I knew something was up when my husband told me he was going to meditate before bed. For those who know my husband, he doesn’t meditate. I immediately wondered if he were having an affair. I later discovered he’d started something new – the DeRose Method.
It’s hard to know how to to describe the DeRose Method. Whilst it is similar to yoga in that it uses asanas, there’s no traditional flow, no downdogs in sight and no terms, such as Warrior Pose. And it doesn’t do it justice to call it ‘yoga’; it’s so much more than that. It’s been described as ‘a fusion of physical techniques and philosophical concepts, inspired by ancient traditions and taught through a combination of classes, courses and workshops.’
As a beginner, it also involves breathing exercises and snippets of history (which the instructors like to add in whilst you’re holding poses – you have to pray that they’re short otherwise everything starts to hurt even more!) When you’re considered more advanced, harder breathing exercises, choreography, meditation and other elements are introduced.
At my first class, I was nervous but excited. The DeRose Method is held at the Ady Centre a few minutes from Oxford Circus tube. It’s an inconspicuous building off a side street, one I’d never normally have wandered down. The Ady Centre is small but simple with all the necessities. I appreciate the small touches of hairbands in the toilet if you forget yours and an area for making tasty teas after (ok, so I’ll admit, I only go for the chai tea after…).
I’m greeted at the door by Paulo, one of the two instructors who taught me over the month. He’s Portuguese and strong. And bendy. We start with breathing exercises and over the course of the month, I’d come to learn that breathing really is an art, as well as a way to alter the state of the body. It also turns out I’ve been breathing ineffectively all my life, which has most likely contributed to tense shoulders and hasn’t helped with the anxiety I can get during periods of extreme stress.
After breathing exercises, we move onto asanas – balances, poses and positions which push our flexibility, test our strength and require focus. And the way you breathe very much impacts your success with these. The main difference I noticed with these positions was that whilst there was a connection between one position and the next, there wasn’t necessarily a flow. And thankfully, there weren’t a thousand sun salutations in sight (ugh, does anyone else find these so dull?) although I do have a fondness for downdog to chaturanga to cobra and missed them so much, that I started including them into my WARRIOR fitness classes.
Some asanas are intense stretches, some require strength, some require balance – all are challenging and fun. The practice room is specially built with a foam floor so if (or should it be when) you face-plant, it’s not scary and doesn’t hurt. Even your ego remains intact as the other students are so lovely that no one cares, as long as you do your very best, a phrase which you’ll hear a lot during your session.
The hour flies by quickly and almost always finishes with a brief savasana (thank goodness, because I’m just here for the savasana, right?!) to seal the practice.
Over the month, no one lesson was the same – the depth of knowledge and variety of challenges that the teachers have at their fingertips seems limitless. Manu, the other teacher, also occasionally includes aspects of choreography which can be likened to a more traditional yoga flow except for the fact that it’s much more beautiful and dance-like. During these, I learn a little about mudras and deepen my respect for the DeRose Method.
Manu is also Portuguese and similarly strong. Manu likes to give you tidbits of the DeRose Method history which is interesting but they’re always craftily timed during particularly challenging poses. Both Manu and Paulo are fantastic teachers who are great at knowing when you can be pushed more. And some of the things they can do with their bodies are, in the true sense of the word, awesome.
The benefits of the DeRose Method were first noticeable during a Fit Friday session at Studio One, when I not only realised I was able to keep up better than most others in a Method session (I’d been to one the month before and massively struggled) but the instructor, also remarked that I was strong. This really surprised me as I’d not felt strong since before I got pregnant in August 2016.
And it’s true, the changes I can feel after a month of the DeRose Method are many. These are, for me, the most prominent and important:
I’m more confident in my body: It’s hard to know how to describe this. It’s less about thinking I look good and more about a stronger connection between my body and mind. I know my body better and it can do so much more than I’m allowing it to!
I can breathe! Only those who have experienced anxiety or that familiar panic as the tightness in your chest sets in, can understand how this freeing this is. I am better equipped to deal with this and I’m starting to notice when my breathing isn’t as effective as it could be. When this happens, I remember the techniques which we start the sessions off with.
‘Normal’ yoga just isn’t the same: I surprised myself when I went to a Rocket Yoga class (which I usually love) and ended up feeling disappointed. I really missed taking the time to get into and remain in positions. I also injured my neck after feeling rushed to get into a headstand. I don’t mind more gentle yoga sessions but the frequent sun salutations are just a bit… boring… DeRose, YOU’VE RUINED YOGA FOR ME!
My body is stronger: I’ve recently been working on my cardio through the occasional boxing session at Studio One or Moreno Boxing, but nothing specifically around strength. But the benefits of the DeRose Method were first noticeable during a Fit Friday session at Studio One, when I not only realised I was able to keep up better than I thought in a Method session (I’d been to one the month before and massively struggled) but the instructor, Stephanie Tam, also remarked that I was strong. This really surprised me as I’d not felt strong since before I got pregnant in August 2016! Yay!
