ORI FLOMINS' HATHA VINYASA
By Martina Ruhsam
Ori Flomin is looking at the workshop participants, asking whether anyone has any special requests for the last class. "An easy class", one woman says. The exhaustion is visible in almost all of the attendants' faces. 25 men and women - professional dancers, advanced practitioners and some rather unexperienced beginners -, equipped with blue yoga mats and bricks, lie down on the floor in a circle, ready for sharing the practise of yoga and their presence for the next one and a half hours.
The class starts with Pranayama, a breathing exercise which aims at learning proper breathing. From a Yogic point of view, proper breathing means bringing more oxygen to the blood and the brain, and to control Prana or the vital life energy. Etymologically derived from the words "Prana" (life energy), "Yama" (discipline, control) and "Ayama" (extension), it is also a technique of self-discipline.
Everybody is lying on the floor, sending their breath through the neck, the sacrum, the back and the stomach. Once the inner gaze has calmed down, relaxing in a confident awareness, it is time to sit up and send a long tone through the body and the space surrounding it. Already in a sitting position, elements of the most famous Yoga exercise, the Sunprayer, are practised.
It is interesting to see how easy it is to make out the different techniques that people are usually trained in from just one simple yoga exercise; how technical backgrounds and systems are embedded within every movement of each practicioner. Through watching the people on the course, my own gaze is slowly changing, softening and sharpening at the same time. The movements of two flies, constantly circling around me, seem smoother than at the beginning of the class.
The art of letting go
Ori Flomin teaches Hatha Vinyasa Yoga. He considers this Yoga technique to be especially helpful for dancers, because, in Hatha Vinyasa Yoga, the classical Hatha Yoga positions (Asanas) are connected to a rhythmic course of motion. "Vinyasa" means "The Art of Sequencing". It is the art of connecting all the colours of a palette in an expedient way. Ori Flomin partly joins the group in practising the exercises that already seem to be quite incorporated. But he mostly observes how people move while simultaneously verbally instructing them with utter complexity, clearness and fluidity in every movement. His voice is guiding the participants through a sequence of exercises, while he is correcting certain participants in their postures by touching the body parts that should either guide the movement or be more released.
He wants the participants to try to find out what it means to let go, also in their minds, what it means to release. The chorus of the music in the background says "Just keep trying, just keep trying". If the mind is a muscle, as Yvonne Rainer claims, then it should be possible to discover a release technique and flexibility training for our thoughts. The seperation into body and mind is obsolete, every physical exercise is a mental one and vice versa.
Bend the knees
Sitbones pulling back
Connecting the leg with the floor
Leg into the floor
And pushing the floor
Open the waist ...
The constant rhythm of movements, practised simultaneously with calm background music, produces a meditative atmosphere - yet the exercises are extremly active and physically challenging. "If a posture is not possible, the task is to visualize it in your mind. You will eventually get there", says Ori Flomin.
The transition from one posture to the next happens quite fast, there is not a lot of time to feel each position and to analyze how it affects the whole body-structure. Almost every in- or exhalation is connected to a certain movement. But there are some time-islands at specific moments where it is possible to selfishly concentrate on the effects that a movement produces in one's own body. "Isn´t that fun?", Flomin asks when all the participants are balancing on one leg, while doing a slow movement with the arms. "The aftereffect is really good!"
The challenge of not being stressed
Flomin tries to explain that everybody should get to a stage where they are challenged but not stressed. Bands help to stretch legs that are not so flexible yet and the bricks are there to abate the distance to the floor, thus helping participants to allay some stretchings. While Simon and Garfunkel are singing the "sound of silence", the weight of the body is used to enforce the stretching of a partner.
When the participants are practising the "frog" it becomes apparent that a lot of people in the group are very experienced. Even though the program says that the course is a level 0, the title of the course - "Yoga for dancers" - still is accurate. After practising an inversion of one's own choice (handstand, headstand, forearmstand), the class finishes with a Pranayama-exercise. Ori Flomin turns down the lights for the remaining minutes of the session. "Take your breath with you", he shouts while the participants slowly spread out across the room, taking bags and shoes and water bottles with them in order to leave for the next class.
(August 11, 2008)