I had a fascinating discussion with a practitioner recently. This gal doesn’t come to my classes but prefers the Iyengar and Hatha based classes the studio offers. She explained to me that while she enjoys the flow of a Vinyasa and Ashtanga class she finds that she has a tendency to injure herself because it brings out her competitive side and so avoids those classes. I completely understand; it is hard to step back and say I don’t have to keep up with flexy-bendy chick in the corner or muscle-dude in the front row because you don’t want to appear to be weak to the rest of the class (yes, yes, an ego discussion is a whole different topic…).
However, her most interesting question was: How do you teach ‘flow’? I admit I was speechless for a moment. Indeed, how does one teach ‘flow’ to a class?
Well, first there is the basic definition:
(from About.com by Ann Pizer) Vinyasa Flow Yoga combines flowing postures with rhythmic breathing for an integrated body-mind workout. Nyasa means "to place" and vi means "in a special way." The entire sequence is structured to gently stretch while building strength and toning muscles through a variety of standing and seated postures. A good class format will incorporate alignment, modifications, and breath work that is appropriate for all levels of practitioners.
The word Vinyasa means “breath-synchronized movement.” In other words, the teacher will instruct you to move from one pose to the next on an inhale or an exhale. This technique is sometimes also called Vinyasa Flow, or just Flow because of the smooth way that the poses run together and become like a dance.
And then we can become more specialized with Anusara, Sadhana Chi, Shakti, and other styles.
But the question remains, how does one teach a class how to move with the breath in a fluid manner? CAN it be taught? Is this something that is intuitive in some and not others? Is it a matter of saying to the ego, “no, you are not part of this class”? Can you teach someone to let go and just ‘flow’?
One thing I'm trying with my classes is a "ratcheting back" concept, to work at 75-90% rather than 100-110% because what I've observed is the tendency to "muscle" or "power" one's way through a session. If you are muscling/powering your way through a session, are you really flowing? Are you moving lightly and with thoughtfulness from one posture to the next or are you more concerned with getting as "deep" into the posture as possible? Are you letting the breath and body dictate where you need to go on that particular day?
So I bring the question to the blogworld - how does one teach flow?