Tag Archives: Isaac Pena

Full Wheel: Go Short or Go Long?

Isaac Peņa

Last week I dropped by Sankalpah Yoga to take a class with Isaac Peņa. He used to teach at Exhale, and I remembered his classes being nice and firey.

(My favorite story about Isaac: He’s teaching at Exhale, and tells the class to come into a Squat. “If your heels don’t touch the ground, put a blanket under them.” One guy, heels way off the ground, doesn’t move. Isaac repeats, “If your heels don’t touch the ground, PUT A BLANKET UNDER THEM.” Still no movement. So Isaac erupts, “I’M NOT SPEAKING SANSKRIT HERE!!!”)

Sorry. Sidetracked. Sankalpah is great. It’s the space that Jude English and Isaac started after they left Exhale. (I thought it went under, but they’d just changed their website from www.sankalpahyoga.com to www.sankalpah.com.) And now they’ve pulled Mary Dana Abbott away from Laughing Lotus, so you have three senior teachers in the same studio. And, they offer $14 classes ($12 if you buy 10!) to yoga teachers who show them a pay stub.

Class was indeed firey, and full of a million twists. I was woozy for two days after, didn’t drink enough water to flush whatever demons I’d riled up. Isaac does a lot of good adjustments, and there was no place to run and hide.

The best part was a little backbend instruction I got at the end. I went up into a Full Wheel, and stepped my feet a bit closer to my hands. (Not as much as normal; I’m trying to back off the extreme shapes and get out of my lower back.) Isaac comes over, and gives me a look. “How does that feel?” he asks as I come down.

I expect the wrath of Iyengar. “Fine…” I say.

“How does it FEEL?” he repeats.

“It pinches a little, in the lower back… I’m trying to move out of it.”

So he schools me. “Well, in contortionism that’s called a Short Backbend. That works the lower back, but you’ve already got that flexibility. A Long Backbend, with the feet further from the hands, will get into the upper back and shoulders.”

Awesome. I love when something is clearly broken down. And when a sentence begins with “In contortionism.”

I’ve seen and practiced several versions of Full Wheel, but somehow it never occurred to me to think of them as different poses, since they have different functions. Thanks Isaac!