Thursday, July 10, 2008

Yoga Cross-Training

The last two months have been incredibly busy, finishing a book with celebrity natural foods chef Bethenny Frankel, dealing with end of school and summer vacation with the kids (who make working at home very difficult because they are so bored), and generally transitioning from spring to summer. But as I've been dealing with all this, I've also confronted a new situation.

I've been studying Iyengar yoga with Nancy Footner at Friendship Yoga for a couple of years now, and I really love it. It has done amazing things for me, physically and mentally. It is a precise and disciplined form of yoga, something that is very balancing for me and my freestyle way of living.

But recently, my friend Rachel Klapper became certified as a yoga teacher and is now studying Anusara yoga. She is teaching a class at Heartland Yoga in Iowa City, and since she is my BFF, of course I am taking her class. I enjoy the emotional openness of Anusara and the different way this form describes alignment principles, in spirals and loops. Add to that the fact that my friend Amy Martin, a spinning teacher at The Core (a local gym), likes me to go with her to her friend Martha Gordon's class. Martha is very advanced in the Barkan Method of yoga, and does a modified (not very hot) version at the gym on Saturday mornings. This form is a real muscle work-out, something I need to work on because I tend to be hyper-flexible (Anusara would call it "organic") more than strong, and the Barkan routine is very strengthening in just the ways I require.

So here I am, studying two-and-a-half forms of yoga at the same time--similar but also very different forms. I wouldn't say I'm struggling with this, but just that I find it interesting because all these forms and teachers are so different, yet in many ways, so alike (it is all yoga, after all). I have to remember where I am when doing, say, adho mukha svanasana (downward facing dog), because the cues from my three teachers are not the same. I'm thinking about what this means for my practice. I've always resisted labels and tried to stay out of the mainstream so in this way, I like this situation. I feel like I have a birds-eye view and can see more clearly, rather than becoming narrow and evangelical about any one form. On the other hand, will I really ever become well versed in yoga, if I never commit to a style? Or, will one style eventually come out on top and the others will fade off my radar? It's a question. I'm thinking of writing an article about it.

Meanwhile, I'll be taking both Iyengar and Anusara classes when I attend the Yoga Journal conference in Estes Park this September (no Barkan available). Maybe that experience will help crystallize what this yoga cross-training really means for me and my practice.

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