyway, to thank both stella and vanda for my reaching inversion nirvana, here's a plug for their classes:

this is from stella (http://www.stellavalente.com/):

Please come and join this great community of yogis. Come to connect, sweat, to pray, to challenge yourself, heal, and with a little donation--help others!!

EVERY SUNDAY 11AM-12:30p OPEN LEVEL PAY WHAT YOU CAN. (no excuses not to come!) This is a donation based class. Part of the proceeds will go to pay for the space and the other to charity. This is my gift to you and the community. I've always wanted to give every person the opportunity to practice yoga for whatever reason has held you back in the past here is a great opportunity.

I look forward to seeing you there!!!! Feel free to contact me with any questions. PLEASE PASS THIS ON TO ANYBODY WHO MIGHT BE INTERESTED.

and this is from vanda (http://www.vanda.us/):

Just when you thought you'd heard of every damned yoga-fusion possibility in the world, We bring you, NO! Not Yoga for Racists! NO! Not Evil Dominitrix Yoga! NO! Not Yoga for Practicing Alcoholics who Smoke … Are you ready? You've heard of 'Laughter Yoga' ? ... Now Vanda will actually give you something to laugh about! Get ready for... Stand-Up Comedy Yoga on the Beach with Vanda and Friends!

Touring teacher for the Dixie Chicks, Stand-Up comic since 1982, Certified Yoga Instructor - 12 years experience

When? Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays (Lovely Anna teaches Fridays!) and Saturdays 9-10:15am (ish)
Where? Rose Avenue and the water’s edge. Bring a big bed sheet!
How much? No Fee. Any Love offering ($1-$20) you feel peaceful about is appreciated.

and ever since i'd come to the realization that YES, I CAN DO IT, i've been able to repeat myself over and over again! i succeeded during marla wedge's class at yogaworks south bay, where i was even brave enough to try moving away from the wall and landing in a split handstand (which didn't happen, but the fact that i even attempted it was an accomplishment). ditto at garth hewitt's class, also at YW south bay, where my arms had barely enough oomph to hoist me up after all the arm stuff he had us doing earlier. but i managed to pull off a short-lived handstand, which still counts!

by now, feeling quite self-confident that i was master of my body (as long as we're not talking arm balances), i immediately signed up for this crunch gym class the moment i read about it in a daily candy e-mail update:

Try our high flying AntiGravity Yoga "Wings" class on Saturday, July 12. Learn how to stretch further and hold challenging postures longer using a flowing fabric hammock as your only prop. This workshop is free and open to the public, so bring your friends!

When: Saturday, July 12 - 45-minute sessions as 1:00, 2:00 and 3:00
Where: Crunch - Sunset
8000 Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 900046
See the front desk to sign-up.

Crunch has paired up with the aerial performance company, AntiGravity, to create a new workout class called AntiGravityYoga "Wings". The class uses the AntiGravity hammock, a soft fabric that is hung from the ceiling, to perform yoga poses and suspension techniques.

Using the AntiGravity Hammock as a supportive prop, participants practice traditional yoga postures as well as exercises derived from dance, Pilates, and strength conditioning. Participants will also learn inverted poses to relieve compression in the joints, aligning the body from head-to-toe.

Results of this workout include increased flexibility and strength, better alignment and agility and a creative and fun workout!

AntiGravity Yoga is currently offered at in NYC, Los Angeles and Miami. It will soon be expanding to more locations nationwide.

i read the words "hammock" and "supported" and imagined a gentle class where we hung upside down while gravity did all the work. by the time i arrived at the classroom, it felt like i had walked onto a cirque du soleil stage. while some students had already settled themselves into the sheer parachute-y slings hanging from the ceiling, others were being adjusted by the class instructors. i stood at the back of the classroom and waited my turn. one of the teachers walked up to me; we recognized each other from a previous crunch event. aren't you the accidental yogist?, she asked. hi saharah, i replied. we smiled at each other as she moved on to the next student (and i owe you the name of the other teacher).

surprisingly enough, the workout kicked my butt -- or rather, my arms and my abs! most of the time, we were either using our arms and the hammock to lift ourselves off the ground. and hold. or our legs and the hammock to balance in warrior 3. and hold (you try balancing on one leg while the other one's swaying from side to side). slow, deliberate moves have a way of reminding you about the muscles you haven't used in a while :(

as promised, there were the inversions, which would be familiar to anyone who's used a rope wall in an iyengar class. the only difference was that instead of being able to hold steady against a wall, it's like floating in water, with every twitch causing the hammock to slowly sway forward, backward, left, right.

we were then instructed to place our palms on the floor, wrap our legs around the fabric, then straighten them up towards the ceiling. i followed along and the next thing i knew, i was doing a handstand in the middle of the room! this was way too cool!

for savasana, we hopped back into our hammocks and stretched out, completely cocooning our bodies in the billowy yards of fabric. after all the effort we had expended in balancing and hanging upside down, it was nice to be able to surrender to the gentle sway of our hammocks. aaaaaahhhh...

click here to check out the antigravity website and to view a slideshow of all the cool poses we did -- and could have done, if we had more time.

funny how learning to do a handstand led me to imagining, if only for a moment, that i had run off and joined the cirque... me, delusional? mais oui!