I am still under the influence of Arianne Cohen’s The Tall Book. In keeping with the tall theme, I am mulling over her notes on body differences. In one section, she noted a few differences in tempo (just takes longer to sweep my hands from my sides to above my head given my hands travel farther) and strength (body is heavier, but not proportionally stronger) that gave me an a-hah moment.
Being a 6’+ tall yogi and an internet wonk, I then Googled variants of several phrases including “yoga” and “tall”, and I found nothing helpful. I did see lots of advertisements for longer yoga clothes and a rant by a shorter-stature yoga teacher about talls infringing on the airspace and viewspace of the shorter folk. (Note I would go to the back of the classroom, but it’s really crowded back there and there’s a lot more wingspan space at the front because people avoid it…sorry to be blocking the view).
Arianne’s words finally helped me solidify my positions on certain styles of yoga, given the dearth of info, I thought I’d write it up. In the past, I have found Vinyasa and Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga classes quite challenging in terms of pacing. Now, I feel justified in this, but I suppose it isn’t a critique of the style itself that they are less than tall-friendly, more like a note to self that I would either need to do these on my own in a more stately tempo or else not mind falling farther and farther behind the class (a good exercise in disregarding externalities and working on my competitive nature, I suppose…).
- Vinyasa yoga, in which sequences flow from one position to another, is lovely and dance-like, but I’ve often struggled with its tempo. Essentially, when doing a sun salutation, I’ve often felt like I was rushing to get from one position to another. I barely get into plank and I have to rush headlong into Chaturanga Dandasana and oops, just getting there, and the whole class is already enjoying upward dog. Essentially, I am running behind, challenged by my extra length to maintain the pace of the class and actually spend a moment in each pose. I’ve taken Vinyasa classes at Sun Moon Yoga (where Sondra is beautifully tall and lithe and fleet of yoga pose and disproves my argument a bit, but I’m sticking to it anyway) and A2Yoga. At least now I have a physical excuse for the rushed feeling.
- Ashtanga yoga, in which folks repeat a series each class is wonderful for marking growth because, well, you can mark your progress because you’re doing the same thing over again. I found the sequence quite challenging in terms of strength (lifting myself up in places). Perhaps it was no accident that my old Ashtanga teacher was a powerfully built shorter statured guy. He could do anything at all, floating high while balancing on a finger or two, and I was flailing along, quite grounded as he soared. I am not sure on the naming, but I sometimes see it as Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, and yes it does flow from pose to pose. I have taken Ashtanga classes at A2Yoga.
So, I am brought back to the idea of Iyengar yoga, of which Ann Arbor is a historical bastion, and the Russayog or rope yoga, that I’m currently practicing. They both have a more stately, thoughtful pacing.
- Iyengar yoga is all about alignment, which is good because of my crooked back (scoliosis) and not so much about speed. I have taken Iyengar classes at the Ann Arbor YMCA and Inward Bound. I routinely work with Elise Browning Miller’s Yoga for Scoliosis DVD. Elise is a certified Iyengar yoga teacher.
- Russayog or rope yoga has nice repetition in the classes, so it is both stillness-inducing (I yawn my way through the class, and that’s a compliment), and I can see progress as I go. Some portion of the classes change each time, so there’s also something to keep things fresh. I really like working with the ropes – they are both challenging and forgiving – they can help stabilize me. And, they stretch my back like nothing else. My massage therapist notices if I don’t go! So it must be doing something good for me. I wonder if it also helps that Jasprit is tall, so his classes have a nice tall-friendly pacing.
All of this is a good reminder to be gentle with myself, to not rush in my yoga classes (sometimes during the bal-lila in russayog I do feel rushed, and I just have to claim my own speed and stick to it) and respect who I am and where I am, which is of course, a big part of practicing yoga in the first place.