Catherine Halcomb-LaBarbera, E-RYT 500, a regular member of the SDY teaching team, has been teaching yoga in San Luis Obispo for 17 years and first started teaching Shadow Yoga courses nine years ago. This month, she shares how she came to Shadow Yoga and why she is so committed to teaching that style.
What brought me to Shadow Yoga?
I came to yoga a strong but stiff person. I was first introduced to Iyengar Yoga in the early 90s and even went to study with BKS Iyengar at his institute in Pune, India in 1996. In fact, when I arrived in India at the Iyengar Institute, I was afraid Mr Iyengar might kick me out – since I was still struggling to touch the floor in uttanasana! My studies were good, and of course the foundation I learned from Iyengar Yoga is forever valuable, but the stiffness I encountered day in day out was ever present and unyielding…
Then, in 1994 I started taking classes with Zhander Remete – the founder of Shadow Yoga. He was teaching Iyengar yoga then, but he also introduced us to warrior forms in a way that had more movement and spiraling actions, and I could feel the way the energy and power was supposed to be cultivated in my body even though I was stiff! Not only this, but in a very short time working this way, my complaints of stiffness were disappearing. Later, these warrior forms became part of Shadow Yoga. What I learned is that when I used the arms, legs and torso properly, the tensions of the body eased; therefore, flexibility became a more natural state, not something I was struggling to achieve. After more than 10 years of doing yoga, I was seeing change! I think if it weren’t for this, I may have lost heart in the practice. Shadow Yoga shows students how to use their legs and arms properly, how the energy circulates in the body, how to breathe with ease, and how to tame the mind. This is the basis of my personal practice and what I teach.
So what exactly is Shadow Yoga?
Shadow Yoga is Hatha Yoga. What makes Shadow Yoga unique is the focus on the preparation of the students before the practice of asana. In the Shadow Yoga School, there are three fixed forms or sequences that students learn and practice before taking any seated poses (asanas). These fixed forms are called preludes. They vary in level and intensity – beginner, intermediate and more advanced. The first prelude form works mainly on the skeletal system and the breakdown of excess muscular tension. The second prelude form works on coordination and how to circulate energy in the body. The third prelude works on precision and refining the breath. All three prelues build strength, flexibility, and coordination. Together and individually, these preludes establish the correct foundation for each yoga practitioner so that yoga practice becomes fruitful.
Teaching Shadow Yoga allows me to provide my students with concrete skills which they can utilize in their own practice. These fundamental elements are not some “secret formula” that only the teacher can know. These are skills that anyone who applies him- or herself can cultivate. I often see remarkable progress in students who have practiced yoga for many years and who have found themselves still struggling. I have also witnessed an amazing speed of development in “new” students when working in the Shadow Yoga style. The drop-in style class I teach at SDY gives students a taste of this preparatory work without having learned a particular prelude yet. Join me Monday nights at SDY 5:30-6:45PM for Hatha Yoga – Shadow Style.
For a more detailed description of Shadow Yoga and the founder of Shadow Yoga, Zhander Remete, please visit www.shadowyoga.com. For more information about Catherine Halcomb-LaBarbera please visit www.catherineyoga.com. To see clips of Shadow Yoga in action, check out this video on YouTube.
“…Yoga is designed to remove the excess of habitual living in order to free this energy so that it can be directed towards a higher order of living. Every human being is endowed with this potential, but usually its presence is masked by the fluctuations of the conditioned mind. The mind only becomes aware of this power when it stops projecting and attains a steady and concentrated state. The perfection of this state is the goal of yoga, but, if there is to be a chance of success, beginners must be pointed in this direction from the beginning. The key lies in the right preparation.”
~ Zhander Remete, founder of Shadow Yoga.