Wednesday, April 26, 2006

YJ conference - Seane Corn

More YJ conference blogging, at last… Just what you always wanted. (Okay, just what I always wanted...)

Seane Corn is about as famous as a yoga teacher gets. She counts superstars (Naomi Judge, Flea of the Chili Peppers) among her clients, she was endorsed by Nike at one point, she lives and teaches in LA, has her own DVDs, her classes draw hundreds at a clip, etc, ad nauseum.

My few experiences with famous teachers in any fields is that they are generally worth the hype, but there’s some crap you have to cut through to get to what made them famous in the first place. Seane is a notable exception. (in music, Brookmeyer and Billy Hart stand out here) Her brief introductions to her classes are punctuated by frank discussions of her own history and beliefs (much more soul-baring than most), closer to the kind of hard-won spirituality that you find in a recovering addicts’ monologue than to the esoteric, Sanskrit-laced sermons you sometimes find in yoga. She exudes passion and a sincere, not naïve, optimism. The arm of yoga that is dedicated to what would be seen in the west as religious fervor is called bhakti yoga; it’s most often associated with devotional chanting and fasting. Without calling it bhakti, Seane has taken that sacred devotion and fused it into all elements of her teaching, her talking, her poses.

But this class, she claimed, was the least bhakti class she teaches. It’s a flow she says she developed to counteract all the toxins (poor eating habits, sleeping habits, plane air) that accompany all her traveling, and which would often leave her in a bad mood for days after a weekend trip. At the beginning of the class, she invited the class to examine our own toxins, substance-based, physical, and emotional, the things that get in the way of our well-being, and recognize them for what they are. Then she proceeded to wring them out of us physically.

Her idea behind the vinyasa sequence she presented was compression, decompression, twist. We did the same long, demanding flow twice, once keeping everything fairly closed in the body (compression), once lengthening all the muscles we had kept closed before (decompression). Then we did what ranks as the most grueling twist sequence I’ve ever done- five twists on each side, of all varieties, long holds, then the same on the other side. The little work I’ve done with Seane before, either live or on video, was easier than this, and by the end I for one felt like a used sponge. At the end of the class she returned to the examination of self she had invited at the beginning of class; now that we’ve physically let out some of these toxins, can we do the same intellectually, emotionally and spiritually?

I realize writing this that on paper Ms. Corn may come across as a little corny, or a little pie in the sky. One of the chief criticisms of her in yogaville is that she's soft, and not grounded enough in the asana. (I disagree vigorously here; her biomechanics and alignment instructions are as good or better than any teacher I’ve taken with, period) She may well be corny, but that’s one of the things that’s most attractive about her teaching style. There is great power in her deeply felt, unrelenting optimism about the human condition, a power that is contagious. She doesn’t try to guilt, or even persuade anyone to any one course of action; her energy makes you want it for yourself.

EDIT: I did take a third class at the conference, but I'm not going to write it up. It was the end of the day, and everyone was drained, especially the teahcer. I got some good things out of it, and would take with them again, but here I'll go with the if you won't say something nice idea...

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