The SomerJill Yoga Tour of 2018 is officially underway. I made the first stop over the weekend and I know I’ll reap all sorts of benefits from this adventure. Every chance I can step out of routine, each moment I can change something, however small, makes me feel like I am growing. It’s invigorating.
Tour Stop: Down Under School of Yoga, Brookline
Date: Saturday, January 13
Instructor: Gregor Singleton
Practice Pal: Mike
Down Under School of Yoga has three locations in the Boston area: Brookline, Newton, and―following the absorption of Baptiste in Porter Square over the summer—Cambridge. With all that space, they can offer loads of classes and class types over the course of the week. To my knowledge, they provide their teachers with the most comprehensive benefits in the area: sick time, retirement contribution matching, competitive pay, health care, etc. The studio spaces are bright, airy, and impeccably organized.
What I observed: First, diversity. There were about thirty students in the class, of various colors, ages, sizes, and abilities. There was also a warm sense of community, as many students greeted each other by name, and exchanged hugs. I chatted with the students on either side of me, both strangers, just because we were all happy to be doing the yoga thing together. When students are familiar and comfortable with their instructor, there is a dialogue of sorts that takes place during class. I witnessed that at DU. Only Gregor was speaking, of course, but students offered up murmuring, nonverbal responses: little waves of sighs, pockets of giggles, pulses of contented hums.
What I liked: Gregor is a native of Scotland and apparently studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. The man knows how to orate, and he spun colorful analogies in his rumbly brogue throughout class. Many phrases were used to remind students that we are in charge of our own practice and can create the experience that is best for each of us. I particularly liked the phrase, “allow yourself the liberty of arranging the body,” i.e. taking enough time to set up your best version of a particular posture.
Mike pointed out a nice balance between static postures and fluid movement. We took some sweeping arm movements in crescent after having held the lunge for a few breaths; we arced back and forth between reverse warrior and side angle after having sat still in both postures earlier in class.
What I missed: I didn’t hear much Sanskrit, nor many cues regarding proper anatomical alignment. If you didn’t know what you were doing, you’d be reliant on your neighbors. The class was a series of discrete asanas, rather than a flowing sequence linked with transitions. There was very little cuing of the inhales and exhales, and as someone who usually tries not to take any movement unless its matched with an in-breath or out-breath, I found this jarring and discombobulating. One of the challenges of generic “all levels” classes is that they are sometimes taught to the lowest common denominator. Gregor gave us permission to take deeper versions of some postures, but mostly didn’t explain what those deeper versions might be. There were no arm balances, and no inversions until the very end of class when he allowed students to take salamba sarvangasana (shoulder stand) if they so chose.
Recommended for: Yogis who have been practicing long enough to know how to safely enter a pose just from hearing its name cued. Yogis who can take care of themselves on the mat, and are seeking a straight-forward weekend practice built upon standard, uncomplicated postures.
Would I return? You betcha. Good vibes.
[Image courtesy Down Under School of Yoga.]