Doing yoga with Francisco Kaiut is doing yoga from the inside out. In fact, to say the word "doing" is already too active, too aggressive, as it's more of an un-doing.
I am someone who has never felt very comfortable in a modern yoga class. Plagued by an inner clamoring about how inflexible I am, convinced I am doing it wrong and actually hurting myself in the process, I am often too intimidated to ask for support. When I do get talked into doing yoga, I put on my tough face and plan to be sore for the following week. So that is how I came into the Kaiut yoga classes in Boulder last winter, prepared for a truly uncomfortable experience. Instead, I found something refreshingly different and even liberating... and everyone in the crowded room felt it too.
The Kaiut approach to yoga is inclusive, specifically catered to your body and very personal. Ever wonder what it would be like to have your favorite chiropractor in yoga class with you? Well, Francisco Kaiut is a trained chiropractor with a background in cranial sacral, polarity therapy, Tibetan Buddhism and Hatha Yoga. He has used his in-depth understanding of the body, as well as years of research and experience within traditional schools of yoga, to develop his unique approach, which we can only call Kaiut Yoga (and why not? He invented it!).
"Each person's body is aging differently from the moment we are born." Francisco explained, "Even in the womb we are favoring one side or the other. So we have to pay very close attention to each individual's body, to see where they have developed rigidity over the years and where we need to focus our efforts." Specializing in addressing complex injuries and chronic pain, students travel to Brazil from all over the world to learn this unique method of yoga and experience real healing.
For me, the enticing thing about Kaiut yoga is that its devotees are not typical über-athletes doing extreme exposes, but more an assortment of folks from all walks of life, young or old, skinny or fat, who are suffering from chronic pain and discomfort in their bodies. "Finally!" I admitted, "I have found my people in the yoga world."
In class, Francisco uses his more seasoned students to demonstrate preliminary positions, asking everyone to abandon their mats and come up close to see the form he wants you to begin with. But by the time he and his partner, co-founder Luciana Ross, have finished fine-tuning each person's positioning, looking around the room one might think 50 different classes were taking place.
"We have to make the poses fit the person, and not the other way around. There is no one place where the leg or the arm has to be in order to garner the benefits," Luciana explained. "It's very important to constantly move around the room and connect with each student to attend to their unique needs. Each person should feel like they are giving their body exactly what it requires."
"I have been a student of yoga for over 20 years, trying many different modalities. What deeply impressed me, and created significant change for me when I found Kaiut yoga, was the truly holistic nature of the approach and the depth of knowledge that Francisco and Luciana have. They have an uncanny ability to read the body quickly and adapt the yoga specifically. I was able to heal physically but also release many of the emotional issues behind my physical problems."
We got through maybe five or six positions in each hour-long class, most of which were on the floor and required very little effort or exertion. I found that I could stay in a pose for 5-10 minutes comfortably, or at times uncomfortably. Some positions I never wanted to get out of they felt so good... like scratching an internal itch that had been plaguing me for years. And here, perhaps, is where the meditation training comes in. There is a lot of time to just relax deeply into the positions and work with what comes up mentally, to uncover the mental component behind our physical discomforts.
I left feeling completely rejuvenating, a sense of freedom returning to places I didn't know were long shackled. In fact, I came for one class and ended up staying all day, coming back the next day and the final day, all while telling everyone around me how good I was feeling.
"Most yoga methods coerce the body into the same positions over and again, working our joints and stretching our bodies to conform. And for some people this feels good and they get more limber repeating a specific set of poses. They learn to fit the mold and whip their bodies into extraordinary shapes. But many yoga teachers do not have an in-depth knowledge of the mechanics of the internal body, so students may be injuring themselves through repetitive motions that are not serving them nor working on the places they have blockages."
Francisco asks each student, "Okay, so this part is working well for you, but what is not right in your body? For example, how is your big toe?" and everyone, no matter how much yoga they've practiced, has something that is not working so well physically.
"When I move a leg, I am not just moving bone and muscle, but cartilage, soft tissue, veins, vessels, lymphatic systems and other subtle structures in our body. We need to move the body in the most intelligent way, not the toughest or most intense way; we have to target our entire bodies gently rather than stressing some parts while ignoring others."
Luciana explained further:
"What is complicated is that this approach to doing yoga requires that the teacher be there with you the entire time, supporting you. It's not the type of yoga that can be put on video and applied to everyone universally. Each class, each body, is unique. That's a huge shift for many people. They are approaching their bodies from a completely new and different perspective for the first time."
"I prefer people to be without distractions so that they can go deep inside and listen to their bodies," Francisco adds. "I don't see myself doing a major DVD or trying to build a yoga empire with this style, but rather working with individuals as I can, making profound differences with a small group of people, rather than short-term effects on a lot of people."
After taking Kaiut yoga classes, trained Swami Ed Shapiro said, "I feel so free, like I'm in Samadhi, incredibly joyful and liberated. The more my body is opening and I work through lifelong obstructions, the more that translates into my mind and I experience so much joy."
To which Francisco said, "Well, that's great! But for me it is simpler than that. We are working with the very specific blockages in each person's body and asking their minds to accept and work with whatever arises. If there is joy or ecstasy afterwards that's just an added bonus. It could be anger or frustration that arise, and that is OK too."
Like a fine Champaign from France, or a true Pashmina from the underbelly of a Himalayan goat, Kaiut yoga is only available to those willing to travel and seek out the few teachers practicing this rare form of self-healing. It's exclusive and limited and that is exactly what makes it so valuable to its adherents.
So, if you're like me and yoga has never really been your cup of chai, but you'd like to try Kaiut Yoga for yourself and find our what all the buzz is about (especially if you're suffering from chronic pain or injury), Francisco and Luciana will be in Boulder, Colo. teaching from July 15-21, 2013.
I know I will be there! In fact, my entire body has been craving it since January.
Written in collaboration with HuffPost bloggers Ed & Deb Shapiro.
For more by Kiri Westby, click here.
For more on yoga, click here.
Follow Kiri Westby on Twitter: www.twitter.com/KiriWestby