With new studies now linking yoga to fitness over spirituality, Sleuth found it refreshing to
enter Rachel Page’s class at Prana Power Yoga, and hear her announce the word for the week: ahimsa.
In her dharma talk that began class, Rachel spoke about the Yoga Sutras in a way that was easy to follow without compromising the richness of the topic.
“In Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Ashtanga,” she explained, “asana is one of the limbs.” She then touched on the other seven limbs before delving a little deeper into the yamas, specifically ahimsa, or nonviolence, which would be our class focus.
As I sat listening to her dharma talk, the importance of keeping yoga connected to its roots sunk in. After class I asked Rachel more about this.
“I think in this age of technology and social media, we tend to see snippets of what we believe yoga to be...from the endless asana selfies to the branding of yoga to random inspirational quotes. Real yoga is hard work, and not just work in the physical sense. Sure, it's cool to be able to balance on one leg with the other leg behind your head but as Swami Satchidananda used to say, 'it's more important to be able to balance like a surfer, riding the waves of life.' This is why I like to talk about the importance of practicing the other limbs of yoga including yogic ideals such as nonviolence and truthfulness,” she said.
Our asana commenced with Cat/Cows that took us into Downward Dog. We did some simple warm ups - Crescent Lunges to straight legs - then got into our Sun Salutations with its variations.
Prana Power offers hot yoga. Before class Rachel told me she doesn’t keep the room temperature higher than 100 degrees because she believes we can use our Ujjayi breath to create heat. When we started to flow, my body definitely went warm, but it wasn’t stifling as in some hot yoga studios.
Rachel’s sequencing was fluid. We moved through several vinyasas with Warrior 1, 2 and Reverse Warrior, and then went onto Chair Pose, Revolved Chair and Extended Side Angle. Options were given to accommodate the range of levels in class such as binding or taking the arm balance. Handstand in the middle of the room was also proposed.
In our post class chat, I asked Rachel about her sequencing.
“I have borrowed the Jivamukti idea of having a focus every month so that students can become familiar with whatever physical, spiritual or philosophical idea I'm trying to communicate. Because of my background in Integral Yoga, my sequence is designed for all levels. I always try to offer variations and modifications so that students can adapt their practice to the structure I'm providing,” she explained.
Midway through class, my body heat had risen, easing the way into a fuller expression of each pose. Also lending support in my practice was Rachel who worked her way to each of us with hands-on assists. Her skillful touch was both firm and encouraging.
When I asked her (after class) about her intention with assists, she told me, “Definitely not to put people in the perfect pose...there's no such thing. I want to help people find ease within the challenge of their practice; to help open them up so that their prana can circulate throughout their bodies more efficiently.”
For Forearm Stand we went to the wall. Rachel reminded us to keep our gaze forward to help find balance.
In Pigeon, she returned to the class theme by explaining that having compassion for ourselves is one way to practice ahimsa. She then gave examples of other ways to practice nonviolence — from what we watch (violent movies or TV) to what we hear (listening to gossip or specific types of music), what we say (gossip) and what we eat (animals).
It was at that moment I tuned into the music playing in the background - Quincy Jones’ "Summer in the City."
“The music I play is pretty diverse, from hip-hop to bluegrass to electronic to old soul. I like it to be fun, but not too distracting,” she told me after class.
To wind down, we took Legs-Up-The-Wall, and then final relaxation.
Class concluded with one more "Om" before Rachel brought our focus back to the word of the week: ahimsa.
-Elysha Lenkin for Yoga Sleuth
Single drop-in classes are $20. Mats and towels are available to rent for $2 each.