I love the start of Fall because it brings the beginning of a new session of classes and I love the enthusiasm and energy a new session brings. There are my regular students, glad to be back after a two week break or longer if they’ve been out for the summer connecting with family. There are the new students, a bit anxious about a new teacher and new sequence, and still excited to be there.
I also love the opportunity with a mixed class to return to the basics. As a year progresses and we get caught up in “doing the next thing” or working toward the next level, we tend to lose site of where we came from. I think it is very important to come back to those foundations to review what it is to build the pose from the bottom up.
Sounds tedious, I know, but I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to have a strong, stable and grounded base. If your foundation is solid, your pose will be energetic and engaged and you can focus on working on the subtle energies and alignment rather than teetering around trying to find your outer balance. A strong pose also means less injury.
But what are the basics in an ashtanga or vinyasa practice? Many things. For now, I’m looking at these:
Ujjaiyi breath - breath should be smooth and full. If you are gasping for breath you are perhaps working too hard, if you cannot hear your breath you are perhaps not working hard enough. Try and keep the inhales and exhales equal.
Bandhas - I have been re-thinking the bandha’s since the workshop with Matthew Sweeney. So many types of yoga focus in on “lifting” the bandha’s and “engaging” the bandha’s when perhaps it is not appropriate to do so, especially in such a vigorous practice as a vinyasa flow or ashtanga. So, in coming back to the basics, I have been focusing in on lesser uddiyana bandha - the gentle contraction of the lower abdomen to protect the lower back as we move in and out of the forward folds.
Drishti - where are your eyes during the posture? Find a place to focus the eyes in each and every pose. This means don’t worry about your toes during your forward folds, eyes are looking outward, awareness is inward.
Postures - start each and every pose from the floor up. Build from the hands, feet, and sit bones and work outward from there.
So take this time as the class begins to reassess your postures, your foundations. As one of my favorite instructors likes to say, "Come to class with a beginners mind." and see where it takes you!