Peter Sterios' Gravity And Grace
Summer is in session, swingin’ with music all over the city. Ever considered how our very own bodies operate like the finest symphony orchestra—and how yoga is the process of listening and attuning to our own inner music?
The heartbeat marks the tempo. The breath rolls through the neck of the larynx like a bass flute.
When the band switches direction and lunges into a new movement, the hip flexor strings tremble like an excited sitar. Yoga teaches us to hush down the mind, turn on the inner ear, sit back into our spines and witness the unfolding score.
If you’re craving this same kind of visceral experience on your mat—the freedom to move your body and immerse yourself in the symphony of your inner sounds — sign up for Peter Sterios’ workshop at Virayoga on August 17th and 18th.
Considering he’s traveled the world and taught for 30 years, and is believed to be one of the most interesting yogis in America, it’s actually not that surprising that he’s choosen dead mid-August for his first-ever teaching trip to NYC. Sterios doesn’t broadcast himself. He lets people find him. LA-based musician Masood Ali Khanwill accompany Saturday’s class with live hang drums and other instruments.
Sterios’s method, called "Gravity and Grace," is a process of becoming a courageous composer, seeking out those dissonant “dead zones” in the body that need more attention. He specializes in myofascial release and joint health, a combination that helps relieve chronic pain and bring a new level of sensitivity to the practice.“Gravity and Grace is about eliminating unnecessary effort and activity in order to get to the root essence of our movement, “ Sterios says, “The key is the mental focus. The experience becomes incredibly rich when we can focus our minds on the activity or asana, and actively surrender to the sensations in the body, particularly around the joints.”
According to Ayurvedic medicine, joints are considered to be the gateways to a deeper neurological experience of the body. Stiff joints and marma pressure points hold deep psychological and emotional contraction. What does unnecessary movement and activity look like in Paschimottanasana? As you stretch into the hamstrings, observe if your tendency contracts around the sphincter or in the diaphragm.
“With this system, the focus isn’t so much stretching muscles as much as it is releasing the connective tissues around the joints and chronic areas of contraction,” Sterios says. “There’s power in that release: the subtle opening brings you into a more honest relationship with gravity. Once you soften into the joints, the psycho-emotional grip releases into a power that engages muscular effort in a new way.”
The result of this approach is the capacity of the body to experience multiple sensations on multiple levels. Take one of Sterios’s cardiovascular sequences, referred to as "The Lord of the Rings." What starts out as a grounded preparative squat for Titibasana with the legs in a wide squat, Peter encourages students to wrap upper arms the around the backs of knees and then sit on them. The squat not only opens the hips but stimulates marma points behind the shoulders (respiratory health) and backs of the knees (kidney line.) But Sterios doesn’t stop at the squat. You rock and roll your weight from side to side. You jump (yes, in the posture) and walk awkwardly around yourself on the mat.
The first few breathes in poses like this where the marmas and joints are receiving intense pressure is extremely intense. The hips rage and the pressure feels like an electrical guitar solo riffing inside of your arm. The mind gets disoriented and instantly wants to flee. “Urgent!” the mind screams, “get me outta here!” But little by little, with focus and patience, the volume adjusts. The breath deepens and slows again. You learn to ride it. After taking the time to tune into, and release, the chronic contractions around the joints --the experience is juicier and that much more alive.
In addition to balancing the agni fire, detoxification, energizing, and rejuvenating, marma and joint stimulation sensitizes our inner ear so that our experience on and off the mat feels clear, receptive, and fresh. The result could be that your inner music is not just in tune, but helps you become attuned. Come to Vira on Aug 17-18th and try it out.
-- Katie Clancy