Super-Strong Strala with Mike Taylor
The vibe was already high-energy at the spacious Strala studio when Yoga Sleuth set down his mat for a Sunday "Strong" Flow with Michael Taylor. The class was packed with regulars; "I Want to Hold Your Hand," by the Beatles (remember, those guys with the funny hair?) was playing as Mike literally dashed past us to perch at the front of the room. "I know this is a Strong class, but we might as well start off by relaxing," he announced. We took cross-legged seats and closed our eyes, enjoying the stillness; and if you know Mike's class, you know that's the last time you're going to be that way until Savasana!
We breathed in deep and started to introduce some movement into the body, shimmying from side to side, forwards and back, bringing life into the torso while still seated.Then we raised our arms in a stretch as if we were just rising in the morning, and off we went to asana-land.
Mike was named “Best Mover” by MindBodyGreen, a title that is most apropos this summer morning, as it was full-speed out of the gate for a creative and imaginative flow. We took the standard vinyasa sequence and added fluid movement to every posture, aided by Mike's unceasing encouragement and a rock soundtrack that kept us pumped.
Mike's cues were letter-perfect despite the rapid-fire pace. We moved from Warrior 2 to Warrior 3 to Half Moon to Revolved Half Moon and back again, one breath for one posture. There were lunge twists and prayer twists, Triangles and Revolved Triangles. There was no time, no space in our minds to think about anything else; we were simply there in the moment, and as all yogis know, that's right where we should be. As we settled into Warrior 2 for a spell, Michael turned up the music, and we all started grooving in the pose.
After each round we paused...not to rest, but to engage in Handstand practice! Mike came around to help anyone who asked, spotting them to help them get some extra airtime. There were Side Planks and Forearm Planks to challenge our stamina. We played in Crow to test our balance, and Mike added to the sense of fun by having us take our Crow to the left, back of the room, right, and back to the front.
"Staying Alive" came roaring on as we held Plank for several breaths, and many of us couldn't resist moving our hips along with it. It was then that I realized that I was grinning, and had been for pretty much the whole class despite the paces we were putting our bodies through.Next we did some major ab work with a fluid boat and half-boat sequence that went on for a dozen breaths. We reached to touch our toes as we came up each time. Mike then told us exactly which student in our midst it was who'd requested the extra core strengthening (so we could, of course, thank her!)"I have no more evil to put you through today!"
Mike joked as we started to wind down, taking Happy Baby and a Shoulderstand as Simon and Garfunkel wafted on to help mellow the mood. "Take some extra deep breaths, just to check in with your body," said Mike, slowing things gradually down to complete stillness. We didn't lower into Savasana so much as collapse, taking a well-earned reward after 70 minutes of some of the most intense but enjoyable work you'll get in a yoga class.