Monday, June 13, 2011

Feeling the Bliss

The article below was written for Do Restorative Yoga by Diane Kistler, a yoga teacher from Philadelphia, who teaches at Moyo Yoga. Diane writes:

I am just coming off the glow of an amazing Restorative series that we offered at Moyo Yoga in Skippack, PA. I can only hope that the students are sharing this same glow. While exhausting to put together each classes lesson plan, practice and take photos of each pose, and then post the class on the Feeling the Bliss blog, it was well worth the effort.

I digress a bit. My interest in Restorative Yoga began quite innocently. I took a summer retreat at Kripalu with Jillian Pransky. It was titled "Yoga and Nature" or something like that. I was immediately drawn to this practice during the retreat.  I continued to study with Jillian in the fall at Yogaworks with her Restorative Teacher Training Level I & II. Her influences are Erich Schiffman, Judith Lasater, Donna Farhi, Integrated Yoga Therapy, Dr. Ruella Frank, Dr. Herbert Benson and the Relaxation Response and so on. She has a very nurturing, down to earth approach to this practice but is steeped in much knowledge and experience.

Following the training, I was super psyched to try this practice out on others.  Luckily, a few wonderful students at the studio volunteered. We spent several weeks one on one trying out poses, getting feedback, and adjusting where we needed to.  I am grateful to those first few students who trusted me as a newbie.  Now I needed to take more classes myself and feel the practice first hand.  I came up with close to nothing in the Philadelphia area in late 2010.  A few classes but too far away.  I really didn't want this learning and practice to get too far out of my range.  In early spring of this year (2011), I noticed that area yoga studios were now offering weekly classes and monthly workshops.  I've now been able to supplement my training with the experience of the practice itself.  I feel fortunate that there are so many offerings.

I knew the time was ripe to begin a class at Moyo.  Moyo has been offering more and more series so the students can build upon their practices in things like alignment, prenatal and beginners yoga. A series in restorative yoga is the perfect platform because this practice requires building upon "Remembered Wellness" tapping into the Relaxation Response. We organized it to run for 4 weeks with a one hour class each week. We had 10 participants all with a varied health history.* 

I drew up lesson plans for each class and my assistant, Carmen, and I practiced the poses prior to class.  Carmen and I set up 10 stations along the wall (students did not move to other stations).  We had the necessary props for the poses that day.  In addition, we usually had extra blankets, cushions, even Webkinz stuffed animals to place in hands.  Currently, we are somewhat limited in props!  A typical class was comprised of a reflection on the practice, a breath, 3 poses and savasana (ideally).  I followed up with an email to students pointing them to the blog, so they could practice at home.  The blog had the classes poses, the breath, recap of a concept like sankalpa (which they set at the beginning of the series),  seva, or gratitude journaling and links to useful information.

Not everything was perfect.  A few poses were challenging for some students body types, or spinal issues.  After the first pose, the room began to resemble a slumber party as props were moved here and there.  The limited prop situation challenged us.  By far, the biggest complaint from students is that the series was not long enough!  As teachers, Carmen and I learned a lot about observation and letting go.  After getting students settled in a pose, the more active adjustment, we would hang back and observe the students.  When we saw, tension in various areas of the body or someone clearly not comfortable, we may softly say to that person, "Can I do something to make you more comfortable?".  Or sometimes, we did not, because we felt that they wanted to be left alone.  We noted the discomfort, and moving forward would adjust or set-up a pose differently.  All the while storing this information in. We learned so much about our students and about ourselves along the way.

We just completed a Memorial Day workshop and will begin a June series on the 7th.  Just like yoga, this practice and our teaching is always evolving.  Never a dull moment.  Our studio is very interested in continuing a Restorative and Therapeutic  program, which I will develop and lead supported by an awesome team.

A major "shout out" to Sara Duke whom without her heart filled love and joy of Restorative Yoga, I wouldn't have found an awesome model to go by.  I really appreciate that you have provided so much to your students and to fellow teachers.

*Note: for future series, we will request a health history prior to start to customize classes and adjustments to any conditions.

Diane's bio: I've been teaching yoga for over 5 years and a student of yoga for over 13 years. My "niche" is teaching gentle Hatha yoga to many populations. I also teach restorative yoga, senior chair yoga, and prenatal yoga. I've been fortunate to have been able to share my love of yoga with women who've been abused physically, mentally and emotionally. And sometimes my two girls join me in some fantastic yoga adventures at Kripalu. I'm in a really good place now and what a journey it has been. I love what I do and I do what I love. Isn't that cool?

Visit Diane's blog at: Restorative Yoga - Feeling the Bliss.