Friday, March 7, 2014

Urban Flow with Rusty Wells (A Guest Post)

Photo via Pinterest.

Have you ever practiced yoga in San Francisco?

One studio I’ve been meaning to try for a while is Urban Flow, where Rusty Wells teaches. He’s a favorite of several of my teachers.

Lindsay, one of my friends from teacher training, recently experienced a class at his studio. Here are some of her reflections on the experience…

Photo via Pinterest.

I visited Urban Flow for the first time, to experience a Rusty Wells Bhakti flow class.  I was inspired by Rick Anglemoyer and Cathy Connors, a couple of my favorite teachers. Despite all my good intentions, I was anxious about being in San Francisco and heading into the studio alone.  So after climbing a looong flight of stairs, I was grateful to receive a warm welcome and orientation from the front desk girl.

I had been so nervous about this new adventure that I’d arrived twenty minutes early even after being warned that Rusty’s classes always run late, and I’d already done my paperwork online, so I had thirty minutes to sit, sip water, and try to calm down.  I sat down on one of the wide benches in the lobby area and as I waited, I could hear Chammak Challo playing!  It’s one of my favorite Bollywood songs, and so I relaxed and rocked my shoulders side to side remembering that I was exactly where I was supposed to be, and in this case, it was somewhere fun.

Photo by Daniel Rebert.

Finally I heard the closing chant and sweaty people started pouring out of both doors (good thing there are two hydration stations!).  When I got inside, I was grateful to see that there would be plenty of space for my extra-long mat.  In fact, attendance in the 11 am basics class was lighter than the 9am level 2/3.  I was a little disappointed that I wouldn’t be experiencing a 200-person mat-to-mat city yoga class – guess I just have to go back :)

The studio itself has lots of natural light, with plenty of windows.  I set up in the middle and started a conversation with the woman next to me.  It had been a while since she had been in the studio, she said, but she considered it a great place and she welcomed me.  As class started, our first instructions were to meet the people next to us, so she and I exchanged names and I also met the woman on my left.  I love meeting the people I’m practicing next to.  We’re sharing the same air.  Often we’re sweating on each other, too. And it’s so great to create some familiarity in a new place.

Photo by Daniel Rebert.

When we settled in to our comfortable seated poses, I realized Neil Wadhawan was sitting at the front of the room, directly in front of me!  Even though I’ve only seen the guy twice, it was lovely to see a familiar face next to the legendary Rusty Wells.  It turned out that Neil assisted our class, along with a woman whose name I didn’t quite catch.  She gave me great directional assists for my foot, drishti gazing point, and shoulders, and she brought me deeper into a twisted lunge.

Rusty himself can be kind of a cheese ball.  I love that because it reminds me to smile even when that cheese ball is guiding me into an uncomfortable pose.  He also offered great technical cues.  My favorite was creating a wave-like motion with the spine when transitioning from cat to cow to cat.  I particularly enjoyed that because I have a giant, heavy bun on top of my head that basically exaggerates the feeling of any spinal movement.  I didn’t notice any vinyasa flows or Chaturanga – which I know my teacher training cohort would appreciate!  That may have been less due to Bhakti flow than to the “basic” nature of the class, or I have simply done so many Chaturangas in teacher training that I no longer acknowledge them. 

Photo by Daniel Rebert.

Before attending Rusty’s class, I was told that he is a very present or tuned-in person. This is something I found to be true.  Every time I looked at him, I saw his bright eyes looking deeply at the other students, or at me.  Well, actually once I saw him swinging a little kid around at the back of the room, which was pretty adorable.  So he seemed to be paying attention to everyone.  At one point, we were in tree pose and he asked us what kind of tree we were.  I thought “oak” just as he said, “Oak?  Yes, I thought so.”  It was probably totally a coincidence, but I’d rather think he already knows how much I love the Folsom scrub oaks, haha.

At the end of class, as we lay in a fetal position on our right side, he asked us to call to mind someone we love and repeat his words back to him for this person.  I had no idea what he was going to say, but I was along for the ride, so I repeated:  “May you be happy…  May you be healthy…  May you be free from suffering…  I’m sorry for those things I did…  Especially that one really big thing…  I love you very much…”  And then I think he said “baby poop,” which either I didn’t hear correctly or was intended to lighten the mood after such a beautifully intense moment.

I walked out of the class feeling like I’d found a little piece of home in San Francisco. There were definitely similarities between Urban Flow and Leap Yoga, my home studio. Everyone I talked to was friendly and let their light shine.  And I am definitely ready to visit again!

Photo by Lucy Liu.

Thanks, Lindsay, for sharing your experience… hope we can head back down to San Francisco for another Bhakti class soon. Namaste!

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