Have you signed up yet for the meditation workshop with Rich Ray at Bikram Yoga Chelmsford?
Rich Ray was one of my first yoga teachers, almost a decade ago. He taught with a calm intensity that challenged me but put me at ease, and I was always glad when I walked into the studio and saw him welcoming students at the front desk.
Sometimes I’d practice near Rich while another teacher led the class. From my perspective as a new student, his postures up in the front row were visually very impressive. The angles in his Triangle lined up beautifully. He kicked up high in Standing Bow. To me at the time, being “good” at yoga meant doing the postures to their full expression, and so Rich was good at yoga. So good. After class I watched him do extra stretches and headstands with a focused intensity that was almost intimidating.
A year or two into my practice, Rich was teaching, and I heard him say that my wrists should be straight when I grabbed my feet during Floor Bow. I looked in the mirror, and had no idea how to get my (very flexed) wrists straight without my tense hands slipping right off my sweaty feet. I wondered how it was humanly possible to follow that instruction.
So, after class, I drummed up my courage, and I walked out to the front desk and asked the first posture-related question of my whole yoga career. “What do you mean, get my wrists straight? I don’t think I can.”
Rich got down on the floor and showed me how to position my hands over the bones of my foot so that I wasn’t over-grabbing, and yes, I saw how that would straighten my wrists. (Here’s a picture of Rich during the 2010 Yoga Asana Championship, demonstrating a lovely grip during Floor Bow!)
Rich pushed himself back up to a standing position and asked, “Any other questions?”
I thought for a moment.
“Yeah, how did you get to be so good at yoga? You said during class once that you weren’t always able to do what you can do now. How did that change?”
I can’t remember Rich’s exact words, but what he said made a deep impression. He told me that it was when he learned to instantly and fully relax — body and mind — during Savasana between postures that his whole practice changed.
At that point in my own practice, I knew I was supposed to be still during Savasana. I knew that it was a relief to not be exerting myself. But I found the Savasanas between postures to be kind of stressful. All that up and down and turning around, and just when I could perhaps begin to think about catching my breath, I was being told to do another sit-up.
The idea that I could, in 20 sweaty seconds (if that!) find anything resembling full relaxation? I was skeptical.
The notion that it was the relaxation that powered “progress” in someone’s practice? I was intrigued but not entirely sold.
But there’s something about Rich that exudes honesty and a refreshing lack of BS, so I trusted him. I decided to try his ideas on for size.
It only took me a few (yes, frustrating!) months to strengthen my hands and fingers enough to find the grip during Floor Bow that allowed my wrists to straighten. I still sometimes think of Rich when I’m setting up for that posture.
Learning to relax, fully and quickly, body and mind, during Savasana has been a long-term challenge. There are days when it is easier, and days when it is harder. I find it much easier to do during the spine strengthening series (maybe because the contrast between the intense effort of the postures and the release of the relaxation is so stark, maybe because there’s no up-down-turn-around to get through?). Sometimes I move efficiently into a Savasana and instantly melt into it, sometimes I am a slow-motion yoga sloth who just barely settles in before it’s time to sit up again.
But my experience echoes what Rich described. The more fully and instantaneously I can relax my muscles, release the commentary in my mind, let it all go, the more available my body and mind are when it’s time for the next Full Locust, the next Camel pose.
Such great advice.
I was so excited when I heard that Rich Ray is coming to Bikram Yoga Chelmsford on Sunday October 2, 2:30-4:00. He’ll be teaching a workshop called “Awakening the Heart through Practice: Take Your Yoga Practice to the Next Level!”
Rich is an experienced, approachable teacher (learn more about him at his website), and he has so much to offer us, as individual practitioners and as a community. I hope many of you will be able to come to his workshop, and maybe even stay for the 4:30 class afterward!
Please bring a couple of towels to sit on, water, paper & pen and an open mind. Wear loose comfortable clothing. The room will not be heated. Cost of the workshop is $25. You may register at the front desk or by clicking here.
— Ellen Olson-Brown, Bikram Yoga Chelmsford