Eischens Yoga and Me
Article by La Rue Briggs
Eischens Yoga and MeByLa Rue BriggsSpurred on by advancing age, stiff limbs, and squeaky joints, early in the autumn a few years ago, I decided to join a yoga class. I felt I needed to perform classical yoga positions to strengthen and loosen up my body, slow the aging process and, hopefully, restore a bit of the vitality I once possessed.
As a precautionary measure, I first made an appointment with my doctor to discuss my plan with her and have a thorough checkup. After she told me that I had no bodily injuries or other health issues to keep me from doing any type of exercise, I began some preliminary investigative work.
Ideally, I wanted to put myself in a setting that would enable me to realize my objectives and keep me in my personal and social “comfort zones.” I also was in the hunt for a well-constructed, well-cared for site with public parking, in a safe neighborhood, easy to get to from where I lived, and was reasonably priced.
As my knowledge of this ancient Hindu discipline was limited regarding its many wide-ranging styles, my exploratory journey commenced when I turned on my computer and accessed the Internet to gather information about yoga. Next, I got hold of, watched and experimented with an assortment of yoga videos, as well as read books and magazine articles on the subject. Later, I looked in the Yellow Pages and listed the names of all the styles and sites I was interested in, dropped by each site to see what the surrounding area was like, inspected the lavatory, lockers, showers, attended a class, and talked with the instructor.
After checking out several styles and sites, one Thursday evening, I set off from my home in Auburn Hills, MI., to the west side of Woodward Avenue and Nine Mile in Downtown Ferndale to take a look at yet another style and site. (For those unfamiliar with the region, Ferndale is a city in Southeast Michigan, and is the gateway to the affluent suburbs of Oakland County.) Here, amid a cluster of shops, restaurants and other businesses, stood a somewhat nondescript building that accommodated Mejishi Martial Arts, Tai Chi Chuan, African Tai Ka Ku Chi, Zumba, Simply Fit, Ballroom Dancing, Detroit Lotus Sanga, and Eichens Yoga. This studio was well-maintained and possessed men’s and women’s private dressing rooms, lockers and lavatories within its practice space. I participated in a free introductory yoga class and liked it a lot. What’s more, I noted the things that I considered to be important were met at this location.
In way of explanation, Eichens Yoga ( a spin-off of Iyengar Yoga but shaped by a number of other yogas) is a distinctive and unifying style of yoga founded by the late Roger Eischens, who studied for a long time under B.K.S. Iyengar and who died in December, 2004, of lymphoma. Eichens Yoga embraces the belief that there is a mystery in our bodies and how they work; discovery of this mystery is the driving force behind the practice. Thus, Eichens Yoga focuses on and addresses the more subtle aspects of yoga practice. Students learn how to adapt each movement to complement their individual body type to build up and recharge the energetic core, align the bones, and balance muscle action. Students learn as well how to improve their body’s movements with small alignment adjustments and resistance work. Also, students learn to stimulate the energetic centers of their bodies to create a higher state of energy for greater ease and joy in life.
Since Wednesday morning was the best day and time for me, I arrived at the site at 10:30 A.M. on Wednesday of the following week. I removed my shoes and socks just inside the rear entrance of the building and placed them in a shoe holder, then I hung my coat on a peg on the wall by the doorway. Attired in comfortable clothing that wouldn’t get in the way of my body’s movements while practicing, I walked barefoot to the front office area, signed up and paid my money for seven weeks of training in a beginner’s Level 1 class. Officially ready for action, I returned to the studio where non-slip mats, cotton belts, foam bricks, blankets, and additional pieces of equipment customarily used to perform the various “asanas,” poses or postures, during the 90-minute class session were to be found.
