Peaceful, easy feeling
The Yoga Pearl
Yoga people are not like other people. Yes, we’ve all heard of “yoga nazis.” Like Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi, they’re militaristic, focusing on form before function, but they’re few and far between, at least in my experience and at the level at which I practice yoga. I got one look at Kate Midcalf at The Yoga Pearl, and I thought for sure I’d met my Berlin master. Midcalf, owner of the studio, exudes an aura of precision, as does her studio, with all colors and arrangements done to a keen edge of feng shui.
I was, in a word, wrong. Not about the attention to detail, but about the attitude. From the moment I walked in, Midcalf was gracious. For example, when I arrived for the 5:30 p.m. Monday class with no cash or check and attempted to pay my $12 drop-in fee with a credit card, she said I could send her the payment later. Tell me how often that happens at any business in town, especially for a patron’s first visit.
In fact, as I write, all mellow and stretched, there were many things that were extraordinary about Midcalf’s studio and the way she teaches yoga. After greeting everyone by name, she started the class with a few words regarding the theme of the week, kama. The word “kama” is from the Sanskrit word for love and desire. Kama is also the Hindu God of love and erotic desire. I got the impression that this discussion was just a paragraph in a ongoing conversation with which she instructs the more philosophic aspects of yoga. This led into some talk about passion and setting our intention for the practice and then to a focus on the breath.
She teaches hatha yoga, which is a very broad term. Midcalf’s practice combines vinyasa and viniyoga, “focusing on flow (vinyasa links poses in a flowing series that warms and energizes the body), while paying special attention to the needs of the individual through modifications (viniyoga),” according to a pamphlet from the studio.
That description pretty well fits my experience, but I had the feeling that there was a running dialogue that required regular attendance for a complete understanding, and that the linked asanas could be better performed with regular practice.
The hour-long class moved more briskly than some I’ve attended, but not so fast that someone with low-intermediate skills couldn’t keep up. There was one vinyasa that included the warrior stance, triangle and a forward fold (and some other stuff) where I knew all the poses, but couldn’t get a comfortable flow going. I was the only guy among a dozen or so women, and many of the women moved right through the series, which suggested to me it is a regular series in Midcalf’s classes.
I’ll also note that I did not notice her making a single adjustment to anyone’s posture, but I did hear her discuss the various asana modifications that could be made if an individual suffered some shortcoming or infirmity, like tight shoulders or hamstrings.
With a quick discussion of breathing techniques and mental control that would come in handy for inexperienced meditators, Midcalf moved into savasana—I’ve heard conflicting definitions of this word, it’s either the relaxation at the end of a yoga session, the meditation or the pose. (Sava is corpse; asana is pose.) Then she returned to the beginning of the class by asking people to ask themselves: What is your passion? What gives you pleasure?
Since this is primarily a column about spirituality, I judge a yoga practice on whether the instructor is working toward a meditative state of mind for the students. While this meditation was short, about six minutes, I had no trouble clearing my mind. Even now, I’ve got that easy, post-yoga glow going.MUSIC