When Sleuth entered the serene space of Twisted Trunk Yoga, instructor Erin McFarland was warming up.
“Hi, I’m Erin,” she said, turning her head towards me, keeping the rest of her body completely still as she stood on her knees with an Eagle arm wrap. She then suggested I set myself up with two blocks, a blanket, and a bolster, and proceeded to the check-in desk.
When it was time to begin, she asked if there were any requests before reminding us that we would be doing ab work along with some vinyasa. (The 8am Core Wake Up, a new offering on the schedule, blends yoga with Pilates.)
I asked Erin after class about melding these two disciplines together.
She explained, “Core work quickly connects the mind to the body, awakens a tired mind, and focuses an agitated mind. Pilates is a fantastic method for bringing awareness, tone, and suppleness to the core body. Through asana we ground, grow, give energy, and learn to attract energy to ourselves when we need it. Both yoga and Pilates draw on the mind-body connection to stretch, tone, and hone awareness.”
We started lying on our backs in Savasana, legs stretched wide, arms up by the ears, creating an X. Erin had us point and flex our feet vigorously to see where our bodies were naturally stuck, and to keep moving through it. From there, we did some gentle side stretching with the support of the floor beneath us.
Then the ab work began with a few variations of sit-ups.
For the first round, we bent one knee and lengthened the opposite arm towards that knee, coming up to sit. After a few times like this, Erin had us twist our upper bodies slightly more towards the side when we came up, which allowed my chest to open more fully.
The next variation was to lengthen our legs up to the ceiling —with a block between the thighs—and lift and lower our heads towards our knees.
When lifting our heads, Erin told us to lead with the sternum, not the neck. And to help demonstrate her explanation, she came around with physical assists.
Though from the outside it may have appeared that our bodies were barely moving, the subtlety of the specific area working correctly had a huge impact. I could feel the movements coming from deep within.
I asked her about using subtle yet precise movements to work the body on a deeper level.
“As new practitioners, we need larger, grosser instructions and movements to understand our bodies, to feel change and growth. As seasoned practitioners we move deeper into our mind-body connection and understand that subtle shifts make a big impact. I have been practicing yoga for almost 20 years now, teaching for almost 15, and I know the wonders of the body will never be fully understood. The possibilities for movement are inexhaustible. As we grow ever more aware of sensation, subtle sensations, we move towards a deeper understanding of ourselves, and, ultimately, our intricate connection to the people and world around us,” she told me after class.
After the floor work, we came to supported versions of Extended Side Angle and Side Plank, starting on all fours.
For Extended Side Angle, Erin had us deeply bend the lengthened leg, and then straighten it intensely so we could feel the connection of the outer edge of our feet with the floor. Using the block for support enabled me to focus more on the correct alignment, and, once again, Erin came around with an informed assist.
Throughout class, I received many assists from Erin, and each time I could feel the knowledge in her touch.
“Hands-on assists help bodies to reprogram habitual movement and access alignment that maybe the brain understands, but the body cannot access. Physical touch, specifically the warmth and energy of hands that touch with intention, soothes the nervous system and helps to release unconscious holding, opening the body to new possibilities,” she said in our post-class chat.
Though this wasn’t a vinyasa class, Erin’s sequencing was fluid, and she always guided our attentions toward the breath for more support.
When it was time for some vinyasa, we took Low Lunge to High Lunge, and then lowered down through Plank to the floor for Cobra before settling into Down Dog. We moved through this series several times, at a smooth pace so we could continue to work our bodies on a deep level.
Chair Pose was done with a block between the thighs, and led into Chair Twist that created a burn in my legs, which Erin suggested we breathe through and settle deeper into. An option to invert into Tripod Headstand came while in Prasarita Padottanasana. We brought our legs into an Eagle wrap from standing on our knees, which culminated in the Eagle Arm wrap that I saw Erin practicing when I first arrived.
For Pigeon, she continued with her clear and alignment-based instruction, and had us place the bolster beneath the pelvis. The restorative version of this posture allowed my body to relax and release, yet also lengthen and open. It felt fantastic!
After dimming the lights, Erin brought us into Savasana, where she once again came around for essential-oil-induced head massages.
Coming out of rest, I felt the centering that comes with an awakened core, and the calm that accompanies a well-rounded practice.