Wednesday, December 12, 2012

My First Handstand at Clear Yoga in Rhinebeck

Posted By on Wed, Dec 12, 2012 at 8:28 AM

Clear Yoga Studio

I took an exhilarating Iyengar II workshop taught by Senior Iyengar Yoga Teacher Joan White at Clear Yoga in Rhinebeck last Sunday afternoon. I wanted to take Joan White's workshop at Clear Yoga last winter, but I somehow missed it, so when I saw that she was teaching again, I signed up for it. I didn't have the time or money for the whole day affair, and the Level I morning session wasn't going to work for me time-wise, so without too much thinking, I signed up for the Level II Iyengar workshop. (I've been to Level II yoga classes before, and though I struggle with a few of the poses, my regular yoga teachers give me alternatives hoping that I'll get there one day.)

As soon as I walked into the studio wearing my thrift store yoga pants and carrying my dusty yoga mat, I got the jitters. I could tell these men and women were all hardcore yogis who were in awe of the short but intimidating Ms. White. I was going to be left in the yogi dust. The first 15 minutes were easy. Ms. White went over in detail how the downward facing dog should be done. She gave me an adjustment. Next up was handstand, a pose I only do with an assist if an instructor nudges me. Otherwise, I'm happy doing the preparation for it, which usually means making a 90 degree angle with my legs up the wall.

As I watched all the students obediently go to the wall for set-up, I whispered to Jess, the instructor who had greeted me at the door, that I was really more of a Level I, but I really wanted to take this workshop.

"Oh, okay. You really shouldn't be in this class then," she said nervously. There is no turning back now, I thought. She smiled and told me that she could help me through it.

"Have you ever been up before?"

"Oh, sure! I've done it a few times with an assist," I said.

She looked relieved that I wasn't a total beginner. She whispered my situation to Ms. White who sensed a teachable moment. That was when I got the sense that this workshop was more tailored for students striving to be Iyengar teachers one day. (In which case, Jess was right. What the heck was I doing in there?)

Suddenly I felt 30 pairs of eyeballs on me as Ms. White made a little launching pad for my legs folding my yoga mat like a sandwich with the blankets. I never tried a handstand with a launching pad. Jess helped me get my legs up twice, and though I was sweating, I stayed up for about 30 seconds. Somebody asked me how I felt and I said, "pretty good."

"Okay, then. Try it unassisted," Ms. White commanded. Ugh. Was she kidding me?

I heard her speak to the class."This is a pose that strikes fear in us. Fear of death, etc." Then, the class hushed to stare at me about to attempt my first solo handstand. "Oh, it's such a great feeling!" I heard someone say. I scooted my feet towards my head, and kicked with one leg so forcefully that both legs shot up against the wall, and my buttocks did a ricochet against it. I was up for 4-5 seconds by myself, but I was UP! It was thrilling, but I was ready for savasana (total relaxation) and I had another hour to go.

The next pose was headstand, a pose I always avoid. I used to do this pose when I was a kid on my bed, but I haven't done it since. Another Clear Yoga instructor named Barbara took charge of me when I confessed that I didn't do this one either. The students who weren't doing headstands in the middle of the floor were invited to use the ropes along the wall for support so as not to put pressure on the head and neck.

I still can't believe I hung upside down from one of these rope contraptions. It was scary, but Barbara had a strong grip on me, and told me exactly what I needed to do. I felt like a trapeze artist. It felt very strange. Ms. White said you need a blanket under your head if you are feeling pressure on your eyes. Barbara helped me with that, but seconds later I asked to get out of this hanging bat pose. Barbara helped me flip up, keeping my feet on the wall like Spiderman somehow. We were both breathless! I couldn't wait to land on my feet, but she said, "Wait for your toes to turn pink! They gotta turn pink so you'll know the blood is flowing back to your feet!" Seconds later they turned pink, and I was back on land.

Next it was time for yoga with chairs to prepare for backbend. I love wheel pose. It is one of my favorites, but not with chair and blankets. "Is there anybody here who hasn't used a chair?" asked Ms. White. I raised my hand. Eyes rolled. I was pretty wiped out by this time, and only did the chair thing for 20 seconds. I was getting inversion overload.

Two more intense poses, and I was in sivasana land. During my last shoulder stand, Ms. White mumbled, "I don't know why you didn't come to the morning class." Well, I learned my lesson. Here I am almost 48 hours later with sore love handles, but besides that, I'm not feeling that sore anymore. All in all, it was a memorable yoga adventure.

The instructors at Clear Yoga are serious about their work, and it's a nice studio. If you want to try out fancy yoga ropes, this is the place. If you are in Rhinebeck for the weekend or you would like to expand your yoga practice by hanging upside down with the help of a rope, check out Clear Yoga. I'm sticking to Level I Iyengar on solid ground from now on. Clear Yoga, 17 b, 6423 Montgomery Street, Rhinebeck, NY (845) 876.6129.

Check out HudsonValleyGoodStuff.com for more of Vanessa Ahern's adventures and recommendations in the Hudson Valley.

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