Today’s post is written by guest writer Jasmine Kaloudis, who teaches yoga in Philadelphia and who is now, after 15 years of practice, is finding herself drawn to the wonderful tradition of viniyoga. She can be reached at email@example.com.
I just got back from my first Viniyoga training with Gary Kraftsow at the NYC Yoga Journal conference last weekend. I’ve been practicing hatha yoga for over 15 years and have mostly gone to classes that just had a bunch of sun salutations in them.
Yoga has been a way for me to release tension and tightness but I think I was not trained in proper alignment and anatomy and after doing thousands of up-dogs, down-dogs, shoulder-stands and warrior poses without proper body mechanics, I have a feeling I injured my body pretty badly. I’ve had chronic neck stiffness and headaches for many years now and the last year my knees have been pretty bad. I was starting to dread yoga teaching so much since I would have to ice my knees after my classes and I would not be able to sleep due to my screaming knees.
I started to take some Iyengar classes and that seemed to help my throbbing knees. I went to a doctor that specialized in athletes and knee pain and based on his recommendations and my Iyengar classes I was finding a higher level of manageability for my knees but my neck and headaches were persistent (despite rounds of holistic practitioners and conventional western medicine I could not figure out how to get rid of my head-aches and neck stiffness)
Imagine having someone whack you on your head with a sledgehammer all day long and just about every day. Now imagine someone is sticking a little knife at the back of your neck. Welcome to my body. I used to want to run away from my body but there was no where to run to. Deep sleep provided the only vacation from my body. I used to hate waking up in the morning since I had to wake up to my neck and forehead screaming at me.
I am not sure if I had ever heard of Gary before this weekend. I think his name was familiar to me from Yoga Journal. I remember reading once about Viniyoga but whatever I read didn’t grab me and I was never interested in exploring it any further.
I went to his first workshop on upper body, neck and shoulder pain. We did some unusual yoga poses that were similar to other poses I had done before but there were key differences. Gary kept emphasizing coordinating our breath to our movement, (otherwise it’s just calisthenics . We twisted, We triangled. We saluted and we warriored. After about 30 minutes of breath-centered poses, I slowly but deeply started to feel some relief. It would take hours for my body to integrate what we did and later I started to feel more relief.
I was comfortable just being in my body. I felt present. I felt at home. I didn’t want to run away from myself or my body.
I went to Gary’s all day intensive even though the title sounded uninspired. “Yoga for Depression and Anxiety.” We dove deeper into some of the physical and emotional mechanisms behind anxiety and depression. We explored chanting and breath centered movement. It was like a moving meditation. I could feel deeply ingrained patterns of limitation, pain and constraint being worked though levels of my fascia and psyche.
I felt a sense of liberation. I was freed up to have new thoughts and new feelings.
I taught some of these methodologies the next week in my beginner yoga classes and was delighted to see the look of relief on my students’ faces after I had introduced them to Viniyoga.
I can’t wait to dive deeper into the warm waters of Viniyoga.
Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle!