One of my YTT assignments was to attend one class in three different styles and write a mini-report on each. Below is my summary of each of the classes I attended.
CorePower Yoga 1.5
This was a free class that is taught every Thursday at one of the local CorePower studios in downtown Denver. CorePower is a popular studio in Colorado, with 19 studios across the state. I have taken this class before, mainly because a lot of my friends take it and I sometimes like to practice with them. The studio itself has a very corporate feel to it: modern building, clean facilities, yoga shop in the lobby area, and a large bathroom/changing area. The style of yoga taught at CorePower is a form of power/vinyasa in a heated room. I think most, if not all, their classes are heated. With the success of CorePower and similar studios (YogaWorks in CA), I imagine that this style of yoga is becoming very popular and predominant in the US and I believe it is for these primary reasons: (1) people sweat due to the heat and difficult sequences and feel like they get a great work out, (2) the accessibility of such studios (seems like there is one on every corner in Denver).
When I first started practicing over 3 yrs ago, I practiced a lot of power yoga (Bryan Kest) and I loved it for the same reasons noted above: I sweated profusely, burned off calories, released toxins, and felt amazing by the end of class. I also enjoyed the energy I got from a full, packed class room. As I grew in my practice, I began to gravitate towards other styles that provided me with a deeper experience. Today, I really enjoy practicing on my own, something I would have never done 1-2 years ago.
In this form of yoga, a lot of the traditions have been lost, and the focus is primarily on the asana. There was no chanting in this particular class, and from what I’ve observed, any classes at CorePower. Some of the beginning, warm-up sequencing is similar to ashtanga (Surya A/B). The teacher stopped class and broke down 3 poses during the 1 hour class: chaturanga dandasana, triangle pose, and parsva bakasana. I did enjoy his style - very playful and he took time to break down the alignment and nuance of three varying level poses.
For reasons noted above, I enjoy other studios and teachers to CorePower (power yoga) but I do see why the masses are attracted to this style.
This was my first Jivamukti class. Jivamukti is a style of yoga developed by David Life and Sharon Gannon - both of which studied with Pattabhi Jois, so there are some distinct similarities with Ashtanga: chanting before starting the asana practice, similar sequencing / variations on Surya A and B to start class. Jivamukti means “liberation from separation.”
There is certainly a distinct contrast in this studio (Amala) vs. CorePower. It is a small room, located on the 2nd floor of an older building. Nothing fancy at all, just a quiet room with a hard wood floor to practice yoga in. Another observation is the type of student that attends - Amala seems to attract an older demographic, whereas CorePower is much younger.
When speaking with the instructor after class, she noted that there were a couple of things that define Jivamukti yoga. The first is chanting, which happens before and at the end of the asana practice, and even sometimes during. The second is a focus or theme, which changes monthly and is provided by David and Shannon via the Jivamukti website. The chants and asana themes during each class revolve around this monthly focus. So all the classes say in August, will revolve around this month’s theme, which is “Living Wild”. Each teacher is open to interpret the theme into their style.
In my opinion, Jivamukti is certainly a more developed style (relative to CorePower) that incorporates teachings from various philosophies (ashtanga, pranayama, chanting, scripture readings). There was certainly more of a focus on the breath, and using the breath to get deeper into each of the poses. In addition, the instructor would speak and share about how to apply the yoga and learnings from the theme off the mat, connecting the theme of the class to not only the asanas but to the real world. It was the asana practice that drew me in, but as I grow in my practice, I find myself drawn to the other arms of yoga.
I very much enjoyed this class and will certainly be back.
Guided Ashtanga & Mysore
I decided to write about Ashtanga as my third style as I don’t have a ton of experience with it and it’s only natural since the training I will be receiving in Thailand is strongly rooted in Ashtanga. The majority of my Ashtanga practice, up until now, was done alone, via a Richard Freeman CD at home. This last week, I ventured out and found a great local Ashtanga teacher, Joan Isbell. Joan is authorized by Sharath Jois to teach ashtanga . I took her guided class last Sunday and did a Mysore practice this morning. My plan is to do the guided class on Sunday, and at least two Mysore classes during the week.
This class was also located in the small, quaint room at Amala (studio noted above). It’s interesting that when you look up yoga classes in Denver, you get hundreds of listings for CorePower, vinyasa, Anusara, and other styles that are essentially children of ashtanga, but you only find one studio that has guided ashtanga and mysore classes. I know Richard Freeman has a popular studio in Boulder, but it’s a drive for me.
So I will start with the guided class— as always we start the Ashtanga chant, paying tribute to those teachers that have come before us before working into the primary series sequence. What strikes me about Ashtanga is a complete focus on aligning breath with movement. To do the series correctly, there is a right way of breathing to move from one position to the next. I will admit, it’s challenging but I enjoy it. I realized two things: I need to practice more, and I need to practice with an Ashtanga teacher. I realize that by practicing, and through repetition, the sequencing will become familiar and second nature to me.
During class Joan gave adjustments to ensure everyone was doing the sequence correctly and was properly aligned in each pose. For example, in Surya A Ekam, I was not gazing in the correct position (at my thumbs). During the 1.5 hours, we worked through the entire ashtanga primary series with Joan’s instruction. At the end of class Joan chanted for us during savasana.
I left class feeling that ashtanga is really, really hard, and I may not be cut out for this. Lots of self doubt arose from that class and I was being really hard on myself. But after reflection, I realize that it is hard for a reason. Through the most difficult challenges comes the most growth. I am certainly up for the challenge.
The mysore class today was also great eye opener, as it made me realize that even though I have a long road ahead of me, I have help and support. Joan again was the teacher, and in the Mysore setting she is basically there for support, guidance, and adjustments - in her own words, “I’m here to help when you get stuck” and will provide specific areas to focus on. Everyone is working through whatever series they are on, at their own pace. For me, I have Surya A and B down pretty good, and am now working on the standing sequence. Joan had me work solely on Surya A, B, and the standing sequence, and says we can add to it once I master those three.
What I really enjoy about Mysore is how personal it is. What initially turned me away from ashtanga was that I felt it was too cold, too impersonal. As I’m learning quickly, this methodology is probably the MOST personal, especially in the mysore setting.