Welcome to “Talks with Teachers”, an occasional feature where we get up close and personal with our teaching staff. Today, we are talking with Micki Leventhal who teaches The Yoga Centre’s (TYC) Hatha Vinyasa class on Monday mornings.
TYC: So, Micki, what was your initial involvement in yoga and when did you start teaching?
Micki: As a “child of the 60s” I was very aware of yoga and worked with a guru briefly in the early 70s. Life took a series of different turns at that point and I didn’t start pursuing a regular practice until the mid-90s.
My first classes were at the Chicago Park District. I then started taking classes from several excellent teachers at Galter Life Center and then regularly at N.U. Yoga Center (now Chicago Yoga Center) with Suddha Weixler.
I chose the Temple of Kriya Yoga for my teacher training, under the direction of our very own William Hunt. I completed my training in 2004 and have been teaching since then.
I am also pretty much of a continuing education junkie and have racked up more than 200 hours of study with master teachers in workshops and intensives at Moksha Yoga, Yogaview, Tejas Yoga, and Kripalu Center.
TYC: What is a Vinyasa practice and how do you define it?
Micki: Okay, so the word “Vinyasa” actually translates as “to place in a special way.” Great, what does that even mean? You are always placed in a special way in any asana; that’s what doing yoga is. What Vinyasa has come to describe is a flowing practice that incorporates repetitions of sun salutations and other series of postures that are linked with a constant weave of breath as you move from posture to posture.
Vinyasa is generally more heating – or aerobic, if you will – than a more classical Hatha practice, although most Hatha classes, certainly at the intermediate level, will include some sun salutations.
TYC: Your training at Kriya was very classical, with great emphasis on alignment. What attracted you to Vinyasa?
Micki: Unquestionably, my background and continuing involvement in dance and creative movementAlso, I find an increased meditative state though sustained, smooth movement. . There is a lovely saying: “we bless life by dancing.” I would include a flow, or Vinyasa, practice in that thought. For me, is says it all.
TYC: So, is Vinyasa yoga “power” yoga?
Micki: There are different approaches to Vinyasa and it can be what some people think of as “power” yoga. I, however, am absolutely committed to the importance of proper alignment so I take a slower approach to the flows and movement sequences. It’s really more of a fusion of Hatha and Vinyasa, what I think of as a “slow and juicy” practice. I mean, we rush around constantly in our day-to-day lives. When you come into the studio, you want to take the time to savor the experience. That doesn’t mean you won’t work in my classes, and maybe even sweat.
TYC: Can anyone do Vinyasa?
Micki: Absolutely. Well, let me qualify that: my classes at TYC aren’t beginner classes. That is, students are expected to have a familiarity with the fundamental postures and a decent understanding of recommended alignments. Then, we have fun linking them together in creative and challenging ways.
But if you’re asking can people of varying experience, abilities, and body types enjoy a Vinyasa practice then the answer is a resounding “yes.” As I said, my classes encourage a mindful approach to the movement series and there are always “lightening” options offered. We very well may stop at points to check alignments or even to rest in child pose for some breaths between flows. It’s a no-judgment zone where self-knowledge and self-care are strongly encouraged.
TYC: What are the three top things you’d like your participants to get from your classes?
Micki: Improved health both physical and emotional; increased awareness of their own bodies so that they can challenge themselves safely and grow their practice in a meaningful way for the long-term; and, most importantly, joy.