Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Class #32 Yoga 6:30 p.m. Tuesday (Sherri)

I head straight from Adiel’s cycling class into the Intermediate Yoga class. I think I’ll be able to do yoga fine but I’m still a little worried about the crick in my neck.

After saying hi to Sherri, I let her know about my ailment and assure her that I’ll modify postures if I need to to protect myself. This is standard protocol in a yoga class - the instructors always want to know if anyone has an injury so they can offer modifications if necessary. By approaching Sherri first, I’m letting her know that I’ll be responsible for taking care of myself, which relieves her of that duty.

This is one of only two “intermediate”’ yoga classes on the group exercise schedule. The idea is that members coming to this class should have some background in yoga so that the teacher isn’t starting someone from scratch each time. It allows the practice to move somewhat faster and to cover more complex asanas. The students who are ready for this, and there are a lot of them at the LRAC, appreciate the opportunity to be challenged like this in their practice.

Sherri begins class by telling us a story. She’s just returned from a trip to a yoga retreat center in Hawaii. While there, she was awakened one morning at 5:30 with news of an impending tsunami and the immediate need for everyone to move to higher ground. She noted that some of her fellow classmates became panicky upon receiving this news. The lesson then, was about staying grounded even when life throws us a curveball. Sherri offers the suggestion that we “dedicate” tonight’s practice to someone we know who could use some grounding energy. It’s a nice thought to begin a practice with.

Sherri also tells us that while in Hawaii she got to spend time swimming with Dolphins and how deeply it had touched her. There is a beautiful and powerful asana in yoga that is called “dolphin” and she tells us we will be practicing that tonight.

Dolphin pose

I’ve known Sherri Youngblood for years and have seen her in yoga classes many times (she has a beautiful and strong practice) but this is my first time to take one of her classes. As I suspected, she turns out to be a marvelous teacher. I predicted as much for two reasons: 1) I’ve heard soaring praise from many of her regular students time and again and, 2) She is passionate about yoga and for Sherri – it’s much more than “just” a practice, it’s the way she lives her life.

Sherri seeking high ground in Hawaii

In the “real world” Sherri is a Registered Nurse in the Intensive Care Unit at UAMS. That is an intense world where one is surrounded by life and death situations at all times. An ability to stay grounded and keep one’s wits is critical for an RN in the ICU. Sherri says that her philosophy in nursing is to “nurture the body, mind and soul” and that same philosophy extends to her yoga practice and teaching.

Sherri leads us through a series of postures to warm up our bodies and prepare us for more difficult poses to come. She has the confidence that only experience brings and she steadily guides us through an interesting and stimulating series of postures. At times she demonstrates a pose but mostly she’s circulating the room, verbally instructing us but also making postural adjustments where needed. At one point she moves my arm into the correct position and a light bulb goes off that had been dim before. Thank you.

Throughout the practice Sherri reminds us to really listen to our bodies and to back off if a certain posture is too much. There are always possible modifications that can be made to accommodate the various bodily limitations that most of us have.

Our final posture, for those who want to try it, is a forearm balance inversion, which takes off from Dolphin pose. Sherri shows us various ways to approach this technique with one or both feet on the wall and how to lift one leg at a time to simulate the full inversion. To do the inversion, especially for the first time, requires as she says “a leap of faith”. The first time I ever did it, I found this inversion to be exhilarating and it remains a favorite of mine.

Forearm balance

Sherri has been teaching at the Club since 2004. She received her basic teacher training from Robin Johnson with the Turquoise Tree Yoga Center and achieved her 200-hour RYT (Registered Yoga Teacher) through the Yoga Alliance. In 2009, she completed her 500-hour certification and has opened her own yoga school called Sage Yoga, which is affiliated with Turquoise Tree.

Tonight’s class ends with the beloved Shavasana pose where we lie on the floor and cease all effort. While we are relaxing Sherri comes around and puts a little China gel (think Ben-Gay with a kick) on our necks and gives our heads a gentle stretch. This feels wonderful to my cricked out neck and a great way to end the evening.

This class from 6:30-8:00 p.m. is well attended. As with many of our classes, the attendees are mostly women but tonight there are also three guys.

The $25 gift certificate goes to Beverly Foti.

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