Rodney Yee and Colleen Saidman are taking questions from students at the workshop.
"Something you said years ago has stayed with me ever since. It was 'lift your heart and drop your shoulders'."
"Are you sure it was me?" Rodney asked.
"Yes, I tell it to my students all the time."
Colleen paused and said, "Rod would never have said that. It is not a correct instruction."
I could feel the embarrassment of the student-teacher standing beside me. She back-tracked a bit and then said she understood it was an oversimplification but the instruction seemed to work for her when she was teaching backbends because her classes were generally 2/3 full of beginners who did not speak English. At this point I was starting to be concerned for her students! Rodney and Colleen went on to explore and demonstrate how dropping the shoulders jammed the upper back and should be avoided.
"I will often skip savasana in my home practise," someone else admitted.
After congratulating the person on their honesty, Rodney counseled that it would be far better to cut a different pose. Always end a practise, no matter how long, with savasana, because it helps to restore balance to the body and nervous system. How did he put it? It was the 'honey'.
The workshop was a six hour class in Asana, Pranayama and Meditation.
Colleen and Rodney mentioned Iyengar more than a few times. They have been deeply influenced by his teachings, and Yee's biography notes his studies "have roots in the Iyengar Tradition."He doesn't go so far as to say he teaches the Iyengar method, though. Although the emphasis on alignment is the same, in his classes there is a lot of emphasis on when and where to breathe during vinyasa flow. Generally, the only time I've heard an Iyengar instructor guide about when to inhale/exhale is during twists; the method is to find the correct posture with the understanding the breath will follow.
Rodney Yee gave a beautific demo of a sun salutation. It wasn't the technique but the bliss of being present in the joy of each movement. Forward bend followed by back bend, the full pleasure of a morning yawn and stretch extended to each and every fibre of the body.
"It is not about range of motion. There are many young people here in the room but I tell you there will come a day when your range of motion will not increase anymore. In fact, it will decrease." I looked at the gray in his hair. He continued, "It is about inquiry. Don't take the pose so far that you are rigid and block the breath and flow of energy. Don't pull back so far that the energy collapses. Find the balance in the breath and in the body."
Yee and Saidman are currently on a mission to integrate yoga into the healthcare system. Several hospitals in New York are part of the program and the participation rate is spreading. I can see how yoga and meditation would be a powerful tool, benefiting the sick with its restorative powers, and providing some comfort to the dying. Healthcare workers themselves could de-stress and focus using the techniques. Very interesting concept.