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A European Method Of Yoga

In a city where power yoga, Bikram and other physical methods attract students looking to detox, lose weight or increase strength, the words “Dynamic Yoga” might seem familiar.

However, Dynamic Yoga is really not what you think it is.

Founded by Godfrey Devereaux, Dynamic Yoga is a unique training method that encourages students to embrace slow, repetitive movements so the body and mind can very gradually sensitize and awaken to become available for more demanding postures. The method, taught mostly in Europe, shows practitioners how to become intimately familiar with physical sensations in the body.

In late January, Dynamic Yoga is coming to New York. NOTE: Due To Weather Problems, the Workshop is Being Rescheduled For Feb 7th. Email for details.

Lauren Krauze: Describe Dynamic Yoga.

José Luis Cabezas: Dynamic Yoga is a training method that teaches us honor, and become more intimate with, the innate physical sensitivity that each of us has within our bodies. It is based on krama, which is a step-by-step progression of movements that gradually sensitize and awaken the inherent integrity of the body and mind.

LK: What does it look like?

JC: A transition from hands and knees to downward facing dog can reflect this. At the start of the practice, when we come into the first downward facing dog, we move slowly, arriving into the posture with the legs bent and heels high. In this shape, we don’t put much pressure on knee joints, hip sockets, or the lower back. Then, with an inhalation, we slowly return to hands and knees. As we exhale, we go back to downward facing dog with the heels high and legs bent, or even slowly transition into child’s pose. We continue with these movements, repeating them and aligning them with the breath. With each movement, we gradually sensitize not only the muscles and the joints, but also the mind. As the body awakens, the mind becomes more receptive and more sensitized to whatever physical sensations are present, before any sort of intense muscular demand is required.

LK: The Dynamic Yoga method includes a series of movements called Xandranamaskar. Can you describe?

JC: Xandranamaskar is an adaptation of Surya Namaskar, or sun salutation. The word xandra points to the moon, so Xandranamaskar is flow of rhythmic movements, linked to the breath, that are more sensitive, gentle, and gradual than those of Surya Namaskar. It emerged as a needed response to the current popular practices of yoga, which are very heat and sun-energy oriented.

Xandranamaskar is another example of how we gradually and gently move from very accessible movements to more physically demanding postures. Instead of beginning in a standing position at the front of the mat, like in Surya Namaskar, we start Xandranamaskar from a horizontal position on the floor, where the body weight is evenly distributed. We proceed by gradually sensitizing the joints with slow, repetitive movements and eventually arrive to a standing position.

If you think about it, humans didn’t start standing up; we began in a horizontal position, learned how to crawl and then, after some trial and error, we made our way up to stand. Also, from an evolutionary perspective, it took humans millions of years to become vertical. Xandranamaskar reflects this sensitized, gradual process to stand upright.

LK: What is a misconception about Dynamic Yoga?

JC: When people hear the name Dynamic Yoga, they imagine something like hot yoga. Yoga is an inner practice, and that’s what the word “dynamic” is referring to—our internal dynamics. When you first clarify and honor the internal dynamics, and the body and mind express availability, the external dynamics can then take more demanding and exotic shapes or postures.

In general, a big misconception is that yoga is all about what you can get or what you can do. People tend to focus on improving their strength and flexibility, or believe that yoga is about becoming more perfect, pure, or holy. We teach that yoga is not about what you can get, but how you actually feel. That’s very different from other methods.

LK: What kinds of things would I feel that I haven’t experienced in other classes?

JC: In the absence of practitioners striving to achieve their goals, or trying to improve themselves in some way, they may feel more drawn to self-inquiry. Yoga can only be self-inquiry, and self-inquiry is just becoming more familiar, or more intimate, with physical sensations that arise in the body.

Gradually, through honest self-inquiry and experiencing the most subtle physical sensations in the body, we become more and more clear about our own innermost natures. Some people think that they will realize this only when the leg is behind the head, or when they achieve what is perceived—externally—at as the fullest expression of a posture. We believe that this truth, this realization, is always there within us and reveals itself only when we can become very familiar with the physical sensations already present in our bodies.

LK: The method introduces a concept called the Dynamics of Integrity. Can you describe this?

JC: Historically, the word “yoga” has been defined or interpreted as union of the body and the mind, or union of the individual and God. We teach that yoga is integrity, singularity, and wholeness. It’s the experiential understanding that the parts of our body—like our hands, hearts and brains—seem separate, but functionally, they are interconnected. For example, what you do with your arms of your feet, shoulders, and neck affects all of the body parts. This expresses the inherent integrity of the body and is what we experience in our bodies as wholeness in action. This concept can be related to the whole world; everything is interconnected. Everything is integrated wholeness.

Everything about this wholeness is dynamic. We are able to perceive it because it’s always changing and moving. The Dynamics of Integrity explore how yoga inherently functions like this and reveals itself through sensitivity to sensation.

LK: What can practitioners expect in a Dynamic Yoga workshop?

JC: We approach the workshops as interactive, shared investigations. At the start, I give a short talk to contextualize the Dynamic Yoga perspectives. Then we practice. Everything is based on direct experience. After we practice many conscious, accessible and gradually developing movements aligned with the breath, we invite structural integrity and alignment. We practice pranayama and include a nice restorative section, a long relaxation, a sitting meditation, and a clarifying talk that develops into a question and answer session.

We provide many tools for grounding, self-practice and teaching, so in many respects, the workshops are considered personal or professional training sessions. The workshops are very revealing for beginners, experienced practitioners, and teachers of all levels of experience and traditions.

This is one of the main gifts of Dynamic Yoga. It’s a training method, not a style, so it reveals inherent unity of all the yoga styles. The many facets of the practice— intimacy with sensation, intimacy with life, with the body and its functions, how the body moves with integrity, how the breath releases, how the mind functions—are shared by all yoga styles.

Ultimately, it’s not about believing what I say. Dynamic Yoga is about practitioners moving into self-inquiry to investigate not only how they feel, but also their own questions and beliefs.

Details about upcoming Dynamic Yoga NYC Workshop:

Date: February 7, 2015

Location: TBD

Fee: $95

Pre-registration required. Email to register.

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