A Nuanced Practice with Megan Walsh
With holiday shopping, a calendar of seasonal festivities, and the general commotion that fills this time of year, doing less in the day isn’t always do-able. Sometimes multi-tasking is the only option to get stuff done.
So while many hopped on the train to kick off another busy morning, Sleuth set out to Brooklyn with the intention of doing just one thing — yoga with Megan Walsh. Though the rush hour commute was a bit hectic, once inside the pretty space of Bend & Bloom, it was all calm. The skylight had a nice splash of greenery draped over the glass, and the tree outside the window still held its leaves. Megan, seated up front, guided us through breath awareness by paying close attention to the inhales and exhales as they moved in and out of the nose. When we brought our hands into prayer, she asked us to find our Om from in between the palms. After class, I asked Megan about the importance of this space between the palms. “It’s simply a way to anchor one's attention and is informed by both Buddhist meditation practices and Yogic Mudras. Any time you can focus your attention simply and tangibly your mind quiets and your concentration deepens,” she explained. To warm up the body, we went into a gentle stretch. First we took Seated Spinal Twist which led to a nice side stretch. From there we transitioned into Eagle arms, opening the chest forward with the gaze to the ceiling. As our practice progressed, a mellow mix played in the background which included tunes by Paul McCartney, Led Zeppelin, Bob Marley, Ben Leinbach and Suzanne Teng. Megan told me later this particular playlist was inspired by her and her husband’s favorite music from high school. Throughout class, Megan gave subtle instructions which brought my awareness to the tiny adjustments that could help me settle deeper into the pose. “Detailed alignment instruction really excites me and helps me to go deeper in my own practice,” she told me after class. “And beyond that, I think many yoga students are hungry for that type of information, and it helps them understand that there are ways they can deepen their practice by working smarter, not harder. That being said, I also go through phases where I just like to move and not think too much.” When we came to the end of a sequence, Megan had us stand in Tadasana with our eyes closed. She commented on how we rarely get to do nothing, and doing nothing can be an integral part of the day. As she said in our post class chat: “Most New Yorkers are exposed to a lot of stimuli throughout the day: horns, traffic, people, music, lights, smells, etc. all of which provoke the nervous system into a response. That can put a strain on the nervous system and keep us in a constant state of ‘fight or flight’ (the sympathetic nervous system). Doing nothing gives our nervous systems time to reboot, which allows us to ‘rest and digest’ (the parasympathetic nervous system). Our whole body functions better when we're not working so hard to metabolize our experiences.” At one point, Megan had us workshop Chaturanga. While in Plank, we lowered the knees to the floor. Then slowly, we lowered our torsos halfway – keeping our chests open and reaching forward. Moving this slowly, with the heart extended created an intense burn. It also made me realize I often cheat my way through Chaturanga by collapsing in the chest and shoulders. After class, Megan explained that she’d much rather see somebody do one precise Chaturanga instead of 10 in sloppy alignment. The overall pacing was smooth. The challenging moments (like the Chaturanga variation noted above) were balanced by easy stretches. We were given plenty of time to explore the poses, and find the nuances in the practice At the end of class we placed the block between our thighs for Bridge. Afterwards, we had the option to do another Bridge or take full Wheel followed by two minutes of yogi’s choice. Shoulderstand and Seated Forward Bend were given as options to prepare for Savasana. When rest was over, Megan asked us to bring our hands in front of the breastbone, and again we put our awareness into the space between the palms. I asked Megan after class about a nuanced practice. “To me, a nuanced yoga practice is one that is articulate, mindful and sometimes subtle. I came from a movement background and found I could do a lot of things relatively easily. Advanced arm balances were not that challenging for me. Over the years I learned that it was more important for me to listen to my body and maybe not do the biggest, flashiest thing I could do - which I still find fun and exciting sometimes! - but to do the thing that would make my body feel best in the long-term. I also think there are some advanced postures that aren't accessible to every body type, but an advanced practice is accessible to everyone willing to take the time to refine. It's very much like a musician learning a technique,” she said. When it was time to get back on the subway, my mind and body felt centered, giving me the grounding I needed to rejoin the busy day.
-Elysha Lenkin for Yoga Sleuth
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