I guess it's that time of year... The holiday season, when people eat a lot. Maybe a little too much. And it seems the yoga community is particularly sensitive to eating. I've seen so many articles this week about food and eating and relationship to food. ...and here I am adding another...
Maybe it's because yoga is linked to mindfulness. You aren't just doing poses, you are being mindful of your body while you're doing the poses, where your body is, what your mind wants and what your body needs, where your focus is while you're flowing through the poses. Or at least you should be being mindful of these things during your practice. And generally speaking, yoga makes you not just aware of your body, but after you've been practicing for a while, you become mindful outside of yoga class. Including when you sit down to dinner, which among other things, means you stop eating when you're full (Woodward). I have a sneaking suspicion, that it's not only the mindfulness that makes yogis more, dare I say, obsessed with food and eating, it may have something to do with the fact that we run around in tights all day.
I've just finished reading an article about someone quitting sugar, including no longer eating fruits. Sugar is toxic, haven't you read about it? Here's an article I read recently in the NY Times about the evil sugar. Remember circa 1998 when fat was bad and we all ate those SnackWell's® cookies? They were full of sugar and preservatives, and we convinced ourselves that they tasted good and they were good for us? (If you don't remember, I don't really want to know, because it probably means you're a spring chicken and I'm getting old.) Then remember 10 years ago when we were all supposed to stop eating carbohydrates, and just eat fats according to the Atkins diet? Well, that dude had a heart attack, and studies show that in the long term, whether you follow a low fat or a low carbohydrate diet, you'll loose around the same amount of weight. Sometime in there was the Paleo diet, which by my (not so extensive) research is similar to Atkins, but gives a different rationale. Around 5 years ago was the start of gluten is evil. It makes you sick and tired, and you must stop eating it? (disclaimer: I realize some people are actually truly allergic to gluten and have Celiacs disease. You know, those with the deficient HLA-DQA1 and HLA-DQB1 genes.) If you don't have Celiacs disease, studies show that whole grains are actually really good for you. They're rich in antioxidants and trace minerals and may provide immune protection (Slavin). There's also that vegetarian/vegan thing, which is becoming more prominent, but shouldn't necessarily be included in this discussion, because it's not a fad (in my opinion), more than it is a personal choice. Now it's the sugar thing. And, well, apparently we were all killing ourselves when we were on the low fat-high carbohydrate diet or the high fat-low carbohydrate diet.
I love food, and have since I was a young girl. I have a cousin who has kept a recipe I wrote for her from when I was around 11. But I still fell for the low fat fad. Back in the day when I was young and dumb and (already a very thin) desperate to be a thinner high school student. I didn't eat many SnackWell's®, they were expensive, and I was mostly on my own (financially) those last 2 years, but I did have many a bag of animal crackers. When I was in college, I wasn't as concerned with what I ate as I was with having something to eat. Now that I have a choice, I eat whatever I want.
What? You're a yogi and you eat whatever you want. Yes. That's right. I want chocolate, I eat chocolate. I want meat, I eat meat. I want bread and butter, I eat bread and butter. Chocolate is really good for you, it has antioxidants and can modulate immune functions (pick your citation). My doctor says I need to eat protein to stabilize blood sugar fluctuations, red meat for its iron content because iron in veggies is not bioavailable, and I just like bread and that heavenly French cristaux de sel de mer butter! But sometimes you have a bit of chocolate, and it's not all you hoped it would be, and you eat a ripe mandarin and it's the best thing in the world at that moment. It's because your body knows what you need, and you should listen! But really listen... Don't watch a commercial then convince yourself you must eat that product. I love kale and chard, spinach and tomatoes, winter and summer squash, beets and brussel sprouts, and I eat them as much as possible. Way more often than bread and butter and steak and chocolate. What I don't eat anymore is SnackWell's® cookies and I find fast food disgusting. I eat bread made with flour, water, oil and yeast. Steak with spices and a little olive oil. Brussel sprouts roasted with olive oil and salt and pepper. If I want a sweet confection, I either bake it myself, or I go to a nice bakery and buy myself a treat, and I enjoy Every. Single. Bite. The craving is then gone, and I don't feel bad about it. I eat whole foods that are so tasty, they are worth every single calorie, whether it's an excellent lemon tart or a handful of brussel sprouts. I don't diet, but I do yoga, because it's good for my body and it's good for my mind.
I got an email in my inbox a few months ago with the subject deeyoga, and I thought to myself, 'hey, someone actually reads my blog'. Cool. The author thanked me for my support of Yoga Solidaire and said there would be a new 2 hour class for yoga teachers and advanced students every Friday at 10 am at Yoga Village for the very reasonable price of 15€. I said that I'm not so much an advanced student, since my (formerly) broken wrist prevents me from doing many arm balances and inversions, but he said it wasn't about that, so I decided to check it out. With a little digging, I found out he's the owner of Yoga Village, and when I saw him for the second time, I realized he was also the reception and the reason I like the studio so much. He's so kind and welcoming and has such a great presence, and I later thanked him for being not so Parisian.
Often I tell teachers that I have a (formerly) broken arm when I take yoga classes. It's good that they know because I often modify poses, and I don't want them to think they're hurting me. So I get in this 10am class, and for the first time in a while, a teacher actually asked if we had any injuries he needed to know about. So piped up and said I had a (formerly) broken arm. And then came the 5 minute lecture (I may be exaggerating) about why maybe I shouldn't be doing Vinyasa, and maybe I should be doing another type of yoga, and maybe it was too much etc. etc. with a little, 'but I'm not a doctor' thrown in for good measure. Holy moly! I wonder if he expected me to leave?
