good morning! i hope you’re well and enjoying this beautiful weather we’ve been having – long, warm days that bleed into soft evenings of flickering fireflies, giving way to the coolness of dawn and the promise of a new day. it has been lovely indeed. and feelings of gratitude and fullness have occupied much of my awareness and heart space.
i am writing to you because i recently pulled together a themed yoga class that was well-received, fun and illuminating. the theme was a “backwards” yoga class! what does that mean? well, it was interesting because i promo’ed this class on facebook (as i do most of my classes) and a few readers came to class expecting a backbend themed class (quite understandable). but, it was not meant to be that. instead, we did a typical lisa d yoga class, except, in reverse…..
here’s how it began. me: ok, everyone, come to a comfortable seated position at the top of your mat. take a big inhale, in through your nose, exhale, out your mouth. now, join me in singing the shanti prayer, if you wish. “i want everyone, in all the world, to be happy. shanti, shanti, shanti.” good. now let’s come into savasana/final relaxation…..
yup, we did it like that!
after one of these backwards classes, a yoga student (hi zach), said to me, you know, lisa, i wasn’t to sure about this…..singing at the beginning of class and savasana. i’m kinda resistant to change. but, when you’re leading class, i trust the journey you take us on. and i relaxed.
and, that’s the thing about doing these uniquely themed classes. i know my audience. they know me, for the most part. i offer most of these themed classes at cityoga, where i’ve been teaching for years – so, i have regular students that i see on a consistent basis. i’ve watched their practice. they know how i guide a class. they are familiar with my style. these type of classes would be difficult, and not particularly recommended, to try to pull off in a class full of beginners or new students with whom you are not familiar. also, as an instructor, we must be meticulous about sequencing the poses, especially when they are taught in an unconventional order of format. we must always make sure that the muscles we are asking our students to stretch, are muscles that we have prepared for stretching, through breath, awareness,proper sequencing and warm ups.
that being said, the backwards class went from a breath and the shanti prayer to a real 8+ minute long savasana with eye pillows and guided progressive full body relaxation and silence; and ended by ringing the tibetan singing bowl three times. then, we did sequences of reclined poses, like twists and hip openers, moving into shoulderstand, plow, bridge and fish (one of my favorite combos of closing poses, in this case, opening poses :)). currently, i am really into repeating poses and sequences, so, we did all of the above, twice.
we then shifted up into seated poses, like, bound angle, seated twists, head to knee pose, inclined planes, pigeon poses. about two-thirds of the way through the class, we did our first down dog and standing poses. we proceeded through sun salutations and slid into our usual warm up or centering poses, now formatted at the end of our time together – we closed with an invitation to breathe, find your center, set an intention – and finally, legs up the wall pose to close the class. because we had scooted our mats to the wall for legs up the wall pose, after 5 minutes or so of holding the pose, we all sat upright, faced the center of the room. at this point, we were in a circle (i love teaching classes in a circle, and believe that that format is an under-utilized way of creating a sense of inclusion in a yoga class) – anyhow, in a circle, we closed our time together with one more breath all together and the shanti prayer (again). backwards class, good stuff!
during the class, i shared a few quotes about backwardness that i gleaned from the internet. here’s one from lewis carroll, “it’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards.” and from kierkegaard, “life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.”
finally, i wanted to create a playlist of “directional” songs for the backwards class – songs having to do with, backwards, forwards, up, down, top, bottom, north, south, east, west, etc. but, that was hard, and i was getting stumped. so, instead, i made a fun playlist that people seemed to enjoy. here it is – i called it: rainy spring friday.
1. the canyon – a.r. rahman
2. liberation begins – a.r. rahman
3. touch of the sun – a.r. rahman
4. new star in the sky – air
5. within you without you – alan lorber orchestra
6. lost in marrakesh – ancient astronauts
7. minara – niyaz
8. agbalagba – angelique kidjo
9. 32 flavors – ani difranco
10. central reservation – beth orton
11. never turn your back on mother earth – neko case
12. gayatri mantra – adham shaikh
13. ai du – ali farka toure/ry cooder
14. black river – amos lee
15. djorolen – bela fleck
that’s all for now! hope to see you in class soon. peace and love, lisa d