It's kind of embarrassing to say but although I work at the Pyramid and am surrounded by wonderful instructors all day long, I almost never get to take a class from another instructor because I am almost always teaching my own classes. But last night the stars lined up and I was able to take Darlene Kepner's Upbeat Yoga class.
Once I recovered from the shock of being able to actually take a class (and I think once Darlene was able to recover from the shock, too!) I spread out my mat and water, turned off my cell phone, and sat down on the floor with the other students. I had honestly never sat on the floor facing that direction, and I was pleasantly surprised to see the mountain view and feel the cooling breeze entering through the third floor windows. In those few minutes, I enjoyed the scene--Darlene happily preparing for her class, checking in with new students and setting the mood with her excellent taste in music. I wasn't sure what to expect for the music from an "upbeat" class, but I soon fell into the rhythmic world music, enjoying the change from the usual new age class music. My breathing slowed down and I found myself slipping into a familiar state of peace.
Darlene has a voice that is so easy to hear and follow. Even her instructions were calming. I felt reassured, because her confidence in her teaching and herself came through. I knew I was in good hands when she started inviting us into her interpretation of the practice of Yoga.
Although the class started gently, it did not take long for me to work up a sweat. Downward dog...chair posture...planks. My type of class! And yet Darlene did a wonderful job of showing alternatives for every level. I watched as even the beginners in the class could follow and enjoy her non-judgmental style. The more advanced participants were also challenged. That is the joy of taking classes in Vermont for me--in more urban areas, there are so many people taking classes that they can split them up by level, so you would choose to attend a beginner, intermediate, or advanced class. But in Vermont, because we do not have the popularion, all levels are usually combined. I enjoy this especially because although I have been practicing Yoga for 20 years and teaching it for over ten, there are days when I want a gentler class...there are times when my body feels like it needs a beginner level. And then there are days when I really want to bust it out and use my practice to release serious stress and build strength. A mixed level class allows you to work at your own pace without feeling pressure to conform to the level of those around you. And although I consider myself a more advanced Yoga student, I wasn't created with the typical "Yoga body" so it is often more work for me than the average person to get into the asanas. In a mixed level class, it is always nice to be reminded of the basic cues, and it is great to see how others challenge themselves. In short, a mixed level class allows you to grow in ways that one might not imagine--and I was definitely not disppointed in Darlene's class.
I have to admit that the class went by quickly. I don't know whether I was just in a zone or I was so craving the experience of taking someone else's class that I was in what positive psychologists call "flow" and the experience of time was dramatically sped up for me. Either way, I watched and learned from Darlene's expert teaching style and had a wonderful time.
As we moved into the final few moments of class, I checked in with my body. I forgot how good it feels to just follow along with someone else leading, and especially when the instructor is as wonderful as Darlene. I felt awesome--energized and relaxed at the same time...like I had just taken a mini-vacation. I looked around at the other students and imagined that they were feeling the same way I was. For a moment, I felt connected to everything and everyone. While that is definitely one of the goals of Yoga practice, I realized how easy it is in this life to feel disconnected. In that moment I realized that too much lately I have felt disconnected. Like many, I've felt more in the flow of work than the flow of the universe. Even instructors can fall into this pattern. As I rested in corpse pose, I felt a disconnected sadness that I had never experienced in my practice before, and I knew that I have to make some changes.
To say that this experience was intense is an understatement. It was one that came just at the right time that I needed it. It would not be an exaggeration to say that this class positively changed my life. And when I think of the small investment that I made--an hour of my time and $6--I feel so blessed to be surrounded by the tools to truly make a difference in my own life and the lives of those around me. Experiencing this class reminded me of why I wanted to keep our class prices at $6 in the first place--because I do not believe that the practice of Yoga should be reserved for the world's elite. Everyone should have access to a class like I took last night. I have so much respect and gratitude for our instructors who have also committed to this mission of affordable instruction.
With Darlene's smile and soothing encouragement, with the energy of the other students, the music, and the beautiful atmosphere of the ballroom studio at the Pyramid, it was easy to see why so many people take classes. And it was easy for me to recommit to myself to make sure that I take classes as often as I can.
Of course there will always be things that come up--board meetings, emergency clients, facilities issues, and more--but aren't we all worth taking the time to invest in ourselves?
I cannot wait for my next awesome class with Darlene--and the other wonderful Pyramid instructors.
Darlene currently teaches Upbeat Yoga on Thursdays at 7 PM, Sun Salutation Sunday on Sundays at 10:30 AM, and Gentle Yoga on Mondays at 4 PM. For the full Pyramid class schedule, please visit our website:
Thank you, Darlene, and thanks to everyone!
Pyramid Holistic Wellness Center and