Sunday, February 23

A Yoga Village | Clearwater, FL

First class of vacation—flew into Tampa this morning and I'm already getting on my yoga mat <pats on the back>. This is also my first time taking a kundalini class—I had no idea what I was getting myself into! 

LOCATION: A Yoga Village has four locations—two in Clearwater and two in St. Pete. I'm referring to the Daniel St. location in Clearwater, which is very easy to get to with it's huge name on the side of a yellow building that faces N. McMullen Booth Rd. There's a free parking lot right when you pull in with extra spaces just across Daniel St. too. This place was packed probably 10 minutes before class started, so I would recommend showing up earlier than your average yoga class.
STUDIO: There was good energy the second you pull into the lot. The brightness of the building, greenery everywhere, prayer flags at the entrance, everyone's shoes hanging out before you even enter the building. Once inside there is a check-in desk and then I believe two class rooms to the left and two class rooms to the right. I was to the right. Separating the two class rooms was a great sitting area with cushy furniture, tea, and people actually using them. From here you can see the back courtyard that is absolutely stunning + I immediately wished we were having class out there. The classroom I was in was simple—carpeted floors, plenty of props, a slightly raised/staged area for the instructor with pillows, and a huge gong. One wall was doors leading out to the courtyard, two walls had windows that were out of eye shot but brought in more natural light, the last wall was props and the door to get into the room. $15 drop-in cash or card. 
CLASS DESCRIPTION:  Kundalini Yoga is the Yoga of awareness. It teaches posture, breath, mudra (hand postion), movement and mantra (sound current). Each class begins with a tune in, breathing exercises, warm ups, then a Yoga set followed by rest time and meditation. Kundalini Yoga strengthens and balances the glandular and nervous systems while it energizes and revitalizes!
INSTRUCTOR: Gail Dutton (Updesh Kaur) is a 200-hour KRI-certified Kundalini teacher and a member if the International Kundalini Yoga Teachers Association. Since 2008, Gail has interned with the Aquarian Trainer Academy. As she pursues her goal to become a teacher trainer, she has participated in four Level I Trainings. Gail serves on the Professional Development Committee of the Aquarian Trainer Academy where she shares her years of corporate management and training experience. She graduated from Eckerd College with a degree in Business Management.
CONTACT: A Yoga Village

This begins my week of trying to "break in" to yoga studios... The first being the confusion of seeing the arrows meant for drivers to turn right into the lot, not for me to go to the wooden gate into their gorgeous outdoor oasis. The gate was locked, but I'm quite sure it said Entrance on it... thinking back, it may have said Not an Entrance? I immediately assumed I was the idiot who couldn't figure out how to open a door (instead of an idiot who can't read a sign), until someone walking up said, "It's probably locked." Oh yes, that could be a reason. I sheepishly told her it was my first time here and thought it was the entrance. If I would have taken maybe five more steps to the deck with prayer flags and everyone's shoes hanging out and, oh I don't know, the HUGE glass front doors that are obviously the entrance... I would have figured it out. Not an Entrance... I'll scale the shit out of these walls if I have to! But I didn't—thank you kind lady, for showing me how to get in and for not rolling your eyes (to my face, at least). 

When you enter (the huge stupid glass front doors, lol) you immediately are greeted by the front desk. They were incredibly friendly in getting me set up. This is also when I discovered none of my credit/debit cards worked (my bank was being extra cautious, why don't I ever remember to tell them I'm going on vacation before I leave?!?!?)—but they do take them, and cash. While one person was checking me in, the owner was checking someone else in and explaining Kundalini to them. So I sent my attention her direction to hear her speak on breath work mostly, before I had to go back to checking in.

I snapped a few pics and then sat down in the furthest back corner (my favorite place... easy for people to fill in the rest of the room + no one can see my butt, lol). This is when I realized everyone was wearing all white, even white hats, and I was all in black. The Johnny Cash of yoga? Perhaps. As one of the students, who I guess showed up in all-white for the first time, exclaimed to a couple friends, "I drank the kool-aid!"—I thought, oh good, a sense of humor, while at the same time I also feared I joined a cult or something. 

My brain went into puffy cat mode. 
>POOF!<  There's nothing wrong with my Goodwill yoga clothes. 
>POOF!<  Don't you think all white is a little extreme? 
>POOF!<  Crap, will this be all chanting—I don't like chanting. 
>POOF!<  Whatevs, I'm the Johnny Cash of yoga. 

Yep... I know what this is. This is what I end up loving the most about checking out new yoga spaces. I'm uncomfortable! Good, I'm right where I need to be. 

