What is a yoga intensive?
We teachers often call yoga courses which run over several days ‘intensives’, but what does that mean? Are they really intense? Is that a contradiction in terms?
Another word that’s used these days for this type of course is ‘immersion’. I think that’s a better expression. Intensive brings up the sense of extreme or severe effort. Immersion is more like plunging in and steeping yourself in the content.
We’ve just completed a week of early morning classes at the Yoga Shed for 15 students. For the first time I organised our annual January course to be a combination of meditation and yoga. My colleague, Michael Hollingworth, and I taught in tandem. The yoga sequences supported the mindfulness meditation and the mindfulness enhanced the asana work.
As I hadn’t presented the course this way before, Michael and I worked closely together to make the two sessions segue as seamlessly as possible. I kept the number and sort of poses minimal. Michael kept the meditation training clear and simple.
The Yoga Shed Intensive – was it intense?
Well, as Michael told the students, paraphrasing the Bard, ‘there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.’ For Alexa, who arose at 4:30am to drive a distance to get to the Shed, her experience could be called intense. For the two teenagers who had go against the temptation to sleep in, setting an alarm while on school holidays might said to be intense.
Overall though, the group enjoyed the beautiful balance of pose and repose. We started with an hour of asanas, followed by an hour of discussion and meditation.
The thing about doing five two-hour sessions in a row is the potential for the resulting benefits to be cumulative. The wheels might be stiff and deliver a bumpy ride in the first couple of days. But remarkably, the track gets smoother, the trip more pleasant with the consistent practitioner receiveing many gifts.
What gifts are available? For my part, at the moment, I feel peaceful and am enjoying a previously elusive sense of freedom. Those qualities probably won’t last, I know from experience. And the greedier I am about hanging on to them, the quicker they will fly away.
That’s why we call mindfulness meditation and the doing of asanas practices. The gifts that accrue from the practices are simply attractive goodies. The over-and-over practice is the key.
And the constancy of practising is what can be intense.
Here’s a gift for you: the sequence of poses from the first day of our Intensive. The purpose? To lay foundations for the meditation to follow and for all of the week. Hence the emphasis on standing poses.
½ Uttanasana at wall
Virabhadrasana 1 x2
Adho mukha svanasana
Virabhadrasana 2 x2
Bharadavajasana at wall x2
Jatara Parivartanasana x5
Supta padangusthasana 1 & 2
Legs on Chair with bolster