by Hannah Faulkner
This article was originally published on Half Moon Yoga and Art Blog.
As I was walking out of Yoga One studio on a lovely July day in San Diego, a posted flyer caught my eye. “Summer Challenge- Complete 20 classes in 30 days- Ends August 30th.”
The following are the lessons that I learned in August from Yoga One’s amazing instructors:
Never Stop Learning
Amy Caldwell, co-owner of Yoga One and twice featured on the cover of Yoga Journal, is a beacon of light. She emanates joy from every angle as she is never seen without a smile. After over 20 years of yoga practice, she is able to bend her body in ways that I didn’t know was possible. As a teacher, she emphasizes “playing” around with difficult poses. She offers options with blocks and straps to begin to open up each body to the possibility of getting the pose someday, but mostly it’s all about the journey.
“They might not be your favorite poses, but they are good for you!” – Michael Caldwell
Husband to Amy and also the co-owner of Yoga One, Michael offers an everyday approach to yoga. Through jokes and references to popular culture, he leads the class through alignment-based intense stretches that he likes to call “Brussel Sprouts.” These essential postures might not always “taste” the best while we are doing them, but they offer the ease that we need in our everyday life and more challenging yoga poses. Through deep breathing, we stretch our wrists, feet arches, and shoulders as well as building core and arm strength. My favorite postures in his class were the subtle airport stretches for our shoulders, using the wall, as he imitated waiting around in an airport and joked about the individuals who make a scene doing Downward Facing Dog in the center of the waiting area. I laughed because I love doing subtle yoga in the airport.
Amy Freeman has been teaching yoga for almost 15 years. Amy’s goal is to help her students find and maintain a peaceful mind and body through effort and ease and she leads as a beautiful example. She starts each class with a slow meditation and develops in to a powerful alignment flow. One of the most unique prompts that Amy gives during Savasana (final resting pose), is reminding us to relax each part of our body individually. “Feet, knees, legs…relax. Hips, back, shoulders…relax. Ears, nose, tongue…relax. Eyelids, eyebrows, space between your eyebrows…relax. Forehead, scalp, chin…relax. Everything relax.”
I’ve been going to Sarah’s class for years. There’s a familiarity and sense of home in the setting that she offers. Her playlist is always the same, but sets just the right mood for connecting your mind and body through sounds. Every week she sets a different inner focus on non-reaction, compassion, or contentment. She has guided me through detailed alignment adjustments as well as encouraging me to pause at the end of every exhale, or squeeze my glutes. During every class at some point she will remind us to soften our tongue and not hold tension in our face, but instead to breathe deeply through any slight discomfort.
Kairou is an enthusiastic and energetic instructor. I attended her class after hearing students say that they got their butt kicked in her class. They were not kidding. Her classes are filled with intense arm strengthening repetitions and core poses. She creates an interesting flow with side plank and tiger variations that will build your sweat quickly. One day she started class with explaining how sometimes we struggle through a yoga class because we forget to eat or drink enough water. She said that she came to this realization this morning when she was light-headed after practicing this sequence. Then, about halfway through teaching the class she corrected herself and admitted, “or maybe this sequence is just really that hard!” However, because of these intense sequences, I have been able to use my new core strength lift into tripod from the center of a room. Also, as a Licensed Massage Therapist, she surprised me with a totally relaxing Savasana massage!
Dina has a strong voice of a leader that reminds you to breathe. In her class, I feel that we hold poses a bit longer than in some of the other classes that I attend. However, she challenges me to find the ease in this stillness, after I’ve found my expression of the pose with some tension. This inner concentration is the key part of yoga called Dharana that leads to peace and oneness.
Missy has a warm and friendly way of teaching. In the past, I’ve attended her Classic Yoga and Restorative Yoga classes. She gives beautiful hands-on adjustments and she is always aware of the student’s desire to receive, asking first if it is okay to adjust, and asking after how it felt. She recently subbed for a Level 2 Vinyasa Flow class as her focus was building up our forearm and shoulder strength for Forearm-Stand. Throughout class, she directed us to take child’s pose after dolphin and forearm-plank reps. This was a much needed rest and I appreciate her direction. If she would have just offered child’s pose as an option to something else, I probably would have tried to push myself too hard and skip the child’s pose. But the truth was, that I needed to rest my shoulders and catch my breath. I thank Missy for foreseeing that necessity and allowing a space of non-competition.
I’ve only been to Lori’s class a couple of times, but I thoroughly enjoy her nurturing teaching style. I attended her class after feeling sharp pains in my shoulders, from the previous day’s class. Before class she asked me if I had any requests. I told her about my shoulders and then she included many shoulder opening poses throughout her planned sequence, each time asking me if that felt good. Lori stressed patience, allowance, and self-love. She once again reminded me why I love this community of amazing teachers!
Inspired by an extensive background in the movement arts (Acro-Yoga, Tai Chi, Contact Improv Dance, African Dance, and Rhythmic Gymnastics), Mara creates new poses as we constantly flow with our breath. I feel like a dancer in her class as she radiates the beauty of being one with your body. In Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose with the variation in wide leg stretch, she instructed us to reach up and feel that our knees are facing the same direction and protruding for the same amount. Mara highlights the importance of being balanced and equally stretched on both sides.
I admire Zaquia for her intricate choice of words throughout her class. She has a detailed understanding of human anatomy and she strongly underlines the concept of the greater your effort, the greater your reward. She teaches a power flow, connecting breath with movement, in the early morning that quickly awakens my heart and concentration. From her I’ve learned Fallen Tree and seen that it is possible to rise from Low Squat, Malasana, to Bird of Paradise, Svarga Dvijasana, using a strong balanced core. She has inspired me to take the extra chaturanga.
I only went to one of Terri’s classes during this month, but I enjoyed her emphasis on stretching with the blocks and straps. Instead of giving us the option to use block or not, she gave solid instructions to use the block even if you think you don’t need it. The flow was slow and she accentuated the importance of closing your eyes and focusing on your steady breath in each pose. She used a variety of interesting transitions to slide from one pose to another. I ended up feeling lengthened and spacious throughout my day.