I have been practising at Moksha Yoga Burnaby for two and a half years and I have never taken flow class – at least not on purpose. Once I took a class by accident. That was about a year ago. Otherwise I have enjoyed all of the other classes, but never flow.
I have given myself lots of reasons/excuses to be afraid of flow: It’s too quick. I’m not strong enough. It’s for advanced Mokshis. (Did I just say that?) I can’t get coordinated enough to float, flip and fly my body from one pose to the next. Regular Moksha is enough for me. Flow is outside of my comfort zone.
I was the only thing stopping me from doing flow.
Despite these excuses, good reasons to try flow have been nudging me. The first is practical: There are times when I want to take a yoga practice, and the one on the schedule when I can make it to the studio is flow. Also, there’s that “flow grin.” While I am waiting to go in for my Moksha class, the flow class lets out, and I see shining faces streaming out of the hot room. These Mokshis are sweaty, accomplished, robust, and the they have goofiest, happiest smiles you will see anywhere. Something wonderful must happen in there during the flow class. I want that feeling!
So I decided it was time. I was the only thing stopping me from doing flow.
How I found my flow in 5 (or 11 or a million) easy steps
1. I told my friends I was going to do flow…
I talked to a bunch of people about it. Friends at the studio encouraged me. Some, like me, had been hesitant to try it at first. Others had done it from their first week at the studio. Everyone told me I would LOVE it, and that I could do it! Even my friends and family members who don’t do yoga thought it was great that I was going to take on a new challenge. All of this felt good. I will admit I had an ulterior motive, however. Telling a bunch of people strengthened my resolve, because it would be that much harder to chicken out.
2. I asked questions…
MYB Instructor, Laura Soohen, recently completed her flow training at Modo Yoga Williamsburg in New York City. (That’s a photo of Laura and her classmates in the title box.) She sat down with me and generously answered all of my questions about flow. Laura described her training experience as transformative. She told me about 7 days of training, 2 practices a day, learning, growing and exploring boundaries. Laura took on the challenge to discover what flow feels like in the body, and what it means to her as a practitioner and instructor. She told me that it was overwhelming at first, traveling alone to a place that she had never visited before, and making herself open and vulnerable to change in that big, intense city. Whoa! If she could do that, surely I could go in the hot room and give this thing a try. We agreed that I would try my first flow class on a Friday morning – coincidentally, Laura’s first time to teach flow at Moksha Burnaby.
Laura told me that flow is sequenced and built around the same principles as the basic Moksha practice, with familiar elements from the Moksha sequence. Like the Moksha sequence, it’s accessible to all levels. In flow, there are different sequences, with some mix-and-match elements, which allow the instructor to guide the practice based on the needs of the participants. Laura described flow as a dance with your breath, body and mind.
The Moksha sequence is based in Hatha Yoga, in which poses are held, usually for 7 or 8 breath cycles. Flow is based in Vinyasa Yoga, with breath-by-breath movement. It’s more quickly-paced and dynamic than a Moksha practice. Laura explained that it would be beneficial to incorporate both kinds of classes into my practice. She told me that this would take me to a deeper level in my yoga experience. While Moksha helps me find stillness and awareness, flow would help bring out passion and fire in my yoga practice. Together, they offer a balance of movement and stillness, and a different awareness of breath.
3. I took a Class…
I signed up for my first on-purpose flow class – a Friday 6:30am practice. I had a week to think about it. During this time I felt optimistic, nervous, courageous, freaked out, and curious. Friday rolled around and I got myself to the studio. Laura was there at the desk to sign me in. She greeted me with a warm smile and told me how glad she was that I came. We wished each other a great first class and I went into the hot room.
I was NOT going to roll up my mat and retreat
Lying in savasana, waiting for the class to begin, I felt a knot in my stomach. What was I getting myself into? I breathed, and reminded myself that this was one just one hour. I could take it one breath at a time, moving and breathing as my body allowed. I remembered that Laura told me, even if I stayed in downward dog, breathing one breath in, one breath out, that would be flow. Besides, I was on my mat, in the hot room. I have climbed down off a diving board before, but I was NOT going to roll up my mat and retreat from this welcoming place!
