Susanna Nilsson is an RYT-500, Power Vinyasa and Yin Instructor at The River Yoga in Denver. She also owns and manages Denver Private Yoga.
I caught a brief expression of surprise on this student’s face when I began to teach that day – I’m not sure he realized that the class he was preparing for was a “fundamentals” class. However, as we began to move, I think he quickly realized that “fundamentals” simply meant “foundational” and that he would still be able to access the personal, spiritual, and communal elements that we seek here at The River. Maybe you’ve seen the “River Fundamentals” offering on the schedule, or even read the description. I’d really like to highlight a few reasons why the River Fundamentals offering is a class designed for every yoga practitioner.
Often students who regularly attend a Fundamentals class are returning to their practice from an injury, or simply want to move in a way that feels more supportive in their bodies. Even those of us not recovering from an injury have days where we might feel achy or crave support in a yoga class. As part of the Fundamentals curriculum, instructors spend time showing how props can be used to support your practice. Maybe you know how to use a block when the instructor shows you a specific use for it – but in the Fundamentals class, we look at props as foundational tools – teaching students how to incorporate blocks, straps and blankets into their practice so that they know how to create stability, leverage and increase mobility in a variety of poses in a safe and supportive manner, regardless of the class style.
Even if your favorite class is a “Christen Bakken Special” – a challenging, heart opening, spine-rinsing class that leaves you dripping in sweat – in all likelihood, this wasn’t the first type of class you attended when you began your yoga practice. How many studios, instructors and styles did you explore before the depth of your practice allowed you to access the more advanced peak poses? When did you begin to understand what aligns in your body and being when it comes to yoga? We believe that there is magic in the River community, which is why we have expanded our classes to offer so much more than Power Vinyasa. We want members of our community to have a choice for their own practice, as well as a supportive place to bring their friends that may be interested in learning more about yoga. The Fundamentals class sets up newer students to be successful because we focus on alignment-based cues and how the breath facilitates yoga. By focusing on the foundations of a yoga practice, your friend can have a better understanding of how their body moves and proper alignment in order to build longevity into their yoga practice.
We live in a measured world: attainment, achievement, ambition are used to define and drive so many of us. Sometimes this even permeates our yoga world by creating a focus on doing more advanced asanas without really knowing why we are pushing ourselves to be better at yoga. Truthfully, yoga is more than movement, or what’s known as the “asana practice” (the poses). Yoga has philosophical, ethical, and meditative components and asks for discipline from it’s practitioners. By incorporating supportive and foundational classes such as a Fundamentals class into your yoga routine, you’re honoring yoga’s roots. By tuning into these other components of yoga, you’re creating a broader foundation to relate better to yourself and others. Acknowledging the self-reflective tools that support an asana practice (the poses), we can deepen our self-awareness and find more meaningful ways to support our minds and bodies on and off the mat. As practitioners, if we take a step back and relate to the ethical elements of yoga, we fuel the mindfulness and ethical aspects of our practice that can add meaning and value to our lives. Ask any yoga teacher and they will tell you that they are still a student of yoga – we are all continuing to learn and lean into yoga. Even if we attend a class that focuses more on fundamentals than peak poses, on utilizing props to bring the earth closer to you rather than an inversion workshop, we are still doing the work on our mats. One of my yoga teachers told me that “we don’t do yoga, yoga does us”. Choosing to incorporate foundational elements sporadically or every week is up to as a practitioners. But if you see a Fundamentals class on the schedule, know that it is an all-levels class and there might be a reason it caught your eye today. As my student said, “It’s all still yoga.”