Intro to Katonah Yoga

It’s no news that yoga variations / interpretations / styles are popping up all over the Western world, and Zurich is certainly not the exception. I’m not talking about beer or gin or goat yoga, but innovative movement practices with a different take on yoga principles.

Katonah Yoga is one of those emerging practices and it’s picking up traction in Zurich. Developed in the US in the last ~40 years, it’s gone global at a fast pace. To my knowledge, one can practice it in Zurich at Yoga in a Bag (full blown concept) and at Yogisi (vinyasa-katonah flow), where I see you can also get a 30h teacher training in early 2020!

Marta, my friend and fellow teacher in training, recommended me Malwina’s class at Yoga in a Bag, so there we were on a gloomy Tuesday evening. The studio is located on the ground floor of a new building in Altstetten, and is essentially one big beautiful room with a greeting desk at the entrance. Malwina greeted me warmly into the room that had already been nicely set up with mats and props.

At the start of the class, Malwina explained to me and the other 7 yogis some of the basic concepts of Katonah Yoga:

  • Travelling into poses, as opposed to quick vinyasa transitions or lengthy yin pose holds
  • References to bones and joints, instead of muscles which may fluctuate in size and strength
  • Different perspectives on alignment – which we were about to experience during practice.

By the way, read here a very nice Yoga Journal summary on the Katonah Yoga principles. 

I felt that most of the class was on the ground or close to the ground. We did “travel” up into standing, but did not particularly focus on standing or balance poses. I assumed this had a lot to do with the “journey” character of this yoga style. The focus was primarily on gradually lengthening into poses, be it from forward fold into standing, or down in child’s pose with arms stretched out. Malwina’s cues pointed a lot to the knees, sacrum, pubis, sternum, spine and joints – great anatomy refresher on the skeleton 🙂

One of my favorite poses was runner’s lunge with the knee into the armpit. Malwina shared that it was a very calming pose for her, and I also found it particularly soothing. The focus here was on geometrical alignment without locking the other joints, before going into side twists and side angles. What I really appreciated was the precision in Malwina’s almost poetic cues – she encouraged us to discover the space, grace and beauty of the poses while guiding the awareness to all the physical changes, even the minute ones.

After each sequence we paused to rest and experience the effect of the motions, and towards the end of the class we experimented with kurmasanaturtle pose with closed legs. I personally love this pose. It’s both a shoulder stretch and a forward fold – a nice combo of work and release – and I really liked the Katonah-style instructions, emphasizing contact points and alignment in bones and joints.

The whole class was conducted without music, but our shavasana was accompanied by a calming background tune. We were encouraged to use props as we feel necessary to truly release and fully relax. I was a bit unclear about Katonah Yoga, heard it was some kind of hatha variation, and after the class I can confirm: while indeed grounded in hatha, Katonah dismisses the rigid hold of the poses, while not compromising on alignment and posture integrity. The creative interpretation on cueing, along with Malwina’s supportive and motivating guidance made this Tuesday class a highlight of my week!

Thank you for a beautiful intro and a fun practice!
Looking forward to more Katonah Yoga in my life ♥

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