Like many beginning yoga students, I graduated from basics classes to advanced vinyasa classes as soon as I mastered the vocabulary. A couple of years and a couple of injuries down the road, I thought I’d pay a visit to a building-blocks basics class to see what I had missed. A lot, it turns out.
“Basics definitely does not equal easy—at all!” says Jillian Turecki, a popular basics teacher at Kula Yoga Project, “By going back to the basics as a more advanced student, you become aware, or perhaps ‘re-aware’ of the nuances of a pose, our bodies, and our breath.” So even Type A yogis can benefit from humbling themselves. Just be sure to choose a class that deals with alignment, not a class or workshop for true novices, Turecki says.
How does a pose you’ve done 5,000 times become a challenge? When you fine-tune the hell out of it. Students hold poses for ten breaths, and sometimes longer, working small, specific alignment cues, while teachers take time to go over details normally glossed over in more advanced classes.
Take Warrior 1. It’s broken down into about a dozen steps—push the outer edge of the back foot into the floor, find the inner rotation of the back leg, square the hips, pull back and under of the front hip, lengthen of the tailbone, and so on—and then find the ease and grace and strength in the pose. Well, newsflash folks. This is very, very difficult.
So, basics classes give me space to tackle the complexity of these poses (told you it was for Type A yogis)—probably at a level that wouldn’t have been of any use to me back when I started practicing. And slowing things down forces you to connect deeply to your breath, the engine of the vinyasa practice that’s so often lost in the shuffle.
Plus, it’s nice to walk away with a prize: My Downward dog, Warrior 1, Warrior 2, and Triangle have all improved. Although my body alignment issues didn’t disappear, my poses are definitely more mechanically sound and that should help prevent injuries.
So now I’m a living example of the yoga texts when I say, a key to practicing advanced yoga lies in going back to basics.
Jillian Turecki teaches basics classes three days a week at Kula Yoga Project, 28 Warren St., Tribeca, 212-945-4460, www.kulayoga.com, $18 per class.
Are you an experienced yogi who’s taken a basics class? Tell us about your experience, here!