Yoga is not about struggling to achieve,
Yoga is about peace of mind.
Larry’s Class Description
Larry’s yoga classes follow a simple pattern. Posture sequences come first, comprised of warm up, standing, inverted, sitting, and lying down postures. Pranayama (breath control) follows, using one of a variety of possible techniques. Meditative relaxation ends the class.
The actions of the body, breath, and mind are of equal importance in the postures. Larry teaches the postures to be done with precise alignment, controlled breathing, and a meditative mind, helping the students create a spiritual experience.
THE BODY IN THE POSTURES
Every muscle has an action to perform in each of the postures. The feet, leg, hip, torso, neck, shoulder, arm, and hand muscles are all active. These actions use just the right amount of muscular effort to create the postures. No muscle is tense, contracting with more force than necessary, and no muscle is lazy, relaxing when it needs to be active.
The transitions between postures are just as important as the postures themselves. They are done slowly, smoothly, and simply. The slowness and smoothness create beauty, strength, and flexibility. The simple transitions eliminate unnecessary movements and adjustments, both conserving energy and creating humility and gracefulness.
The alignments come from the Iyengar style. They allow the postures to be both powerful and safe. All other aspects of Larry’s yoga teaching, including the transitions, breathing, and meditation, differ from the Iyengar style.
THE BREATH IN THE POSTURES
Slow, smooth breathing is an integral part of the postures. Whenever possible the breath is taken in to three-quarter fill the lungs.
There are times when the ribcage and abdomen have unrestricted movement for the breath in the postures. This allows normal breathing, with the torso (rib cage and abdomen) expanding and contracting with the breath. Examples of this are found in standing, sitting, and lying down postures when the spine is neutral.
There are times when rib cage movement is restricted. This requires an active exhalation to help the lungs bring in more air: a gradual pulling in of the abdomen at the end of the exhalation, and a gradual releasing at the beginning of the inhalation. Examples of restricted rib cage movement would be any posture when the arms are stretched out overhead or when doing upside down postures.
There are times when the entire torso (rib cage and abdomen) is restricted in expansion, causing the breath to be less full. The slow, smooth style continues, just without moving as much air with each breath. An example would be in backbends where the rib cage and abdomen are being stretched.
THE MIND IN THE POSTURES
Meditation is also an integral part of the postures. It is an openness to all that is being experienced. There is sensitivity to the stretching, strengthening, moving, and balancing; the slowness and smoothness of the breathing; the space, colors, light, and people; and the sounds and quietness.
All attention is on what is being done and experienced. No attention is on what is being accomplished. This allows the mind to relax, with nothing to measure, compare, or judge. This is the only way to do the best possible yoga. Struggling with results only creates tension and interference with the posture.
The postures require little or no concentration. Concentration, the giving of attention to one thing above all others, is useful for learning the fundamentals of the postures. After the fundamentals are learned, however, concentration is rarely required. The problem with concentration is that if one body part gets more attention, others get less.
The perfect posture can only be done now in the present moment. It is only then when the mind can be completely open to what is being done and experienced. The posture may be stronger or more flexible at some later date, but perfection does not lie in those results.
Pranayama means breathing with control. The techniques can be done sitting (preferably) or lying down. The breathing is always as slow as smoothness allows. The challenge is to find out how slowly the breath can move smoothly, without running out of air. Pranayama requires perfect posture, whether sitting or lying down, as it is the only way the lungs are in position to function properly.
There are four main pranayamas practiced in Larry’s yoga classes. Here are some brief descriptions:
- 5-5-5-5: Breathe in for five seconds, hold for five seconds, breathe out for five seconds, and hold out for five seconds. Continue with this pattern for five minutes or more.
- Viloma Three: Breathe in for three seconds to half fill the lungs, stop for three seconds, breathe in three more seconds to completely fill the lungs, hold for three seconds, breathe out for three seconds to let half the air out of the lungs, stop for three seconds, breathe all the air out in three more seconds, and hold for three. Continue with this pattern.
- Bandhas (ways of controlling energy): In 5-5-5-5, during the last half of the exhalation, gradually pull the abdomen in toward the spine, the pelvic floor toward the head, and the chin down toward the chest. Hold for the five-second-exhalation retention, then gradually release the bandhas during the first half of the inhalation. Continue with this pattern.
- Alternate Nostril Breathing: Touching the tips of the right little finger and ring finger to the left nostril at the base of the nasal bone, and the tip of the right thumb to the right nostril, alternate closing the sides, breathing out through the right side, in through the right side, out through the left side, and in through the left side. Continue with this pattern.
Larry’s meditation style is an opening of the mind to all that is being experienced, through the senses, emotions, and thoughts. This opening action aligns the individual with the movement of the present moment. There is nothing to control, change, resist, or remember. There are no instructions to follow and no goals to attain. It is a simple opening to all that is going on now, inside and out.
Meditation treats the distortion in consciousness that occurs in humans when thought dominates.
Consciousness is linked to all aspects of being, including the senses, emotions, and thoughts. Yet in modern life, most of the time we concentrate on thought: planning, achieving, or drifting. As important as some of this thinking might be, it dulls the senses and blocks the emotions. This creates a distorted view of life as the whole picture is ignored. Meditation provides a break from thought-dominated consciousness, brightening the senses and opening the emotions, bringing relaxation and clarity to the mind.
Either sitting up or lying down works fine for meditation. Most often it is done with closed eyes in a quiet warm place, minimizing sensations. The student allows the mind to open to all that is being experienced. There is no attempt to stop thoughts, emotions, or senses. It is a simple openness to whatever comes along.