David Regelin: Anglephile
This morning Katelyn and I went to David Regelin‘s second class of a four-part series over at Yoga Downtown Tampa. I’d registered us for two classes because I had a feeling we’d learn a lot, but I was a little skeptical, too. Well, long story short, we were really impressed with the class (which was called handstands, shoulder openers, and backbending) and decided to stay for his afternoon session (arm balances and hip torture). The man came to teach. I left with that feeling about teaching that I have about writing every time I read something really good: why bother trying? I’ll never get to that level. (But then I get over it, and it’s back to the grindstone.)
Briefly, the guy seems into: technique, form, finding the middle, foundational postures, and, especially, angles (“Ninety degrees is the best angle. The rest are obtuse or acute.”). He is not into long sequences, and he’s definitely not into demonstrating. He didn’t demo so much as a forward fold all day. Instead, he worked on every person in the room, multiple times, showing us how we’d deviated from the middle and what we need to work on to bring ourselves back to something like archetypal form. He showed us different case scenarios on different students. He said everyone needs different cues and adjustments, depending on what’s going on with each person’s body (or head). So, the very tight-hipped runner dude got much different instructions and adjustments than the strong-backed-no-chest-opening lady. It helped that there were only 12 people in class. When you’ve got 30 folks in a flow class, and 90% of them have their butts sticking out in Warrior 2, it makes some sense to say “tuck your tail.” But what we’re really working toward is a neutral tail, he said. Yoga goes through fads and fashions, and we end up with some generic cues that either apply to most people or became popular to prevent a certain kind of injury. But there’s no universal cue for every body. He is big into doing the thing you don’t normally do. So if you’re always a tail tucker (flattening your lumbar curve) try tipping the pelvis. Make sense?
His adjustments were intense. “Now you’re having an experience,” he would say, to someone he’d trussed up in a strap, pushing them well beyond their normal comfort levels in a stretch. WELL BEYOND, in both measurable physical length and length of time (eternity) holding it. There were whimpers. There was belabored breathing. There was some fear. It was awesome.
I know David has wicked chops from his videos, but he didn’t show off a single one. I wonder if he always came off so ego-minimal, or if that shitty article about him humbled him a little bit. I’d never taken his class before, so I’m just conjecturing here. He was very confident in his methods, very generous with his time, and very patient with questions. So, if he was a jerk before, he showed zero evidence of it.
“You get what you deserve,” he said, and talked a lot about karma, a lot about how your technique catches up with you, how your life catches up with you. The way you live, the way you walk, how you practice, which hand you favor, will all eventually show up. In the same way you wear out your favorite t-shirt first, what used to be your good shoulder becomes your bad shoulder, he said. The antidote is to rethink the way you’ve always done things, and therefore to use your mind to fix your body. “Your mind can’t fix itself,” he said. Neither can your body fix itself. But your mind can fix your body, and then your body can fix your mind. That’s some yoga talk, and I dig it.
He compared the way we wear and tear our bodies down to many things (he employs a lot of amusing metaphors). Like, how he used to ride a brakeless track bike through Manhattan with earbuds in, and then was surprised when he was consistently nearly flattened by cars he couldn’t hear. So, he decided he had to change the way he did this thing. Nothing just happens, was the lesson there. A pedestrian doesn’t just suddenly jump at your car out of nowhere if you habitually drive while you’re distracted. And you don’t just suddenly tear a ligament while you’re running: over time your particular technique gets that ligament stressed to a breaking point, and then the proverbial straw lands on your back, and then you’re broken.
In the “handstanding” class we only did one kind of handstand, one way (and not even kicking up on both sides), and we that for less than ten minutes. We worked on forearm balance even less. And he didn’t spend the time leading up to those inversions wearing us out with chaturangas, either. Instead, he had us working on all the little techniques in easier poses, all of which would lead up to a handstand. “It’s not fair to yell at you about your technique when you’re already up and just trying to hold it.” Same in the arm balancing class: we did one Bakasana, one Eka Pada Koundinyasana I and one Eka Pada Koundinyasana II. That’s it. And we spent a lot of time in Gomukasana, bound side angle, reverse prayer, Garudasana arms, and plow.
Katelyn and I go to a lot of workshops, and we always find a little something we can use. Even when it’s really no more than a $60 flow class taught by some Famous Teacher Type, we manage to glean a new cue or idea or sequence. But for bang for the buck, this David Regelin series was easily the most usefully edifying time we’ve spent with a visiting teacher. He taught and taught and taught. Double thumbs up from Beerasana for Mr. David Regelin, and a big thanks to Francine Messano and Yoga Downtown Tampa for hosting.