Sunday, September 22, 2013

Yoga Class with Rodney Yee and Colleen Saidman-Yee - Yoga on High

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to take a yoga class taught by well known yoga instructors, Rodney Yee and Colleen Saidman-Yee through the Columbus yoga studio, Yoga on High.  This was the fourth year the couple has offered this class in Columbus and the second time I have attended.  

If you practice yoga using videos or DVDs from Gaiam, you may be familiar with Rodney and Colleen.  Even though I am certified to teach yoga (I am not currently teaching, but I used to teach kids yoga) and am familiar with many poses and sequences, I still prefer to have someone, even if it's a person on the television, telling me what to do when it comes to nearly any form of exercise... I'm not an athlete but I respond well to clear instruction!  I recommend Rodney's 15 Minute Results Yoga and Rodney and Colleen's AM/PM Yoga For Beginners.  They are both suitable for yoga beginners, be sure to always watch a fitness video from start to finish before you begin exercising, it'll help you avoid a lot of confusion the first time you practice!

If you plan to attend the class next year, I definitely recommend trying one of their videos at least a few times before you go.  A lot of yogis have different terms they use for certain poses and movements and it's a lot easier if you are familiar with those terms (and 'yoga speak' as I call it!) before you attend a class.  

Rodney and Colleen's yoga class here in Columbus is open to yoga students of all levels, with new beginners being the only exception.  Each year the class is different, last year the focus was on sun salutations and we completed 108 (some were modifications of the series of poses)!  It was a great class and the biggest yoga class I had ever attended before - the three oms we chanted at the beginning and end of the class were fantastic!

I was a little nervous about attending this year - my summer was very busy and I stopped making time for my yoga practice at home when work became hectic.  I worried that I wouldn't be able to keep up and would embarrass myself in front of a room full of strangers and two of my favorite celebrity yoga instructors!  

With a little encouragement from Kenneth (ok, a lot, I was really nervous this year!), I made it to the class.  Last year the class was held in a dance studio at Ballet Met.  The room was huge and I'd estimate there were about one hundred yogis who attended.  Despite the large class, we all had plenty of space!  This year the class was held in a meeting room at the Columbus Convention Center.  It looked like there were fewer people in attendance this year and the room was much smaller.  We were packed in pretty tight - my yoga mat had about four inches between it and the mats of my neighbors on either side of me.  It wasn't ideal, but Rodney and Colleen were laid back about it and made jokes about the closeness during some awkward transitions from one pose to the other.  It lightened the mood tremendously when we all found ourselves uncomfortably close to the 'asana' of the person if front of us during the pose, wide-legged forward bend!

This year the theme of the class was opening, lengthening and extending the side body (the space along your side between your armpit and your hip).  I feel this area has been largely ignored in my personal practice so I was grateful for something new and different!

Colleen led the beginning of the practice by having everyone sit comfortably and notice how we felt in our body.  It was a meditative practice where we were just meant to notice, not to change, how we were sitting, breathing and if our mind wandered at all.  

Colleen also led the beginning postures and sequences, about halfway through Rodney took over and led the rest of the sequences until we came to the final meditation and savasana.  During the class, current Yoga on High teacher trainees, joined by Colleen and Rodney when they were not leading the class, moved through the room, giving helpful adjustments.  To someone who doesn't practice yoga, an 'adjustment' probably sounds weird, it's not though!  An adjustment in yoga is when the instructor or assistant physically corrects a students' body in a pose.  This might be as simple as them placing their hands lightly on the student's back to remind them to straighten or pull their shoulders away from your ears, or it might be more involved, like when the instructor helps a student come into a hand or headstand by partially supporting the students' weight.  Sometimes an adjustment can allow a student to fully come into a pose that they are not yet able to do on their own - which is wonderful!  

Some of the poses we explored in the class included: triangle, cobra, hero, extended side angle, cat-cow, downward dog, reclining leg lift, intense side stretch, wide legged forward bend, cobbler's pose, pigeon, reverse tabletop, plank, side plank, tree, warrior three and wheel.  If you are interested in learning more about any of these poses, or just seeing a photo of what they look like, Yoga Journal has an online Pose Finder.

My nervousness about the class was completely unjustified!  I was able to keep up with the speed of the class and the only poses I had difficulty with were poses I have always had problems with, regardless of how regularly I have been practicing.  A friend who also practices yoga reminded me recently that our personal yoga practice is fluid, we will not always be at the same level of flexibility and strength, and that level will wax and wane over the years.  Something I have a hard time remembering to do is to not judge myself for where I am in my practice, but to keep practicing!  The benefits of just doing yoga far outweigh my ability or lack thereof to hold a pose for a certain amount of time, or how far I can stretch in another.  It's about the practice itself, not how 'well' I do it.  That's essential to having a happy yoga practice and one of the hardest things to do (that and chaturanga dandasana, that pose is hard!)!

I'm really glad I attended the class!  Rodney and Colleen were great, very personable and down to earth!  They gave adjustments to all of the students who wanted one (it's completely optional) and I left the class feeling calm, open and refreshed!