Advanced Vinyasa with Joe Miller at Om Yoga

Joe Miller
Joe Miller

This weekend I had an old yoga friend in town, which was really great because I got dragged to Vinyasa classes and Burning Man decompressions instead of bars and Broadway. I got to talk about Warrior I for twenty minutes! Because this fall, the real issue is whether your front heel should align with the middle of your back arch or not. And don’t get me started on the sitbones.

Her friend, who also studied at Atmananda with us, goes to Joe Miller’s Vinyasa class every Saturday at Om Yoga (near the Strand). It was rainy and windy, and my stomach ached, but I went (since that’s what you do when friends are in town… and they have free passes).

According to his bio, Joe has done the full Yoga Anatomy / Breath-Centered Yoga training with Leslie Kaminoff. (The same one I’ve just started.) I’ve been wondering how teachers work this material into their classes. Good answer: Start off with an illustration of diaphragmatic movement, using interlaced fingers and the movement of the elbows/forearms. Clear and interesting.

Joe was quite knowledgeable, and had an amazing eye. He could spot a tipped ankle from across the room. He leads the anatomy portion of Om Yoga’s teacher training (I think), and gave us many subtle details on the poses, without being overwhelming. In Down Dog, for example, he told me I needed to lift the undersides of my arms up, all the way to the shoulder socket, especially on the left side. This made total sense; I’ve had some crackling and weakness in my left shoulder lately that finally made me realize I tend to work my right arm more than my left. [Or, I might have a weak serratus anterior on the left side, and need to do some one-armed pushups! Thanks to Edya Kalev at the Breathing Project for that one.]

Thats me in Marichyasana A
I am ROCKING Marichyasana A here

Major bonus: Joe also explained Marichyasana (A) so that I finally understand what the hell it’s supposed to be doing. When sitting in that tightly bound forward bend, I get either the lean forward (which tips me sideways) or both sitbones down (which tips me backwards). It’s one or the other, and since I never knew the primary purpose of the pose hamstring stretch? abdominal compression? I couldn’t prioritize my movement. Joe says both sitbones should be down, but there is a strong lift of the sternum (using the arm against the bent leg) that will then create the forward movement. And it all became clear to me… [singing angels noise]

We did several poses from the Ashtanga series, including the seated jump-backs that I normally hate (they are so arbitrary!), but I could watch my friend do them breezily and be proud. The class and sequence were well-paced (I definitely broke a sweat) considering the amount of information Joe was giving. It’s hard to cover a lot of anatomical detail without going into super-talky workshop mode.

It is so great to find a wonderful teacher who hasn’t left New York to start touring the world…