Monday, October 20, 2014

Alignment Flow Yoga at Majestic Yoga Studio
Majestic Yoga Studio is a small, quiet, and welcoming studio space located in North Cambridge in the historic Observatory Hill area on Concord Avenue. This is just a ten minute walk from Harvard Square. Overall, my first impression of Majestic Yoga Studio is that it’s warm and welcoming. I found that the cozy storefront space, the high tin ceilings, the smooth hardwood floors, and the soft lighting all contribute to a welcoming essence. I perceived the yoga class I participated in and the instruction during the class as welcoming as well. The only part of my experience at Majestic Yoga Studio that I did not find to be enjoyable and welcoming was m interaction with the owner of the studio.  
I first selected this particular yoga studio, Majestic Yoga Studio, because I was interested in the studio’s location and proximity. Not only is the closeness and proximity of the studio ideal, but this yoga studio also offers an Iyengar class, one of my favorite styles of yoga and perhaps a style I would like to explore and practice deeper. The Iyengar class at Majestic Yoga Studio, however, is very early in the mornings. Although I did strive to make the Iyengar class, I accidentally slept through it, and I had to alternate my first choice of an Iyengar class to my second choice of a night time Alignment Flow yoga class. This class is described as a mixture of Vinyasa inspired movements and the longer holds of Hatha yoga.
I was intrigued by the prospect of a yoga class about alignment and flow such as Alignment Flow yoga because I enjoy style of yoga that emphasizes the alignment of the body via intense and even acrobatic asanas. I’ve always enjoyed asanas most during yoga practice and the more acrobatic ones are my favorite. I really love it when the intensity of inverted poses transforms into shoulder stands, head stands, hand stands, bridges or upward bow pose. I think this part of yoga practice is my favorite because, during my childhood, I used to be very involved in gymnastics and circus acrobatics. The Alignment Flow yoga class at Majestic Yoga Studio certainly had this acrobatic feel, especially when we were doing bridges towards the end of the session.
Before I note more about my experience with the style of yoga, I will visit my experience in the studio itself. The Majestic Yoga Studio has a very interesting history. It was interesting to learn that the entire studio was remodeled a year ago. The founder and owner of Majestic Yoga Studio is Lindsay Gibson. She has been a student and a teacher of yoga for over twenty-five years. Gibson specializes in Therapeutic Yoga so she has a “deep knowledge of human anatomy and an essential application of the mind-body connection” (Gibson). Lindsay Gibson’s therapeutic yoga seems to have an impact on people’s lives by using yoga for alignment and healing of the body. Although I did not feel like many of the yoga students or teachers were utilizing yoga to pursue a spiritual practice while I was at Majestic Yoga Studio, it is stated that the philosophy of the studio is “deeply steeped in the Tantric Yoga vision, look[ing] for the intrinsic goodness in… all things, and within ourselves” (Gibson). Therefore, it was emphasized both in the studio and on the website that everybody is welcome “with joyful hearts” (Gibson). Other than the Tantric Yoga vision and the interest in everything and everybody’s intrinsic goodness, I did not get the impression that a spiritual practice was a part of this practice of yoga. This doesn’t mean meditation and relaxation poses were not part of the practice. The Alignment Flow yoga practice included an emphasis on relaxation and meditation and the beginning and the end. Additionally, the practice began with a single Om, as well as ended with a single Om. Another important part of Majestic Yoga Studio’s philosophy is that there is no standardized yoga practice. It’s noted that each student “must find his/her own way to yoga asanas. Movements in every pose are carefully coordinated with the breath to guide students inward. We are committed to empowering our students, building self-awareness, and sharing our knowledge of neuromuscular alignment in a playful and lighthearted atmosphere” (Gibson). This portion of Majestic Yoga Studio’s philosophy resonated with me because I also agree that each individual must find their own way to goa asanas, their own path to mindfulness and meditation, and their own path toward becoming more connected with the breath, prana, or life force. Although there is mostly an emphasis on alignment, the neuromuscular system, and physical health of the body at Majestic Yoga Studio, I got the impression that whatever and wherever you’re going in your yoga practice will not be discouraged.  
Another crucial part of the atmosphere within the practice of yoga is the temperature of the room in which the practice takes place. Because of this, I noted the temperature of Majestic Yoga Studio. The temperature of the room was seventy-four degrees and it was explained to me that this is always the temperature of the room during each session. Although this temperature doesn’t seem explicitly hot, I did note that I was sweating more than usual during the Alignment Flow session. I may have been sweating more than usual due to the intensity of the practice. The practice did seem more intense than the Hatha yoga practice we do in class. I enjoyed this aspect of my experience. I like my yoga practice to lean towards the more intense side of things because I find that this is when I strain the connection between my mind and body. Overall, I believe that I like to use yoga for strengthening and flexibility just as much as I like to use it for a meditation and a spiritual practice. The emphasis on alignment and flexibility in the Alignment Flow yoga class at Majestic Yoga Studio indulged my desire for flexibility, alignment, intensity, and acrobatic asanas in a yoga practice. The practice did not, however, challenge or expand my understanding and practice of spirituality through yoga.
Overall, though, I enjoyed the class and experiencing a new type of yoga. I had many new and enjoyable experiences within the Alignment Flow yoga class at the Majestic Yoga studio. There were many portions of this yoga practice which were different or not included within our Hatha yoga practice done in class. The instructor was very involved in the student’s asanas. She often came around adjusting our shoulders, arms, feet, et cetera. I enjoyed this aspect because I like it when I discover how I’m doing something wrong and how I can get better at yoga. Some of my favorite tips about alignment and asanas were to stand feet hip distance apart. Although I knew that this is an essential part for proper alignment within asanas, I did not know how to exactly measure this. The instructor informed us that we can verify if our feet are hip distance apart by placing two fists in-between our feet. Two fists length in-between the feet will place them hip distance apart. The instructor also improved my alignment dramatically in upward bow pose. Before we ascended into this pose, we placed straps that were measured to our specific shoulder width around our arms just above the elbows. I enjoyed doing this because it allowed my elbows to remain parallel while I ascend into this back-bending pose. I did not notice previously how I would flare my elbows outward during this pose and I did not previously understand how this is bad for the health of the body. I really enjoyed the emphasis on alignment during this yoga session and I thought the instructor was great.

