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Lizzie’s Yoga Challenge, Day 21: Pranayama and personal space

Today I headed to Archway for my daily dose of yoga. It had been nearly two years since I attended a class at Alaric’s home studio; for the past three or four months I have been practicing with him weekly at Triyoga Primrose Hill. During the yoga challenge, his classes are the one’s I’ve missed the most as part of my regular weekly practice and this morning I woke up determined to make it for the full three and a half hour practice.

Since I recovering from my short-lived case of acute pancreatitis and brief hospital stint at the beginning of January, pranayama has become a part of daily pain management and strengthening my breath capacity (pancreatitis severely limits this as the diaphragm catches onto the inflamed organ on inhale). I was looking forward to a full hour of led pranayama followed by a two hour practice, and I left feeling better than when I arrived.

A few words about Alaric, from my limited experiences. He is an intelligent, creative and passionate teacher with large facial expressions and a witty, satirical sense of humor. If you are a beginner or a practitioner who doesn’t have experience with Iyengar, start with the general classes at the Iyengar Institute. He doesn’t waste words telling people who don’t have enough experience to leave. For some, this can come off as rude or even egotistical, and some days, it may even be true. In these instances, Alaric doesn’t exude patience or tolerance, but at the end of the day he is well-intentioned and genuine.

The pranayama practice was a deepening experience into understanding jalandhara bandha and actions of the body for seated breath management. As there were only four of us, there was a lot of addressing personal needs and time to move inward to explore what goes on during breath observation.

Asana practice with Alaric is always interesting and instructional, and normally quite physically instensive. My perception is that today was less challenging physically, and  some partner work we did surrounding caring for knees was unclear for me. As a result, the class was not as rich an experience as normal, but I am responsible for this as I have a feeling of inadequacy about asking questions during the course of Alaric’s classes.

This takes me to my biggest criticism of Alaric as a teacher. In the same way that he can come across as impatient, it is not  always easy to engage in a dialogue with him in the context of a yoga class. He is, among other things, a well-studied, talented teacher with incredible resources of asana and anatomical knowledge, yet not always available for questions or clarification.

Despite this, going to someone’s home is always telling, and there is something delightfully relaxed about practicing in a space where the teacher’s dog is in the garden digging up the decking, his three year old traipsing naked in and out of the studio space while muffins are baking in the room next door. At his home studio Alaric is more relaxed than at the other studios where he teaches, and as a result there is more banter and joking between teacher and students, more opportunity for questions than within the context of a normal class, and in general, more sharing of knowledge. I don’t know about you, but I’d trade the stuffiness and pretention that some other London studios offer for the described home practice setting any day of the week.

A one-of-a-kind, world class teacher in London for those practitioners who are capable of fully embracing the role of student.

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