My body constantly amazes me: The way Paulo and Manu casually lead you into inversions before you even realise what you’re doing means that I’ll be in some balance with my leg over my shoulder and then my mind goes ‘WTF! HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?!!’ and inevitably I lose it and face plant. But the DeRose Method has taught me that my body can do things I never thought it could. And it’s happened with stretches where I’ve opened my eyes after a couple of minutes of breathing only to realise my nose is inches off the ground instead of half a metre.
Proprioception has improved: I’ve always been quite ‘good’ at proprioception, but the combination of having mirrors in the room and the fact that small classes mean that there’s lots of one on one attention, means that you can really get a feel of how your body should be. I’ve now found that I’m automatically conscious of how my body should be during other fitness classes.
I now go to DeRose Method classes twice a week (I wish it were more!) Word is getting out about it and so I’ve noticed more people in classes (but never more than 6 so far, and often there’s only me or just a couple of us) but the quality and attention to teaching is still the same. They’ve even got more teachers which is fantastic as each teacher brings his or her own twist to the class. One thing I’d say which could be considered a con, is that it’s highly addictive. So much so, that I HATE missing classes. Seriously, it totally disrupts my week.
Hello, I want to share with you something that happened me recently.
Some years ago I was diagnosed with OCD. It is a daily commitment with myself to improve and to be in control of my emotions and to reply in kinder ways to my intrusive thoughts to break them free.
One year ago, I started to practice a quite strong yoga method. It helped me to learn how to regulate my breathing and how to relax at any moment, as well as, meditate. It was helping me so much to my anxiety and intrusive thoughts that I’ve decided that I wanted to spread this method. Therefore, I started to study to become a yoga instructor..
For me everything was a challenge, since entering to the practice rooms, where you don’t have a mat and everyone in there is shoeless, I was dying!! Plus, the difficulty of the postures.. I was feeling not only physically but more importantly, mentally and emotionally stronger..
One day, a trigger occurred, someone put her things over mine, can you imagine her dirty clothes over my super clean ones?! I got panicked and I just took her things and put them away as quick as I could.. when she entered to the room, she got upset because I moved her things.. I just said why if there’s plenty of space..do you need to put your (dirty) things over mine?
After that day, I decided to talk with the director of the school who apart has built a career as a coach, to share my story, come on, yoga is inclusive, isn’t it? And is about peace and love, I was spending so much time in there due to the demand that this course required from me.. that I decided to stop hiding my OCD, is part of the counselling as well, remove the taboo of it, of course, no everybody is ready to hear something “abnormal”
I was with the director, sitting in front of each other, I shared my reality, I said I was thinking if I could leave my things apart, I knew I needed to get exposure, but I needed to do it in baby steps. He asked why? I told him, because I have cleanliness OCD.. he pushed his chair back with a scared face, OMG I saw so much fear in his face!.. he said:
– That means that if you are exposed to triggers and you get quite anxious.. can you kill someone?
– That you can get so anxious that you could disconnect yourself and hurt someone?
– You need to be under surveillance!!
– You weren’t born with this, we can fix you
– You need to start attending to a coach ASAP
– Society doesn’t need to accommodate you, you need to accommodate yourself and fit in it.
– If you want to be treated in a special way, shouldn’t you wear an advertisement on your chest saying “ I have OCD, please treat me differently”?
– You cannot practice yoga while you are broken, because is like a gymnast trying to do gymnastics with a broken wrist.
I’m wrapping up the main points he went through. I wasn’t planning to justify or defend myself to each of the above points, I only told him that I understood the ignorance that he holds towards mental health and that it was quite sad that being a yoga school director, he was not even aware about what mental health is.
Writing this seems easy, but it got me couple of months to be brave enough to share it.
I’ve decided to share it, because I think is really sad people dare to treat someone like this. I am so grateful with life, because thanks to my counselling, my family and friends, what he said is not my truth and it cannot break me.. but out there are plenty of people without the correct support, I was one of them once, and for so long, and when ignorant people say this kind of things, make you question yourself about – what’s wrong with me? Why I am so broken? –
I want to write this down as a way to tell people that by speaking up, we can break down the stereotypes, prejudices and misconceptions about anxiety and OCD.
There is no one normal, the difference is that some have the courage to be who they really are and others try to fit in what others say is correct and normal.
There’s nothing wrong with us, we are not broken! Suffering a mental issue doesn’t define who we are, is only one more characteristic of all the others that are part of us. We need to embrace ourselves, is a daily decision, but we have the opportunity to treat ourselves with love and create and build better, kinder and healthier tools to deal with anxiety.
You are not alone, and you are beautiful the way you are. I hope you find all the strength and courage to embrace who you are and create amazing tools that help you on a daily basis.
Lili, Thank you for your brave post and speaking up! I think it was important for you to share. I’m sure there have been many others who have received comments or advice that felt hurtful and surprising, and your sharing if this experience helps them. I hope that we can all be open to what we don’t understand and have a curious, loving mindset and check our judgements. I wish you the best, and I think it’s great that OCD doesn’t define you, and you’re participating in activities to help you with through this challenge!