A Delightful Practice with Kevin Bigger
Walking into the warmth at Kula Yoga Project was a welcome retreat after yet another weather forecast too cold to be called spring. Kevin Bigger came into the room, pushed play on the music (a selection of ambient tracks), and had us take two blocks, a blanket and strap. Before asking us to roll up the blanket, he inquired if anyone was pregnant. Then we placed the bolster under our bellies to encourage a softening as we went into full prostration. From there we outstretched one arm from the shoulder while the other arm bent — palm placed flat onto the floor — which provided the momentum for us to roll over onto each side with a block under the ear for support. It was a nice, restorative beginning to what would become a dynamic and creative vinyasa class— the signature Kula flow. In the warm-up, we went through variations which included Parighasana, Vasisthasana and Bhekasana. For the first round, we held each pose several breaths allowing our bodies to work well into the shapes. After that, we took just one breath per pose as we flowed through the sequence. Though the pace was easy, it was an energizing blend that carried through 360 degrees. We started facing the front of the room (standing lunge), and then shifted our direction (and perspective!) to the side (Prasarita Padottanasana to Skandasana), to the rear (Parsvottanasana) and then back to the front. After class, I asked Kevin what informs his sequencing.
“I find that if I stay really true to crafting a class that delights my own body, it usually resonates with a myriad of students who obviously live very different lives than I do. I have had a lot of shoulder and wrist problems over the years, so I throw a little therapeutic work into my classes for those areas of the body on a regular basis. I see the same tension patterns in many of my students that created big problems for me along the way, and I definitely try to nip them in the bud. My teachers are also a huge inspiration. Schuyler Grant, Nikki Costello, Jillian Tureki and Alex Auder have all left their mark on my own teaching. Zach Dacuk's refreshing explorations of anatomy have also massively changed the way I structure my classes,” he told me. Once done with the invigorating warm up, we came to Surya Namaskar where Kevin led us twice, and then we did three more rounds on our own. Surya B was next with a Devotional Warrior thrown into the mix. Though we flowed swiftly, it was never to the point of powering through the poses - we had enough space to establish each posture as Kevin kept an emphasis on our breath throughout class. He walked around the room, offering assists to each of us. His language was both anatomical - referring to the pelvic bowl and skull - and accessible (citing the butt cheek) within his instruction. When we were in Parsvottanasana, he translated the name (intense side stretch), and asked us to think about lengthening the front of our bodies as well. Props were used periodically during class - in the restorative warm-up, in a bound Revolved Side Angle and seated in Half Lotus (or Janu Sirsasana) and Bridge. I asked Kevin after class about his use of props. “It is very rare that I teach a class without props,” he told me. “Props allow students to be in the correct alignment of a pose and teach us how to engage the right muscles. They are really incredible teaching tools! I don't think of props as a way to make poses easier; rather, I think of them as a way to make poses more intelligent. Many students - especially when they first begin - are not yet strong or flexible enough to practice without some amount of support. Even advanced students can learn a lot from a prop that prevents them from relying on their flexibility while holding a pose. Basically, using props makes the practice safer and smarter. A lot of the more therapeutic or restorative poses I sneak into my vinyasa classes also require the use of a ton of props,” he explained. The opportunity to invert came up from Prasarita Padottanasana, and in the closing sequence. Pigeon was given as an alternative for those who didn’t want to go upside down. When proposing options, Kevin advised us to do what brought delight to our bodies. I thought about this when we were in Supported Bridge; I was ready to go a bit deeper when he suggested Wheel. And to cap off the delight, he provided head massages while we were in Savasana. Class ended with a single Om, sealing in the rest, vigor and ample amounts of delight created from the practice. -Elysha Lenkin for Yoga Sleuth
Drop-in classes are $20. New Student Special: 3 Classes for $30. Mat and towel rental: $2 each.
Wednesday, 10:00-11:35am Int/Adv
Kula Yoga Project 28 Warren Street, 4th Floor New York, NY 10007