And guess what? It was OK – better than OK! I could do most of the poses, and pretty much keep up with the movements. I found my breath and actually felt good! Parts of the sequence felt really awkward: moving from downward dog to forward fold at the top of the mat seemed to take longer than I wanted it to, and getting one knee forward from plank to set up for a lunge was pretty much impossible (for now), but that was OK. I figured out how to follow along, and move through it. I even did a wobbly version of floating half-moon, with the help of a rather tall pile of blocks, but I did it!
They met themselves where they were, and worked from there
I remembered Laura telling me how she overcame her apprehensions about flow training. She said that she and the other instructors came in with their own baggage and thoughts. They met themselves where they were, and worked from there. She gave credit to her instructors: Dina Tsouluhas and Valerie Verdier, for teaching with passion, and inspiring their students to trust themselves and move out of their comfort zones. I smiled, thinking about that, and when I looked up, Laura was smiling encouragement back at me.
I walked out of the hot room at 7:30am with my very first goofy “flow grin.” I did it! Laura said, “I knew you could.” Phew! That was great!
4. I took another flow class…
While I was still feeling triumphant from my first flow class, I signed myself up for class number 2, a Monday afternoon practice with Matthew. When I arrived at the studio I told him that I was just starting flow. He told me that there’s nothing to be afraid of in a flow class, and he encouraged me to enjoy the practice and stay with my breath.
He told us to draw on the strength we had established already in our Moksha practice
Some of the moves and sequences in Matthew’s class were familiar from Laura’s class. Others were new and different. There were other people in the class doing flow for the very first time. Matthew offered encouragement whenever we encountered a pose from the Moksha sequence. He told us to draw on the strength we had established already in our Moksha practice, and to feel it in that moment in the flow class.
If Moksha is like walking up and down a series of mountain peaks, flow is like running up and down one of those peaks a few times, then moving to the next peak and running up and down it a few times, and so on. I noticed this in Matthew’s class. My heart was beating fast through most of the class, rather than in just a few places, but I kept up. I took alternatives to crow and wheel poses, and I did not “float” between poses, but otherwise, I did it! Hooray!
5. I took another class…
Friday again, and there I was, at 6:30am in the hot room, this time for Shayla’s class. This third time out, I found myself not a bit anxious. I appreciated the way Shayla guided the transitions in the flow sequences, so I actually felt a bit of “flair” as I moved through the practice! Shayla also encouraged us to be aware of different kinds of breath, belly breath and ujjayi breath, when we needed them, and how they supported the practice.
After the practice, I asked Shayla for some suggestions to help me as a beginner to flow. She told me how I could make even better use of my beloved blocks, to make my yoga squat more confident, and even to begin playing with crow pose. Hmmmm…
As I left the studio, I felt euphoric. I can do flow! And now, I can take a yoga practice pretty much any time that I want to – because I can do all of the yogas. Yay!
6. I will repeat steps 3, 4, and 5 as needed, with grins!
Thank you to Laura, Matthew and Shayla, for helping me to find my flow. I am now a member of that group of sweaty, happy, grinning Mokshis coming out of the hot room, beaming with the special flow glow. I’ll definitely keep on flowing!
I will finish this post by giving the last words to Laura, a brand new flow instructor and my number-one encourager in taking on this challenge.
Don’t try for a perfect practice – meet yourself where you are and move from there
Laura’s Tips for First-Time Flow-ers
- Listen to your body
- Start with a modified flow, and feel strong in it, before moving to full chaturanga
- Use props – if you don’t know how, ask!
- Take an adjustment chip into the class to signal that you welcome hands-on help
- Start with your foundation of Moksha practice and build your flow practice from there
- Go at your own pace, following your own breath, to maintain your foundation
- Don’t try for a perfect practice – meet yourself where you are and move from there
- Talk with your teacher after class, about your feelings, expectations, questions. Your instructor is here to help!
So what does flow mean? What’s to be found in this practice? Laura summed it up,
“You realise you are capable of so much more than you thought your were. You are stepping forward, and accepting it.”