Yoga Fusion

I’ve been thinking lately about how I teach, and what I want to teach.  I hope that my practice is ever evolving.  I don’t want to become stagnant in what I offer to my students, or to myself.  That’s why lately, if you’ve been coming to class, you’ve noticed a larger focus on the core.  Core strength, as I’ve been reminded through my own practice, is such an integral part of a complete yoga practice, and one that we shouldn’t ignore.

I’ve had many teachers that I draw experiences from.  Beth and Dyna were my first teachers when I was just starting yoga at the FAC in Shelbyville.  Beth was trained in Ashtanga at Yoga East and Dyna received her certification from YogaFit.  As I looked at the opportunities for learning in the area there just wasn’t much choice there.  It seemed like everyone either went to Yoga East or Eternal Health Yoga in Louisville.  I wanted something different, so that’s why I did mine at Yoga Ah in Cincinnati.

So much of my voice when I started out was a combination of Beth, Dyna, and Amber from Yoga Ah.  I can easily pick cues that I still use today, or things I may say, from each of them.  How I bring people out of savasana is heavily influenced by Beth.  Specific flowing poses I’ve learned only from Dyna.  Alignment cues, the rocket series, and so much more came from Amber.

As I gained more experienced teaching I started taking workshops from some of the best in the country.  I’ve learned Ashtanga from David and Doug Swenson, Iyengar from Rodney Yee and Coleen Saidman, Yin from Sarah Powers, Vinyasa from Sadie Nardini and Kathryn Budig, Baptiste Power Yoga from Lisa Black, and not the least of which is Holly Holland, one of my absolute favorite local teachers.

Whenever I returned from a workshop I’d try to bring back what I learned, and use that to further shape my voice.  I will never forget the first time I took an intensive with Yee in Toronto his insistence that my arms be straight in Warrior A for example.  I thought they were already straight, but I guess not enough.  I hear myself using that cue a lot, and that’s where it came from.

Paul Grilley was my introduction to yin on dvd, but Sarah Powers was my first live training with it.  Bernie Clark continues to be where I draw influence from in his books.  Side note, I love a good yin practice to create balance.

More recently when I had YogaGlo I fell in love with Jason Crandall’s teachings.  So many times I’ve taken classes where we can spend minutes in mountain pose working on the nuances of alignment, and it bores me to no end.  Crandall is very much alignment based, but he doesn’t let that lose the flow.  Half-salutations to get a rhythm going with the breath, lunge salutations, and different variations of half-pigeon are just a fraction of what I’ve learned from him.

All of those experiences I’m drawing on to meld them into my own voice.

If you were at my yoga class a few weeks ago at Norton Commons we practiced with the big stability balls.  I got a lot of good feedback right after class, but I’m mindful that it might not be what some people consider “traditional yoga”.  Much of that class was a combination of what I learned from taking yoga ball with Dyna, P90X2, which I’m working through now, and poses that I made up on my own.

That’s what I’m talking about with yoga fusion.  I’ll take some of what I learned here, a little there, add in some non-traditional moves, and hopefully it stills sounds like me.

P90X2, which I’m loving right now, has such an incredible focus on the core that it’s in just about everything.  You want to do bicep curls?  Lift one foot off the ground.  Working on tricep kickbacks?  Do them in a lunge.  Now does that mean we’re going to start adding dumbbell presses in a lunge flow sequence, or pushups with med balls?  Not at all. But I am going to take Warrior C, combine it with an oblique crunch, and it’s going to flow.

I’ve been adding these core moves in for about the last month, and I’ve already noticed progress on some inversions.  I just watched one of them lift in to tripod headstand last night with nary a shaky leg or wobbly arm in sight.  That takes focus, and core strength to do safely.

I like the direction this is heading, how I feel about it, the progress I’m seeing, so I’m going to keep working on this approach.  Maybe someday it’ll formally be listed on the calendar as yoga fusion.  For now, let’s see where this takes us.

P90X2 = Yoga + Weights?

I’m halfway through week one on P90X2, and so far I love it.  Tony has managed to combine yoga poses, cardio and weight training into a program that’s very different from the first P90X.

On Saturday the first workout was X2 Core, and I was literally smiling as I went through it.  So many of the balance moves are traditional yoga poses with a little something added, and they really wouldn’t be out of place in a vinyasa type practice.  For example on one set you begin in Warrior C, and as you come back up that back knee gets pulled into the chest with the opposite elbow twisted to the outside of the knee.  Then it’s back down to Warrior C to begin again.  It takes focus, and core engagement to not fall out of that.

Sunday was plyocide, and I liked this one more than plyometrics from the first P90X. Yes, its still jump training, but it felt like it wasn’t as in your face.  Not sure how to describe it.  I’ll have to revisit this one.

Monday was either a rest day, or X2 Mobility and Stretch.  I decided to take the rest.  The little bit of foam rolling I had done on my triceps the day before during warmup had done a number on me, and so had plyocide for that matter.

Yesterday was X2 Total Body and X2 Ab Ripper.  Again we’re back to adding weight lifting in yoga poses, so I was pretty happy.  Preacher curls in Warrior C, shoulder presses in alternating leg lunges, and swimmer’s curl presses in a one-legged chair pose are just a fraction that combine yoga with weights to increase the difficulty with core engagement.

One movement that is going to take a lot of practice to be more comfortable in is pushup to side plank on medicine balls.  The pushup part on the balls is actually not that difficult, but adding that extra layer of balance to side plank is just killer.  I had to modify that one quite a bit yesterday by dropping a knee to the floor when going to the side.

X2 Ab Ripper follows the last workout, so you’re looking at 80 minutes for the day.  Again the theme here is it’s effective, but very different from P90X.  You’ll hold moves longer, and won’t do as many crunches.  So for the yoga audience you’ll know how to get in boat pose.  Start there, hug your side ribs, lower down your legs and back to where you can hold, and twist your torso enough that maybe that elbow touches the floor.  Hold for a couple breaths, then repeat on the other side.  It’s a slow burn that doesn’t happen right away, but it’s extremely effective. Get ready to see that one in an upcoming class soon.

As yogis we know the benefits of a focused practice where you need to engage the core to safely move through class.  This is absolutely not a replacement for a regular yoga practice, but it does make for an interesting program to see these poses incorporated with weight training the way that they’ve been.  I’ll update again once I’ve completed more of the workouts.