The teacher of the Alignment Flow yoga class was supposed to be Jennifer Miles, but since she was sick the substitute instructor was Miranda Mollendorf, who typically instructs Vinyasa Flow yoga at Karma Yoga Studio in Harvard Square. I really enjoyed her instruction. She had a calming and non-intimidating presence and she was very involved in the student’s asana practice. This was possible for her to do because the class was quite small, about five students. One of my favorite parts of the session was when she maniupulate my spine with a strap while I was in bridge pose. I was in bridge pose when the instructor pulled the center of my spine upwards with the strap. While she did this, I felt an incredible stretch and release of tension in my middle back. I thought this was an interesting use of a prop. The final critique I have about the Alignment Flow yoga class I attended at Majestic Yoga studio is the use of props. Although I props can be a good tool and can further one’s journey into yoga asanas, I found the use of props in this particular class to be somewhat excessive. The props we needed for the entire session was one yoga mat, three yoga blankets, two cork blocks, one foam block, and one strap. The yoga blankets were used to roll up and place underneath the upper, middle and lower spine for back bends. At this point of the session, the very beginning, I felt as though I was at the chiropractor. I did enjoy starting off with these basic back bends, however, because I did get to notice increased tension in my middle back. The foam block was my favorite prop to use during the session, especially when we placed the block between the wall and the back of our necks while in downward dog pose for an incredible and intense shoulder stretch. Although I noticed that the props expanded my experience of Alignment Flow yoga in these instances, I mainly found them a nuisance. Since I am a taller individual that is over six feet, the props don’t usually work for me. Most of the times the instructor wanted us to utilize props, I had to do the modified pose without the prop (which is typically more intense) since my arms and legs are very long. Perhaps if I had a different body shape I would have enjoyed the use of many props more. I also struggle with the use of props and how it correlates with the philosophy of yoga. When one embarks on a personal yoga practice journey, they are also embarking on a spiritual journey where we recognize more and more the value of our intrinsic nature and value less the extrinsic and the material. If yoga is to abandon all material things in search for our true intrinsic light, shouldn’t we also abandon props as a part of that journey? I think this notion is why, on some level, I enjoy coming to class without a yoga mat and practicing Hatha yoga without any props whatsoever. My experience within an Alignment Flow yoga session at Majestic Yoga Studio included many props to emphasize alignment. The use of props both expanded my practice of asana and challenged my perception of the philosophy of yoga. 

Gibson, Lindsay. In Majestic Yoga Studio. Retrieved October 13, 2014, from

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