Last week I experienced a huge win while teaching my Wednesday night Intro to Yoga class.
I have been teaching Intro to Yoga for 6 years. I have re-written the curriculum three times, trained numerous teachers to share it, and this spring it is undergoing it is fourth reincarnation.
The Intro includes all of the basic poses of yoga: downward dog, plank, lunges, Warrior poses, bridge, etc. Over the years I have learned how to integrate props into the class, making the poses more doable for more people. I have learned how to sequence the classes in a step-by-step way, introducing the poses and transitions slowly over time.
But something was still missing.
People who found certain poses challenging, for example a lunge, would come up into the lunge and wobble side to side. Their balance might improve a bit from week to week as they tried it again and again, but I noticed it would usually take the wobbliest students several months before they started to seem steadier in their lunge pose.
Do people get better at doing lunges by doing lunges? Or is there a way to strengthen or wake up the muscles first to make a lunge more doable?
This was my win. I have been learning so much in the past few months from teachers Kathryn Bruni-Young and Cecily Milne. Kathryn came to our studio in March to share her approach with our teacher trainers, and I follow Cecily’s work online. Both of these teachers bring a progressive and precise approach to yoga and movement, sharing targeted exercises that encourage often overlooked muscle groups to wake up and participate in yoga poses and other movements.
I had learned some exercises from Kathryn targeting the outer hip. And Leena my co-director had shown me an exercise she was teaching in her Yoga for Dynamic Aging course. I worked these into my Intro to Yoga course, and in the second week after trying these exercises, everyone came up into a lunge.
Not a single wobble. Everyone was steady. Every single person, even those who had been wobbly in their lunges the previous week, were now holding their poses with steadiness and stability. What a win.
I commented on this, asked them if they noticed a difference, and many of them nodded enthusiastically. One person nodded so hard they tipped out of their pose. They caught themselves and we all chuckled together.
I feel so grateful that yoga is continuing to evolve and grow, and that I am continuing to learn so much about how our incredible human bodies work and move. All of the teachers at QSY share this same enthusiasm and curiosity for continuous learning, and we are excited to introduce some new courses and classes we have developed, incorporating much of this new learning.
Carin has been teaching at the studio for many years, and she has done a deep dive into new movement research and come out with so many creative tips and tricks. These have expanded into a zone that’s a little broader than conventional yoga, which is why in July we will be re-imagining Carin’s Saturday class as a new drop-in class called Yoga Playground for Grown-Ups. Carin’s playful spirit (fed by the fact that she parents three children under the age of 9) will be let loose in this class to re-imagine yoga as a field to explore and adventure in. Don’t worry, there will be no singing, clapping or games in this playground. Just curious, interesting movement. It’s for grown-ups. 😉
Kris and Leena have been re-envisioning Expanding Flow and are switching things up to offer a new drop-in class called Strength & Flow. These classes will combine more strengthening and functional movement with yoga. We want to ensure that we have a class on the schedule in which people can feel like they really get warmed up and build strength, but also focus less on complex poses. QSY teachers are less interested in these poses in the past few years because we don’t think they are that useful off the mat (unless you want to look really fancy on Instagram). You’ll still see the occasional handstand and possibly an arm balance here or there, but the focus of Strength & Flow will be in the enjoyment of consistent, warming, progressively strengthening movement.
Kris will also be offering an outdoor course at Bluevale Collegiate in Waterloo. Outdoor Strength & Yoga is for those who may have felt intimidated by strength training, but want to learn in a kind, inclusive environment. The class will meet at a public fitness area and you’ll get to try hanging from bars, and progressing slowly towards pull-ups and push-ups.
And I will be turning my efforts to Intro Level 2, incorporating these new learnings into that course, and also creating a new course called Body-Positive Yoga. It is so important to me that yoga feels like a welcoming space for every body. What would it look like to participate in a space where you know that everyone is working to hold a non-judgemental attitude and kindness towards their bodies? We aim to cultivate this in every class at Queen Street Yoga, but sometimes it can help to create spaces where the intentions are explicit.
I hope you enjoy the new offerings we have created! This is just the beginning. Stay tuned for exciting developments in the fall.
Emma Dines is the creative director of Queen Street Yoga. She loves writing, visiting thrift stores and going for walks in the woods. She also loves cartwheeling, sewing and making her own kimchi.