Thursday, January 16

Anita Purves Nature Center | Urbana, IL

I'm baby-stepping back into my reviews with a local class. It's been a rough go at getting my yoga mojo back, but writing a review again feels good. So hopefully that will help motivate me! 

LOCATION: The Anita Purves Nature Center is in a woodsy part of Urbana, IL. Even after living here since '96, I still somehow manage to never get there the same way twice (and I took a bee keeping class there back when I wasn't vegan, for Pete's sake!). I think what throws me off is you see the Urbana Park District Pool and not the nature center set further back, but pull into the parking lot... it's back there (and not even that far back there, so maybe I'm just being an idiot, lol)! Parking is free.   
STUDIO: It's winter-time here in good ole C-U (Champaign-Urbana, IL), and I'm pointing that out because that means it's dark at 5:30pm. But when that sun starts sharing more time with us, what a view they'll have, as the front of the room is all windows looking over the forest preserve. The space itself is very basic, as this isn't a yoga studio. But what do you really need? There are mats, straps, and blocks to use (I would grab my personal eye pillow and blanket to roll up, next time, but that's me) and an incredible instructor to guide you through your evening.     
CLASS DESCRIPTION:  Rising Spirit Yoga is suited to all levels and is designed to deepen one's personal practice. Emphasis i on the importance of alignment, the breath, and the mind/body connection. Hatha aims to bring into balance opposing forces of energy, and Vinyasa flows that energy throughout the body, incorporating breath and synchronized movement. Each class is tailored to meet the needs of the student with modifications and variations offered to accommodate each practitioner. The first class is free, but it sounds like the flex passes are quite reasonable. That being said, they do have a registration deadline on the site, but I think they can work with you if you're getting in late. 
INSTRUCTOR: Jodi Adams has been practicing yoga since 1991, and believes in the restorative benefits of yoga. No matter one’s age or flexibility, she offers a practice to awaken strength, balance and a mind/body connection.

I was rushing all over my house this morning trying to get to Jodi's 10am gentle class today at Living Yoga Center. As I ease my way back into yoga, Jodi has been there with nonjudgmental, open arms to nurture me, but when I went to feed the cats before I ran out the door, I glanced at the clock... it was 9:50am. I had to admit I just couldn't make it across town in time. And, as many of you know, when you're trying to get back into the groove of things and finally find the energy to get you there... it's incredibly disappointing to still not make it. Defeated, I sat down to look at my email, and there was a message from Jodi saying, "I hope to see you tomorrow, either at LYC or APNC." Oh yeah! Jodi is teaching a yoga class at the nature center... I have another chance! 

As I mentioned before, what a fun location! If you go a little early you can check out some of what the center offers—I mostly force myself to look at the ginormous snake as a way to confront my fear of snakes. It never seems to do much good. Oh well, off I went to set up my mat and watched everyone trickle into the room. I'd say most of the class was new to yoga or have been off their mat for a while. So this is an excellent class for beginner's to not feel intimidated at all. Jodi started us with my favorite centering pose—we had the blocks at the lowest level, I believe. So it wasn't as deep of an opener (like image below) to start us off.
from Half Moon   
She walked us through some breathing and centering—getting the day's cobwebs out of the way so we could focus on our practice. We did some seated stretching to wake up the neck, back, trunk, and legs. Once standing, we did a few shoulder openers using our strap. You hold the strap out in front of you—straight across, hands further than shoulder width apart. You slowly raise your hands up and over your head, keeping the strap straight the whole time (and widening your hand placement if your shoulders need more space to rotate). The first time we did this is a slow motion, but the second time we lowered our arms behind us in 1" increments to hold the stretch a little bit longer. Felt good.

Next was a few sun salutations... I had to remind myself not only had it been a long time since I've practiced, but I was also really sick last week, so take it easy already! Oh how we compete with our ego <shakes fist at ego>. Then we did a couple of balance poses—the first, Jodi said she saw Seane Corn do, and since it's not an actual yoga pose I'm having a hard time finding an image. I'll piece this together though. Basically it's a forward fold—then you grab your big toe and lift your leg to be perpendicular to your body. Or... it's this pose below only you're bent over (with the free hand touching the ground or a block). 

from Yoga Pose Weekly  
I did not get my leg out that far, but in the process of trying to get there, we activated all these muscles in our core, butt, and hips. Pretty great. We also went into parsvottanasna (pyramid pose) to open up the hamstrings, although that usually gets my calves for me, since they're tighter than my hammies. 

But the big take away (for me) was this amazing movement that activated all the core, my back included. Usually when I do core work, I activate my stomach and not my back. Which is why my back hurts, because I'm not using it and therefore it's weak. This trick, for the first time, was one of those mind-body connections—when your brain goes, "Oooooooh, I get it." I love those moments! So you start in sphinx pose and peel your stomach through thighs slowly up off the mat—like you're going into a child's pose—but hold it before you go into child pose.

from Embrace Yoga

What got me to activate my back (and protect it) was Jodi's cue to round my back. Holy muscle shake, batman! She had us do this three times, so I'm curious to see how I'll feel tomorrow on that one... and I'm hoping my excitement over this carries in to actually doing this on a regular basis—finally that movement from up dog to down dog (or floating from downward dog into a forward fold) will make a little more sense! 

I have to admit—after being sick—it was great to be using my body again. Thank you, so much, Jodi—for a much needed Thursday accomplishment!

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