Last month I had the pleasure of attending Janet MacLeod’s yoga weekend workshop at Sunset Yoga Center. It was my first experience learning from Janet, and I found her friendly manner both welcoming and reassuring. Her teaching was filled with concise, simple instructions that took us gradually deeper into each asana.
Throughout the weekend sessions, Janet continually encouraged us to maintain a Savasana-like face and throat in all poses. This particular instruction immediately struck a chord with me. Consider what a Savasana-like face and throat means. No screwing up your face to get your hands together in Gomukhasana (Head of a Cow Pose), no furrowing of the brow while concentrating on maintaining your balance in Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose), no pursing of the lips in Supta Padangusthasana (Reclined Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose). As any of my friends can tell you, I often have trouble keeping what I’m thinking and feeling off my face. Yet this is precisely what Janet was asking us to do while practicing the asanas.
Needless to say, maintaining softness in the face and throat was a challenge for me. It was a challenge that reminded me of a quote from Mr. Iyengar himself: “Allow your intelligence to penetrate evenly throughout the body to its extremities, like the rays of the sun.” Keeping the awareness spread throughout the body – softening the face and throat, lengthening the hamstrings, stamping the heels down into the floor, releasing the shoulders away from the ears – aren’t these all instructions we hear in every class? When I first began practicing yoga, I thought it was impossible to do all these things simultaneously. But I keep trying, and I can feel that over the years that awareness continues to grow and spread in both body and mind.
As the weekend sessions with Janet progressed, I found myself feeling more poise and calm in each pose. Each time she issued a reminder to have a Savasana-like face and throat, I allowed more awareness to come to my face and throat, releasing any tension I had been holding there. Even after Sunday morning’s session of exciting and extroverting backbends, I felt a peaceful, internal stillness that the softness of face and throat helped to create. I am grateful to Janet for the useful insight into yet another way to use awareness of my physical body to affect my internal state of being.
Friday evening sequence:
Adho Mukha Virasana – Downward Facing Hero’s Pose
Ardha Adho Mukha Svanasana with hands on the wall – Half Downward Facing Dog
Uttanasana with back to the wall – Intense Standing Forward Bend
Parsvottanasana with back heel at the wall – Intense Side Stretch
Prasarita Padottanasana with head to block or floor – Standing Wide-legged Forward Bend
Standing Salabasana shoulder opener with ropes – Standing Locust Pose
Malasana facing wall, holding the ropes – Garland Pose
Dandasana – Staff Pose
Urdhva Hastasana in Dandasana – Upward Hands in Staff Pose
Parsva Dandasana – Side Staff Pose Seated Twist
Parsva Upavistha Konasana – Side Seated Wide Angle Pose