Charlotte is the home of "get your ass kicked & handed back to you by your teacher" yoga. There are a few souls who don't roll that way, but when you mention the big names and the successful studios, their bread and butter is ass kicking. I enjoy a good ass kicking mysef and I was trained by my mentors to hand them out to my students on a daily basis.
Before I moved to Charlotte, I was a die hard Ashtangi. Ashtanga allowed me to experience moving meditation & to challenge my body at the same time. I left class feeling rejuvenated and like I could take on the world. Yoga in Atlanta was my first experience with the feeling of getting high off yoga.
I didn't realize that I had totally lost that feeling until I practiced with Rod Stryker this weekend at Yoga One. We did about 2 hours of about 10-15 of the most basic yoga poses known to man...over and over and over and over....2 hours. There were no standing splits, handstands, or flip dogs. There was no Kanye West, Snow Patrol or even Krishna Das playing over the speakers. The room was not at a sunny 100 degrees, as a matter of fact, the doors to the studio were open &, gasp, fresh air was blowing in.
I left there feeling so high that I didn't even need my afternoon cup of coffee. I practiced with him at 9 :30AM that morning and the feeling lasted all the way until I went to bed that night. Shoot, I still feel it now just writing this post. I felt burst open. And it wasn't just me, I spoke to one of my fellow yoga teachers later that day who attended and she said she felt the exactly the same way.
Why did it happen? Intelligent Sequencing+focus+pranayama. We literally did pranayama, breath work, for the full two hour practice. I am not talking about Ujjayi either. I am talking about breath retentions, Kapalabhati, & lengthening of the exhales. We did algebra with our breath. We did two part inhale, two part retention, two part, inhale two part retention to 6 part exhales. My head is spinning right now thinking about it but he made it so seamless and fluid that when you reached that state of emptiness, stillness and meditation, it was spontaneous and unexpected. It was like driving down a smelly, crowded, grey interstate and then unexpectedly passing a field of beautiful yellow wild flowers that take your breath away.
The poses were just a tricky way of getting to the pranayama. The practice was about riding the breath to full consciousness. I had to focus so intently to do the breathing that I experienced almost two hours(I got distracted during a few points, I won't lie) of no mind. The total relief of it burst forth as euphoria. I didn't know that my thoughts had weighed me down to that extent!
Rod Styker reminded me that yoga was a science. That every pose,breath and technique effects the body & mind in a way that can be scientifically documented. The yoga is then sequenced to get the desired effect. He explained to us that the Saturday morning practice was not about strengthening, or toning. He was not there to give us our normal kick ass Charlotte variety class. That it was about placing us in a place where we would be open to a state of meditation & that is exactly what he did.
The ultimate goal of Yoga is to go beyond our conditioning and self imposed roles and get to the stillness that lies deep within us all. This is our true nature. To do that, we have to go beyond physicality. Beyond chair pose, the play list, the thermostat, & cool yoga clothes. Instead of using yoga to reinforce our current patterns, we have to go beyond what we think we know & use it to burst through to higher realms of being.
I am thankful to Rod Stryker for giving me back my yoga high & reminding of what yoga truly is.