Our instructor, Gail, waited patiently as we tried to fit as many students in the room as a possible (which included other people in non-white clothes... with dyed hair... and covered in tattoos. My Johnny Cash status... immediately revoked). Gail made an effort to acknowledge the new students, letting us know that it was a gentle class and she would be sure to explain things along the way. Which was great! Every pose we went into came with an explanation. And I tell you what, pairing that pose with some form of pranayama (breath work) was incredible. Something as simple as a cat/cow stretch while sitting on your heals was explained as firing up the spine, and if done correctly your spine should actually sweat... Good for energy, digestion, and the heart chakra.
I didn't think much of all this work—as far as feeling any different—until I went into a forward fold. Forward folds are one of my weak poses because I have tight calves + hamstrings. But towards the end of class we were instructed to go into one and hold it—hands linked by thumbs, pointer fingers linked to big toes—and I went right into it, comfortably, and wanted to stay there when Gail instructed us out of it.

I already know breath work is beneficial in yoga, but up until this class I just assumed the goal was a calm and even ujjayi breath (also known as ocean breath—think of it as the sensation you get when you try to fog up a mirror/window with your breath, that narrowing of the throat passage is used when inhaling and exhaling). I know that's not entirely wrong, but it never occurred to me to do some of the more intense breath work while in a pose. For instance, we did breath of fire (
done by pumping the navel point in and out while breathing rapidly through the nose—reminds me of hyperventilating through the nose, which is why it can make beginner's dizzy when they first try it) while holding a pose. From a beginner's perspective, I like it distracted me from the fact I was holding a pose for a long time because I was focused on breathing a certain way, but obviously does much more that that. I wish I could remember all the poses we did, matched with a certain breath work. 

We also worked with mantras. I've only recently started to personally work mantras into my yoga. It's a great mental tool to stop me from judging myself. When I'm feeling horrible because I can't get into a pose or my brain is all over the place—I repeat I am loved to myself. No need to judge at that moment, it will only make things worse. Observe where I am and remember to be kind to myself. When my ego is looking at other mats in envy instead of awe—I repeat this is enough. Keeps my yoga present instead of drooling over where I could be. In class today, we used the term Sat Nam. Sat translates to truth. Nam to name. Or truth is my name/identity. I like this description from the link I provided: 
The vibration of the mantra itself is important. Sat has a vibration that reaches upward through the crown chakra.  It is an etheric vibration, as the meaning of Truth here correspondingly isn't tangible but is more etheric.  If you meditate very carefully upon the vibration of Sat Nam, you can feel the flow of energy moving from the Etheric (Sat) to the Material (Nam).  Nam is name but more importantly it is a vibration.  The word itself carries a vibration that makes the divine manifest into the earth plane.  So Nam is a grounding vibration, a manifesting vibration.
At some point we also did a humming meditation—where I believe we were in a comfortable sitting position. Deep inhale and then hum as long as you can possibly hum—repeat. Everyone has different timing in this practice, so it created a swirling room of sound. Gail said it helps initiate a deeper meditation faster. This works for me like walking meditation, because I like having a stronger focus than sitting quietly. It shuts my brain up a little faster.

Near the end, we also had a gong bath. Cue Angela Shelton saying gooooong! No really, you need to watch this bit from my client's, That's What She Said, first event (it's only 45 seconds):

This was, honestly, pretty great (and not hovering over our vaginas). We just laid in savasana while Gail played continuous sound from the gong for... a really long time? It felt like an über subtle massage... on your inside. I usually like the sounding of a gong or singing bowl at the end of class, I can sense the vibration in my hands, specifically. I wonder what it does physically for our bodies, but have yet to research it any further. I know, from a yin yoga workshop I took, quantum mechanics is constantly working on us... so, of course, gong vibration is doing something. What? I dunno, but it feels good.

I know that Gail couldn't explain everything in full detail (which chakra it worked and the result, areas of the body detoxed, etc.) because there just wasn't enough time for all of it, but I wanted to know more. I wanted to drink the Kool-Aid too... while still wearing my Johnny Cash yoga gear. :)

I'm so glad A Yoga Village is near my mom's place—because I look forward to visiting them on all my future trips to Florida! Highly recommend for beginners—and if kundalini is a little too intimidating for your first studio experience of yoga, they offer all sorts of classes. My mom's neighbor has been here also, and shares the same excitement over this location!

Thank you for an incredible experience on my first day of vacation, Gail!
Sat Nam

See that gate there... and that arrow? Yeah.
Entrance Schmentrance

No wonder I wanted to break in—look at this courtyard!

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