- The Method
- Practitioners/Classes and Events
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By Maureen McHugh
One of the appeals of yoga is its large number of interesting and inventive poses, called asanas. While a typical illustrated yoga book for home practice shows 30 asanas, a master practitioner in New York, Dharma Mitra, has photographed himself in 908 positions. He has printed these on a wall chart that measures 6 feet by 4 feet.I came upon this chart one afternoon in the ladies changing room at the Sun & Moon Yoga Studio in Arlington, Virginia. As my eyes passed from one photo to the next, I felt a mounting exhilaration. The sense of discovery and invention was amazing. “What,” I asked myself, “can the Feldenkrais Method®, which also loves inventiveness and versatility, add to this mix?”
The question was relevant because I was at Sun & Moon to teach my own 2 hour workshop combining the Feldenkrais Method and Yoga. It was about to start, and of course, I did have a plan.
The Feldenkrais Method can take the Yogi into the world of the small. I think of this as being analogous to a traveler who has a definite destination but wants more than to just arrive at the specific place. She also wants to get to know the neighborhood that surrounds her destination. She knows from prior journeys that when she makes this effort of knowing, her trip gains depth and intimacy.
As a Feldenkrais® practitioner, I like to take a single yoga pose, identify its components, and explore each in detail. Even over a workshop of two hours, I never feel that we come to the end of discovery. But at the end of the session, the class, and I, will have a deeper appreciation of the gifts of the asana. We will usually feel greater flexibility, stronger groundedness, more energy, and a quieter mind.
I have been teaching workshops on the Feldenkrais Method and yoga in Northern Virginia since January 2001. This Spring I am teaching two, both on Vriksha-asana, Tree Pose. I will share with you how I look at this pose.
Standing Well. Tree Pose is a standing position, and so the first level of search is for an open torso, rooted standing, and easily upright head.
Next I introduce the ribs to its neighbors, the pelvis and head. We explore the kinetic chains that travel from the ribs downward and upward. We sense how a twisting movement, for instance, feels when the each body part connects smoothly to the next, and how the same movement feels when there are interruptions in the chain. Some of these movements are performed on the back, some on the side, and some on the stomach. After this, we rest on the back. Many people notice that they contact the floor more fully, that they feel a new energy inside, and that they feel longer.
While standing we take the movements of raising and lowering the arms and the leg. We look for the sense of the aligned skeleton—all the bones stacked up—as the basis for maintaining balance. We also explore different pathways of raising and lowering the arms. When the balance can survive variety in arm movements, it is indeed well rooted!
Closing. In the last few minutes of the workshop we sit together in a circle, reflect, and share. Then we return to standing, collect our belongings, say good-bye and turn toward the door. Now comes the next search: how to carry the new state onward, into life.