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Recently I took a Power Yoga class from a newly certified yoga teacher.  We sat for about 2-3 minutes where she proceeded to bring us to notice our breath and then read quickly from a book about connecting to your breath is connecting you to your soul.  Then we got up and started our yoga workout complete with Sun A’s and Sun B’s, and the Black Eyed Peas.

It was jarring to say the least.  When my life is being bombarded by everyone else’s demands, technology butting it’s head into every waking moment, making sure gas is in the car (at a good price) and desperately trying to find something quick and healthy to eat, the last thing I’m looking for is a checklist for my spiritual contemplation. 

At break neck speeds we were ordered into a series of forward folds and back extensions that hit me like a train wreck in the middle of farmland in a sleepy mid-western town on a hot summer day.  Now I’m not out of shape by any means but the idea of what felt like throwing myself around in contorted postures without attention to breath and alignment made me question the direction of yoga as our Type A’s take a hold of the ancient practice.

And maybe my body needs this.  Have I gotten so comfortable with the same pace, flow and holding times in my practice that it’s time for a change?  Or am I so deep in my practice that I’ve settled down from the frenetic pace of a power yoga class that has to double as workout and quiet time?  Regardless, this entry point into yoga just might work as so many baby boomers are racing against the clock.  Fast paced Power Yoga classes offer a valuable entry point for those who may be hesitant or terrified to begin a long and intimate relationship with their body.  So go ahead do CrossFit, and Cardio-Yoga it’s a start.

For me, I suppose this is where years of practice and the art of detachment (taking yoga off the mat) come into play.  Now is the time to listen, feel, be judgement free, keep trying new things and after 14 years of practice and teaching young teacher, I just might meet you here.

Sure you can throw yourself around in bendy stretchy yoga postures 3-4 times a week but are you structurally sound?  Getting flexible is great and most of us need a lot of yoga but if you aren’t able to differentiate between strong abs and core strength you might as well do 12oz curls and call it a workout.

It wasn’t until I went to a class with Ana Forrest that it dawned on me.  We hardly ever do ab work in yoga.  From our traditional yoga upbringing, classes were gentler and more passive than they are today.  Now we have Power Yoga, Hot Yoga, Aerobic Yoga and Sun Salutations so fast your wondering if the class still aligns with the mindfulness yoga claims.  So of course with all that activity we should definitely do our ab work.  But if you are not understanding HOW to do this work then your missing the whole point, and still headed for injury.

Pilates not only teaches you how to engage your deepest core muscle, the transversus abdominis, but also teaches you how to breathe without loosing strength and stability in the abs.  By using post lateral breathing, some good visuals and proprioceptive props such as small weighted balls, therabands and magic circles pilates will transform your yoga postures into blossoming flowers of bliss.  Learning the difference between an imprint, neutral and an arched back guides me so that every posture has a strength, structure and an easily elongated spine.  Pilates will deepen your mind body connection from the inside out in profound ways as you understand your bones and muscles and how they work or sometimes don’t work together.

How long did it take me to figure this out?  A long time but it was worth the knowledge I now have in my body.  My yoga practice is  now a joyful exploration between movement and stillness, substance and space.   Using my core has helped me find ways to stretch and expand without overdoing it and pulling ligaments.

Pilates will transform your practice and re-shape even the best yoga bodies.  Find a class with a certified trainer preferably at a pilates studio or one in conjunction with a yoga studio or physical therapy office.

And don’t forget to take your powerhouse!