Wednesday, October 1, 2008

An insightful class with Julie Lawrence!

My friend Care, a fellow Iyengar Yogi invited me to attend a level 3 class with Julie Lawrence, director of the Julie Lawrence Yoga Center in Portland. Julie has been teaching Iyengar yoga for a very long time and many of my teachers were her students. Wednesday nights are becoming my yoga adventure nights; to try a different class with a different teacher. This class was quite different and Julie is a legend amongst the Iyengar Yoga teachers in the community.

The class was packed. Her yoga center is in the heart of downtown Portland near the Max-line, packed with restaurants, including my favorite Indian called East India Grill. It was a warm evening, probably the last warm evening of fall and the windows were open and you could hear the hustle and bustle outside as it was end of the day office hour and the restaurants were turning on their stoves with the wonderful smell of food being cooked gently floating in...

Julie had a sign up on a small whiteboard in front of the class. It had a quote from Yoga Sutras about friendship. She asked the class to make that the theme of the class this week. The invocation was done in Virsasana style and this pose was carried through many of the initial poses in the class. Additionally we performed an Adho Mukha Svanasana with arms flat in the Pinch Mayurasana form. All in preparation for poses such as Eka Pada Bhekasana (one legged frog pose).

I had a stiff neck and stiff upper back from an introductory personal training session at the gym- yes I am back on the dark side again to improve my fitness level, strength and cardio vascular training. Just a kick in the pants to get me back on my walking track.

I couldn't get into Adho mukha Vriksana, but I did get into Pinch Mayurasana twice. Julie's instructions were similar to Jen's on how to position your index finger and thumb on the blocks, along with rolling your wrists from the outside to inside. Up I went, but no balancing. Push your feet together .. I heard in the background. That's hard with my tightness.

We then migrated to Supta Virasana which I did just fine. There was not much adjustment needed and then onto the One Legged Frog Pose. That was my first time in this pose. I think I got a real appreciation of being able to push the sacrum down while raising yourself in that interesting contortion. Then it was onto Dhanursana - back bend. One of my readers mentioned that back bends connect you to your past as it gives you a chance to observe your past while you are in back bends.

In that moment I was so sweaty and exhausted, I was really only focused in the present. Julie said earlier yoga helps you be in the present - that made so much sense as I didn't seem to have any connection to my past. I wasn't thinking much in the class and neither was I feeling the pressure to grunt or groan or not. It was a challenging class, but I didn't feel like I needed to prove anything to anyone, including myself.

I was truly feeling myself and enjoying every moment of the warm breeze flowing in from the open windows. I was reminded of RIMYI, in Pune with the open windows with a lot less noise. But who cares about the noise - this is just part of the ambiance... there was no focus on the noise, external or internal as it really didn't matter. I was more focused on enjoying the poses and the pain that you are in when you are in long virasana position. Wait! Wasn't that mentioned in the sutra at the start of the class?

The last major pose was Halasana (with some variations). Since I had to use the chair, I couldn't do the variations. It was harder than usual, as my upper back was really hurting and I had frequently bend my knees which needed correction from Julie. She walked the whole class and there were lots of questions being asked. Once out of Halasana we went into a longer than normal Shavasana.

My eyes couldn't shut initially, so I just stared with a blank mind in the darkness and eventually the eyes shut. I was not asleep but I was out - I didn't hear the bell ring. It was very quiet. Julie then chanted another heart warming sanskrit shloka.. I don't recall all the words, but the last few were Bhavantu, Om Shanti, Om Shanti, Om Shanti! Peace is what that implies and peace is what I got at the end...

I enjoyed the class very much. Julie invited me to come back again which I will. My friend Care and I then walked across the street to the best Indian restaurant in town and I broke my 3 day vegetarian diet with my favorite Rogan Josh.

The lesson I learnt that evening was that being yourself is the best thing you can do for you. By focusing on yourself, you empower yourself to be who you are and try not to be who you are not. I realized that I have to strive to be present in the moment and not worry too much about the past, though I cannot forget my past. Being in the present means being surrounded by what helps you to who you are and not what others expect you to be. That is what yoga teaches you the most - Just Be Yourself! Thank you Julie Lawrence, I will be back! For more information on her yoga center visit


The Yogi

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