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If you tend to flow through yoga poses so fast that you don’t get time to settle into them or hold them for so long that you are simply waiting for it to be over, you’re not likely in a Katonah room. Katonah Yoga, developed over the last 30 years by Nevine Michaan in Katonah, New York, is an approach incorporating Taoist principles, Chinese medicine, and sacred geometry. The style is growing in popularity, thanks to a handful of teachers in New York including Elena Brower, Abbie Galvin, and David Regelin, Love Yoga Space in Los Angeles, and a few others in between. Discover a few of the many layers of this yoga style that can entirely transform your perspective, practice, and life, keeping in mind that you really must experience this method firsthand to understand.
1. It’s more workshop than flow.
Katonah Yoga teaches poses workshop-style with plenty of props and adjustments, teaching practitioners to fit each posture to their own particular body frame. Katonah says the body is meant to “fit” from top to bottom and right to left. For example, your knee fits into your armpit in a lunge, and when it does, you get stability. These new forms of familiar poses can shed light on your habits, offering fresh perspective and insight. Through Katonah, practitioners begin to ask: How do you get out of your own way? How do you get over yourself?
2. Muscles aren’t the focus.
Katonah Yoga teaches you to work smarter, not harder. In fact, muscles aren’t mentioned. For example, when a teacher in another style might ask you to engage your core in Plank, a Katonah teacher would instead ask you to move your bones and organs in two directions at once (heels backward and lungs forward). In this style, stability is created through the alignment and angles of the bones and joints. Think of a building, its strength comes from its structure (or bones) not from the cement (which Katonah compares to muscle). And according to Chinese Medicine energy moves through organs, bones, and joints, as opposed to muscles, which are too dense. So a well-aligned Katonah pose allows energy currents to move through you, making asana feel effortless. Katonah also teaches that when you use your bones as a boundary, you can only go so far, making you less likely to injure yourself, overstretch, or overtwist.
3. Organs are what’s important.
In Western medicine, we are taught about the function of the organ. In Eastern medicine, we are taught about the relationship between the organs. All of the slumping, overworking, and over-muscling in our daily lives, doesn’t leave space for our organs to work at their highest capacity. Organs will work, no matter what—in a snail shell or in a nice spacious body—but Katonah’s perspective is if your yoga practice can help optimize them, why not use it that way?
4. It has its own alignment methods.
Katonah alignment not only focuses on the bones and organs but on the space between them through the principle of “cross-referencing.” For example, imagine trying to find the same distance from your right shoulder to your left hip and your left shoulder to your right hip—giving your organs maximum space and giving your bones a solid and stable shape. Like a the crossbars of the Eiffel Tower, the relationship between two body parts can create stability in a pose.
5. Get ready to revisit your geometry.
Katonah Yoga focuses on creating stable angles in the bones: 90 degrees is considered the most stable angle; 60 and 45 are derivatives and therefore are also stable. For example, a Katonah Down Dog features 60-degree angles in the ankles, hips, and wrists.
6. It’s the other Taoist yoga.
Many Western Yogis are familiar with Yin Yoga and its roots in Taoism. Katonah incorporates three main Taoist principles into the practice. First, the Taoist concept of yin and yang. Second, Taoism says “nature reveals its intelligence through pattern, and Katonah teaches that our bodies, as part of the natural world, are no different. Third,Taoism says “Pattern repeats.” Katonah teaches that through repetition, we can manipulate the patterns that don’t serve us by cultivating new ones. Katonah teacher Abbie Galvin compares the practice to a wave hitting a rock over and over and eventually changing the nature of the rock.
7. Shifting out of autopilot is the goal.
Katonah Yoga uses the poses to help each student move from what it calls their “first nature”—one’s unconscious habitual patterns that they came into this world with and may not be serving them—to their “second nature,” defined as the functional habits learned (reading, getting dressed, manners, etc) that become effortless. Turning off autopilot allows you to act consciously. Katonah Yoga isn’t always liked initially because it’s unfamiliar. It doesn’t let us be ourselves on the mat. But we come to the mat to transform, not to do what we are already good at. We practice for information that is both new and that will take us somewhere.
About Our Expert
Learning to transmute previously held self-limiting beliefs, Meredith Cameron supports an inspired space for students to dig deeper, cultivate connection, and source consistent inspiration. An advocate for living a feel-good life, Meredith is influenced by: her teachers, Abbie Galvin and Shannon Paige, global travels, and her daily interactions with others. All of this infuses freedom into her teachings and allows students to feel their own sense of empowerment. Meredith Cameron has created Yoga Stability,a style based on Katonah concepts, infused with her vinyasa, ashtanga and restorative teachings. Learn more at mcameronyoga.com