I think I’ve met a True Yogi.
At the weekend I had the great privilege of attending a workshop led by Stewart Gilchrist at my yoga home. During a two and a half hour class titled ‘Chakra-ise the Asana’ Stewart taught us about the chakras (our wheels or nerve centres of power) in relation to the asanas we ‘lay out’ (Stewart expressed that ‘lay out’ is the correct term, rather than ‘perform’). He also told us about how it has now been scientifically proven that chakras do exist – it’s not the la-la hippy nonsense that many thought for a long time.
I’d arrived on the mat with some trepidation. Knowing a little of Stewart’s reputation I already knew this would be no beginner’s class. Then he actually tells us as much, but adds that anyone can do it as long as they listen, even his Scottish Granny. With that, I am convinced Stewart’s Granny is a far better woman than me! I exchange a look with my neighbour and realise I am not the only one feeling a bit fearful of what lies ahead…
“Yoga without devotion is just keep fit”, Stewart tells us. This I believe. When I first started yoga I just thought of it as exercise but I now know it is so much more. For Stewart’s class, I dedicate my practice to someone I know whose Mum passed away earlier in the week.
Then we begin moving. The pace is quick and then… it gets quicker! Never before in a class have I been so aware of the importance of remembering to breathe! During a seemingly endless sequence of vinyasas my triceps burn and I wonder if I’ll be able to go on. Yet, somehow – thanks to my breath – I do. As we continue to move through the dynamic practice there is so much information to take in as Stewart works through the chakra system. I know I won’t remember everything, but if a fraction of it stays with me I’ll be happy. It’s certainly fuelled my desire to learn more.
Even though the room is packed out, Stewart darts about making adjustments and miraculously it seems as though every single person in the room gets his attention. Though some of the hands-on adjustments are quite strong, I really like this. I’ve learned this approach particularly works for me through the handful of Jivamukti classes I’ve taken part in so far. I feel the hands-on adjustments very directly show rather than tell me where I am working towards in an asana. And I’ve found that combined with verbal instruction really helps me to understand better.
We move onto some even more challenging asanas. “If you decide you can’t do something, then sure enough you’ll find you can’t,” Stewart tells us. I know this has been an ongoing issue for me, as I’ve written about in previous posts. Whenever I see a seemingly impossible posture in front of me, my immediate thought tends to be, “There is no way in hell…” It’s a pertinent reminder that this is something I need to keep working on. And I am reminded to accept where I am right now when Stewart adds, “You’re perfect. Where you are is perfect for you.”
Throughout, Stewart is funny, cheeky, warm and wise. Our incredibly dynamic practice is balanced by his vast enthusiasm and encouragement. As we continue, Stewart warns us not to over-extend in our asanas, “…that’s the ego. Under-extending is your fear.”
Stewart later tells a story that speaks to my ‘sweat neurosis’. It’s about some Americans practicing yoga in India who ask their teacher what they should do with their sweat. It turns out the answer is to rub it into your skin (!): “It’s your Prana. Your life force.” Well, sweat is something I certainly have a lot of!
I am taken by surprise when we move onto the finishing sequence. Could we really be nearing the end of the two and half hours already? I find myself feeling a bit sad that the workshop is almost over – that was a shocker considering how I’d felt during all those vinyasas earlier on.
I float off into the sunny spring evening feeling uplifted and inspired and knowing that I definitely want to practice with Stewart again. The friends I meet up with later look at me with a mix of awe and bemusement as I explain to them how I spent my afternoon…
The next day I get up for my Sunday morning class. I start moving around my place to pack my gear and – Oh. My. Goodness!!! My hips, my glutes, my trapezius, my triceps… I could go on. Yet, I was still smiling. And it turns out that making the decision to still go to practice was the best thing I could have done for my body – all that soreness eased thanks to Leon’s Hot Flow class!
I am so grateful that Stewart came to Yogahaven to teach us. And everyone else I’ve spoken to who was there had wonderful things to say about Stewart and his workshop too. So, with any luck, Allie and Krystal will be able to persuade him to return on a regular basis, fingers crossed!