One of the *many* things I appreciate about my yoga teacher training program is the large variety of yoga experiences they offer. The studio is not focused on any singular style of yoga practice; rather, they encourage people to sample, dabble, experiment, and discover what resonates with them as an individual. As a result, I get exposure to many different yoga styles that I probably wouldn’t actively seek out on my own – sometimes with surprising results. Tonight’s tech session was one of those experiences.
The style of yoga explored during this tech is called “Shakti Flow”, and it’s a style one of the studio’s teachers created/invented (by taking an existing style of yoga, and then tweaking it with her own personal touches/preferences). The core of the style comes from a yoga/dance combination method taught at Kripalu some 20 years ago; tonight’s teacher then infused Kripalu’s more physical practice with Hindu deity and mantra associations, and labeled it “Shakti Flow”. Given my bias against deities and mantras, I suspect I would probably prefer the original “global somatics” approach versus this modified method; but this style is what I have access to right now, so it’s what I’ll take in tonight. (And I will work to do so as openly as possible.)
The session began with a chant – but the way the instructor led the chant was actually pretty cool. She started us off by having us chant in a whisper. Then she began quietly playing her drum; and then after 10-15 seconds increased the sound of the drum. Our chanting followed this volume lead, and we got louder. At this point our chanting was still slow – but then the instructor started speeding her drum beat, which caused us to speed up. We chanted fast and loud for 1-2 minutes; then the instructor slowed us down via her drumming; then her drumming got quieter, and so our voices followed. Then the drum fell away altogether, and our voices returned to a whisper.
It was a pretty cool experience.
After the chanting, we started moving – and we used the chakra system as our movement guide. (No surprises; this instructor *really* likes the chakras.) Interestingly, the movement section of the class followed the same pattern as the chanting section: quiet, slow start; build to a crescendo; then eventually slow down into savasana.
We did a variety of different “non-traditional” yoga moves during this session. Some were influenced by other Eastern practices like tai chi or qi gong; but some drew inspiration from I’m-not-quite-sure where. One section in particular reminded me of a combination line dance/square dance/disco dance. The class formed two lines facing each other, and the instructor performed a move (to music); then one person from the end of each line peeled off and did the move down the length of the line. We then repeated this process 6-8 times or so. It was fun, but kooky. Certainly not what I think of when I think “yoga”.
But maybe that is part of the point of this style of “yoga”. People can get caught into thinking that yoga (and indeed, that so many different facets of life in general) has to be a “certain” way; if this “Shakti Flow” practice is yoga, it certainly shows that “yoga” can look very different from one style to the next.
In fact, this teacher did two things along these lines during this tech that I deeply appreciate:
- She gave us “permission” to be free with our movements, and to release ourselves from mental/emotional constraints, by telling us at the beginning of the session, “There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to do this style of practice; it’s just however and whatever you feel. So move any way you want; it all works.”
- She modeled pure freedom in, acceptance of, and genuine delight in her own movements. She led by example, moving in rather “unconventional” ways, and wearing an authentically peaceful and joyous smile on her face for much of the class session. She didn’t seem to care what she looked like or what we might have thought; she was happy with what she was doing, and completely content with who she was (is).
To me, helping other people realize these two powerful states (i.e., free and happy) is an amazing act of service for any human to offer. If I can help others feel this (even if “only” for part of an hour), I will consider myself a very successful teacher.