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True story: If my shoulder could’ve had an orgasm in yoga class tonight, it WOULD’VE!!

Sure, I hear what you’re saying – that’s possibly way too much information for some of you, and certainly for the opening line of a post, right? Okay, okay! Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself here.

BUT seriously folks, this injured shoulder of mine has not had the sort of release it got this evening in the entire time it’s been injured. I’ve tried all kinds of yoga and stretching of course, massage, acupuncture and physio. Truly, I’ve tried a lot of things. And tonight oh, tonight… I found the asana that makes all the difference – the rehab manoeuvre that brings incredible relief (it is of course, still mangled but this REALLY helps). And riding my bike home, so happy was I that I cried and I screamed and hence the opening line of this post! *giggles*

(The asana in question by the way, is a form of Prasarita Padottanasana where each arm clasps the opposite leg while you hold a deep forward bend. I tried to find a photo of it but couldn’t! It makes sense that it helps though: the shoulder is moving in the opposite direction than it normally does and it’s both intense and very releasing! YAY!)

So anyway, this is my next attempt to talk about Shadow Yoga, in a much less poetic, more straightforward manner. Let’s see how that goes, shall we?

I took the above photo with my mobile phone camera before going into class tonight. Just off the main drag of my lil burgh. Once through the door you head up two flights of an old wooden staircase with a large studio off to the right and a smaller one to the left. Luckily, I mostly get to work in the larger one which faces the street with its incoming tram and traffic noise. Not that it matters in that wide-open wooden floor-boarded room…

I’ve been practicing Shadow Yoga for about seven months now. It’s been a bit of a progression through the introduction course, then the introduction to Preludes, before the actual Preludes themselves (which are before the full-on asana practice!).

You see, Shadow Yoga takes quite a different view of asana than almost any other school I’ve come across. Their view is that most of the asana found in your average yoga class is actually quite advanced, because it requires a lot of knowledge about how to move the body and the joints that just isn’t taught in said average yoga class. And so a Shadow Yoga class doesn’t look much like any asana class you’ve ever been in before, and it is incredibly detailed!

There is pre-asana asana, there’s a lot of focus on breaking movements down in minute detail, placing awareness in the joints and the bones, and a huge focus on Uddiyana Bandha. And yet it is very hard work! Really hard, no matter how much yoga you’ve done before.

There’s a series of forms to learn, kind of like they have in kung fu (although the moves are yoga-ish, not kung fu-ish) and they’re very specific. Nothing it seems, is included in a Shadow Yoga form without purpose. And part of the work is unravelling what everything means to you – letting the forms wash over you and play out in your mind and body.

And how.

A couple of weeks back, I had to work out if I was going to step up into my first Prelude class or stay where I was in the Prelude Introduction series. You might think that given my years of yoga experience, I’d just naturally want to move forward, but… not necessarily. There’s so much to learn!

Because I couldn’t make up my mind, I had quite an involved phone conversation with the teacher I’d been working with up til now (moving forward would also mean a change of teacher – hello attachment issues!). And I confessed that I always find myself feeling excited but also just a little bit terrified before every class.

She asked me why – and to be honest, I hadn’t even tried to answer that one for myself before her question.

So I was surprised to find myself saying this: Because I never know how I’m going to leave each class. Sometimes I want to cry, or throw up, or I feel really energised. And sometimes I just feel completely undone and not sure what to do with myself. I don’t even know how to write about it all properly right now, and I’ve tried…

In response, she said: Well you know that Shadow Yoga is a physical form and that it also works on your organs and your energy/chi. But it ALSO works on your emotional body, and if it’s churning up so much stuff for you like that, then you know the practice is working. So it’s a good thing to feel terrified…

!!DING!! [That’s the sound of lights turning on in my squishy lil brain]

Because of what we talked about (a lot more than just the above snippet), I eventually decided that I’d move into the Prelude class. But also, I’ve found a way to start explaining Shadow Yoga to myself (and any readers of this blog) more succinctly. And while I still find each class incredibly exciting, I’m not quite as terrified any more (even if I still find myself in some state of un-done-ness at the end). It’s all good!

To summarise, and before I dig deeper into my explanation, Shadow Yoga is the nitty gritty of yogasana. It’s a very serious and intense class, and yet we often laugh. We work without yoga mats for better grip and more connectedness and yes… that’s how I’d put it… Shadow Yoga is connectedness like no other kind of asana class I’ve come across to date.

What’s in a shadow anyway? Light falls onto an object, a shadow sits behind the object or form. Hidden. But does that make it insubstantial or unimportant? I think not! A shadow is the underside, that which we don’t normally pay attention to. But if there was no light, there’d be no shadow. So it’s the other side of what’s seen and known. The less obvious, but part of the same.

[Read part 2]