Yoga 2 miles high
As I arrived at Aspen Mountain Gondola Station for my first morning of skiing, I noticed an intriguing flier advertising yoga every morning up at the Sundeck at 9:30 a.m. I had once read an account of how Krishnamacharya, the father of modern yoga, had studied for seven years with a Tibetan yoga master at 15,000 feet altitude. How could one practice with such thin air, I had wondered? Now it was my opportunity to find out how an East Coast resident would make out with “Yoga Two Miles High.” Would it be a limpid affair of gasping (Downward) “Dogs,” of Wheezing “Warriors,, and Toppling “Pyramids”? Would most of the class retreat into child’s pose, to run out the clock? There was only one way to find out!
The class setting on the Sundeck was attractive. Behind the Instructor were the impressive mountain ranges of the Rockies, seemingly extending to infinity. Classic silvertone photographs of the celebrated 10th Mountain Division silently overlooked the class, and reminding us each as we struggled through some of the Poses that “without The Brave, there cannot be The Free.”
The instructor, Kendall, has founded the Global Yoga Institute to introduce yoga to a wider audience. Her teaching Partner, Kate instructs the weekend classes, which are also excellent, with somewhat more emphasis on longer holds and stretches. As with many of the “Yoga to the People” classes now popular in NYC, the approach is Donation-Based. In general, about 50 percent or more of such participants make a donation, each according to their means. Kendall came up with thoughtful modifications of Poses so that each of us could practice without risk of injury. She also asked each of us about our injuries before the Class, which is always a good sign. She was clearly very seasoned, maintaining an inspirational and insightful running commentary, with appropriate attention to alignment in the various poses. No surprise that she has studied with some highly acclaimed Teachers. One personal surprise was that the Ujjayi breathing technique that one normally maintains throughout the practice, and which I had always thought a little overblown at sea level, suddenly seemed to be perfectly natural, and essential to avoiding oxygen deprivation. It worked well for me while skiing also.
Yoga teaches us that life’s most important battles are within. The transition from the yoga practice to the mountain can most ideally be seamless. Can we maintain length and form through sinuous arcs – in short “Doing less, and getting more.” An hour of yoga is a great way to cleanse the body of the toxins accumulated from the prior day’s skiing, and to get “The Flow” going for a full day of seamless skiing. In short, the instructors are great, and there is simply no better place to practice than a mountain top. It is recommended unreservedly.
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