Seeing and Understanding from the Base 2 with Stephanie Quirk
As the alarm went off at 4.30am to catch my flight to Christchurch from Tauranga, I have to say I questioned my sanity. The reason for the early flight was that I was heading to Christchurch for the second of seven four-day workshops in Stephanie Quirk’s yoga therapy series, “Seeing and Understanding from the Base”. But get up I did, and before I knew it, I had landed in Christchurch to be greeted by my brother (with a spare car to use – yay!).
An hour or two later my mat was set up in the lovely Christchurch East Yoga Studio. It felt a little weird to set my mat up with others, as almost all my input now is online as there is no Iyengar teacher where I live. But that little bit of weirdness was quickly transformed as familiar faces (and a few new ones) warmly welcomed me. I knew I was once again “home” with my yoga family.
For four days, we explored the upper body with Stephanie Quirk – a legend in the Iyengar yoga world, particularly around therapeutics. Stephanie has a wonderful way of imparting some of her bounteous knowledge.
For the first session, we did a practice consisting of a few asana from all the major classes of yoga poses. Our task was simple: focus our sensation on the upper body- what’s difficult, what’s easy, what’s similar, what’s different, what might be problematic for a person who has challenges with their upper body?
This session was illuminating and set us up for the rest of the workshop – it served to attune us to our areas of focus. Over the next three and a half days we explored different areas of the upper body (wrists, elbows, shoulders, dorsal spine, neck) in more detail with a special focus on inversions, as they can be particularly challenging with upper body issues.
Stephanie was clear that the purpose of this teaching (and yoga therapy more generally) is being able to continue your yoga practice when you have challenges. It is not an alternative to physio, western medicine, osteopathy etc., but it is an amazing adjunct.
Stephanie’s teaching is practical. Yes, some things used less common props, but most of what we worked through can be done with common props.
Stephanie’s teaching is highly experiential. While she considers anatomy along the way, the primary modality is learning from experience. Stephanie encouraged us to try things and learn from each other. We are all different and thus we will all have different experiences and something to share (in my case, the trials and tribulations of having a large carrying angle in my elbows!). All in all, it’s a nurturing, inclusive and enriching environment.
Stephanie’s teaching encourages curiosity. She doesn’t always tell you “the answer” straight away – she invites you to explore. If you find something different from others, it’s not “wrong”. Instead it’s something to be curious about – it might even work better for you than the given or standard instruction! Yes, Stephanie, like all Iyengar teachers, holds “strong opinions” but they are much more lightly held than some, and personally, I find that refreshing.
Stephanie interlaces her practical teaching with short discussions and discourses. Sometimes she covers principles that you can build from and take throughout your practice. But she also recounts some wonderful stories of her twenty years in Pune with the Iyengar family. All in all, the teaching is a rich, multi-layered experience.
We were also lucky to have Hasu Opa-Clark, from Marrickville Yoga Centre in Sydney accompany her again. Hasu has a beaming smile, lots of knowledge and a gentle way of supporting everybody be the best they can. Thanks Hasu for coming over.
There are seven four-day modules in the series. The next one is #3 and the workshops are open to dedicated students as well as teachers. So come along! And the Christchurch crew – led by Julie, Colleen, Annemarie, Frances, and others – who organised it and hosted the workshop are such lovely people to be around. The studio itself has a great vibe and is well equipped and as a bonus the beach and an awesome coffee cart are just around the corner. Thank you all, and especially Stephanie.
A final comment. I do almost all my yoga study online these days – for where I am right now in my life and for where I live, studying online is much easier to fit around family, work and other personal commitments (and easier on the finances). But I got a huge amount out of being there in person – a sense of community, the benefits of partner work, seeing what others are doing and hearing what they are feeling, and individual attention that is only possible in person. It was also good to get a few bad habits pointed out – habits that come with practicing on your own most of the time!
So, I encourage you to attend in person if you can. But if you can’t, then the good news is that the bountiful knowledge of Stephanie is only a click away.
- Marrickville Yoga Centre (www.marrickvilleyogacentre.com.au) has a phenomenal library of Stephanie’s workshops (and others too – a great resource).
- Marrickville Yoga is offering the same series hybrid style with the first workshop (focusing on the feet, knees and hips) starting in August.
- Stephanie offers pranayama classes directly online as well (www.stephaniequirk.com.au).
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