Lesson 1 of being a yoga teacher: When you ask students if they have injuries, either ask them privately and then lecture -or not-, so the whole class doesn't hear OR Lesson 2: ask them in front of everyone and expect them to not tell you because they've previously had a teacher like Benoît. Now that you know not to tell him about your injuries, I can tell you about his class. I actually went to the class twice, because I wasn't sure I liked it the first time, and I'm still kind of unsure if I like it. I have 3 general criteria for returning to a yoga class: 1. It was awesomely sweaty 2. It taught me a ton of alignment / sequencing / poses variations or 3. I am a relaxed happy monkey after. These, of course, can be combined for extra points. It was a sweaty class! Two hours of vinyasa can surely make a girl sweaty, but I'm undecided about whether that makes up for the rest of it...
The first thing I noticed about Benoît is that he has a nervous energy. He does a bit of pacing, he talks quickly, he moves from one pose to another without allowing time to explore the pose, and his demeanor just feels harried, which means you move a lot, but it's not particularly relaxing, and one of his most used phrases is, 'ne forcez pas' or 'don't force it'. He rarely touches his students, which, admittedly, is hard to do when you're teaching a fast paced Vinyasa class, and I don't find that his alignment queues are very useful for my practice, but that could be because it's in French, and I've told you about my french proficiency here. And during Savasana of the first class, instead of holding the space for the students, he left the studio to do something or other. He is apparently funny, because many of the students laughed out loud during the last class. Thing is, either he was talking too fast for me to catch the joke, or, like many French jokes, I just didn't get it. Every time. Such a bummer.
The first hour of this particular class is quite good with nice flow and linking of poses, and variations that are interesting, even though we don't have much time to explore them, but the second hour of the last class felt like an ashtanga based (i.e. not super flowy) arm balancing and inversion workshop, which, as I previously stated, isn't very useful for me. I'm curious about his other classes, but I don't think I'll pay 20something euros to find out. However, if you're looking for a class where you can actually do some inversions and arm balances (which aren't much taught in all levels classes here in Paris) plus get super sweaty, and you've been practicing for a while so you know when to not do that extra Vinyasa, this class is a good Power Yoga class, even for West Coast standards.
Teacher: Benoît Le Gourriérec
Studio: Yoga Village
Class: Advanced Vinyasa
Feel Good Vibe: ★★★
Spiritual Lesson: No spiritual lesson. Just a few Ohm's and a lecture about my (formerly) broken arm.
Would I pay 20€ to take a class with him? I'll probably take another 15€ class, but probably not a 20€ class.
I showed up to Patrick's all levels Ashtanga class at Big Apple Yoga on Saturday at noon nursing a mild cold and sore throat, so I had with me my trusty nalgene full of water. If you've done yoga for a while, you know that Ujjayi breathing dries the shit out of your throat, and it's especially nice to wet your whistle during yoga when your throat is already a little scratchy. We started off with some deep breathing exercises, so just after I went to my bottle for a sip... and then came the 3 minute lecture about why we shouldn't be drinking in yoga class. We had just stoked our fire, and we were putting it out with water, and what's the point, etc etc. Whoa. Dude.
The funny thing is, this wasn't my first lecture from a male French teacher. I got one a few weeks ago, a bit longer, about why I maybe shouldn't be doing Vinyasa yoga with a (formerly) broken wrist. And I kind of get it. I don't look like the typical French wispy yogi. I've got some meat on my bones, and neither of these teachers have ever seen me in class, so they may think I'm a newbie and I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing. But... instead of the lecture of why I (vous) shouldn't be drinking in class, perhaps he could have explained why normally, in an Ashtanga class, they generally don't drink water because they believe that it puts out the fire, and that's how he chooses to practice. Love and Peace and Acceptance, isn't that a yoga thing? Maybe I just made that up, but so you know, that's how I strive to teach. Please call me out if I don't!
Now that you know not to bring water to his class, I can critique the rest of it properly. It was truly an all levels class, as it was apparent that he knew some of the students, and others had never taken yoga before. It also included French, English and Spanish native speakers, some of which didn't understand the other languages, and I can tell you first hand that juggling all that is not easy and he did it impressively well. His instruction was clear even though he taught in French and he kept it simple but gave up-levels when possible. When I didn't know a word (underarms=aisselles) he kindly translated for me. His adjustments are more a gentle and calming hand to focus the attention on a specific area, than an attempt to get you into a fuller expression of the pose, but hey, he at least touched his students. According to his bio he is/was a comedian, and his humor did help to keep the class light, especially after a lecture, but it was a little snarky. Ahhh, the French. He may have been right about the water though, because despite being sick, I didn't sweat much in his class, so either it wasn't that flowy and difficult, or I had already put out my fire. Damnit.
Teacher: Patrick Frapeau
Studio: Big Apple Yoga
Class: Ashtanga, All Levels
Feel Good Vibe: ★★
Spiritual Lesson: I'm not sure if stoking the fires is considered spiritual, but it was quite a lesson. Also, lots of pranayama for an all levels class.
Would I pay 20€ to take a class with him again?
Nope. Because I have a home practice, his class didn't make me relax more fully or give me a better workout than I give myself, nor did it give me useful alignment tips. But if you don't have a home practice, it's a great all levels class for a Saturday. Also, that isn't to say that he couldn't do some of the above things (for me) in a more advanced class.
Former San Francisco DNA wrangler and current Paris yoga teacher and mom. Sharing. Caution: Possibly too much.