After selecting the equipment I thought I might need, I staked out a spot near the front of the room and started doing the poses I had learned at my introductory class. Several of the other students laid silently on their mats, while others did a variety of limbering up exercises. Before long our teacher, Mary, an average height, slender, middle-aged woman, who had been doing poses by the front wall, called everyone together and had each student in turn introduce himself or herself to the class. Then we all closely watched as she demonstrated with seemingly no more than a bare minimum of physical exertion poses named “table,” “incline plane,” “prone mountain,” “bridge,” and “downward-facing dog.”
I marveled at how graceful, supple and skilled she was. Then it was our turn to do the poses in a series. As we held a pose, Mary, who kept emphasizing proper alignment to avert injury and attain the maximum benefits of the pose, walked around the room and made adjustments to our bodies. She also told us to do the poses at our own pace and in accordance with our bodily structure, while concentrating on control and breathing, to bring about the proper balance of mind and body. In addition, she said we should learn and perfect the basics because they are the means of advancement to more challenging poses down the road.
Upon completion of several more poses, we did some “transformational” work, the most powerful and revitalizing segment of the class session. Here, students work together in small groups and provide tactile feedback to refine poses and undergo a real change in energy flow.
The class closed with a meditation period. The teacher dimmed the lights and we all laid down on our backs atop our mats with eyes shut. This pose is named “savasana” or “corpse pose.” In a tranquil voice, Mary told us to turn inward, take deep breaths, relax and feel the exhilaration of body and mind as a result of our yoga training. Before long, she lightly tapped a bell three times and as its ring faded into silence, we rolled over, sat up in a crossed-legged position and performed seed mantra chanting, intended to decelerate and calm the constantly running brain. Lastly, we all put the palms of our hands together, placed them by our hearts, bowed forward slightly and said namaste, a traditional Indian greeting which loosely translated means “I honor the divine in you.”
After class, Mary chatted with me and a few other new students and suggested that we give some thought to buying our own yoga mats to avoid infection. She said that we could purchase a mat online or at just about any sports store. She went on to say that when choosing yoga attire, we should consider comfort and mobility, remembering that we want to be able to move without restraint in any pose. And, if we decide to wear baggy clothing, such as a large T-shirt, to class, we need to be aware that when doing an inversion, or even downward-facing dog, our clothing is likely to fall in our faces revealing our bodies, which may be more embarrassing to us than wearing a form-fitting top. Before we left, she told us that we should not be afraid of selecting outfits that reveal our personalities, because these sort of outfits can be great motivators to get us to practice more, make us feel good about ourselves, and help us grow into self-confident yoga students.
Within a few months of practicing yoga four to five days a week (one day in my instructor-led class and three to four days at home), I knew that it had become a positive addiction for me. Some of the benefits I noticed were reduced muscle tension, a lessening of stress, an increase in energy flow and strength, better flexibility, a boost in self-esteem and confidence, enhanced self-discipline and inner peace, and improved sleep.
As a final point, if you’re thinking about participating in a yoga class, keep in mind the following tips: To prevent cramping, nausea and other physical problems, it is best not to eat any food two to three hours before class and not to drink any liquids 30 minutes before class. Forget about pouring cologne or perfume all over your body, as a lot of people are sensitive to pungent scents. If you have a tendency to sweat heavily while exercising, bring a towel to wipe yourself off. Arrive at your yoga site on time, if not a few minutes early, because coming in after class has begun not only disrupts other’s practice, it detracts from your yoga experience. Take off any dangling Bling Bling jewelry that could interfere with the performance of some poses. Since silence is important at various times during class, keep your cell phone turned off. If you have to leave before class ends, complete savasana on your own to conclude your practice and quietly depart before everyone else does the pose so you don’t interrupt the class. Visit Web site: http://gainingcorporaldynamism.weebly.com/
About the Author
As a nationally certified fitness instructor, La Rue conducted exercise and bodybuilding classes for the YMCA and other organizations. La Rue also was an instructor/trainer for the Michigan Heart Association, a board member of the Metropolitan Detroit Health Education Council, and a member of the YMCA Physical Education Committee. La Rue is a Detroit native with a BA in English from Wayne State University.