Sharp Teeth, Short Arms: Dino Downlow with Amy Stuparyk

Written by Kristine Owen Wood

Photo by Jenn Clara


In case you’ve ever wondered “What the -- ?”

Dinosaurs roam at Yogalife. Specifically, in yoga classes led by the one and only Amy Stuparyk.

But wait a minute, you’re saying, doesn’t T-Rex hate chaturanga? The internet memes have led me to believe that yoga class is the LAST place you’d expect to find prehistoric reptiles.

Yeah, that’s what we thought too, which is why we caught up with Amy Stup. to get the full downlow on the dinos.

K: Let’s start with the obvious. What’s up with the dinos?

A: It all started one class during a wrist stretch - the one where you put the backs of your hands on the floor with wrists bent at ninety degrees, then try to make fists. Except, you know, our hands turned into claws, not fists. The only appropriate response for a room full of clawed yogis was to roar a great “RAWRRR!”

Of course, once you’ve “Rawrrr-ed” in a clawed wrist stretch, you can’t go back.

K: Why T-Rexes in particular?

A: Not long after the “Rawrrr” incident, I was in class demo-ing rib thrust/anterior tilted pelvis in chair pose, when I suddenly stopped dead and declared, “OMG, I LOOK JUST LIKE A T-REX RIGHT NOW.” To further illustrate the point, I took a few T-Rexy waddles a la Jurassic Park.

Of course, once you’ve morphed into a T-Rex mid- posture demo, you can’t go back.

K. What do T-Rexes have to do with yoga?

A. Believe it or not, their T-Rexy posture gives us some insight into the habit of ‘hanging out’ in our joints and spine. Many students - particularly the bendy ones - tend to rib thrust, which can put pressure on the thoracic spine and overwork the back muscles. In time this could start to shorten the psoas, ultimately contributing to low back pain.

The T-Rex provides a handy point of visual reference for students to assess what may or may not be happening in their own bodies/postures and to adjust accordingly.

K. So they’re basically showing us what NOT to do? How do they feel about that?

A. They have witnessed what perpetual T-Rex posture can do to a species and are committed to helping us humans avoid a similar fate.

K. So while they might not be able to change their posture, we can? And our practice will be more awesome as a result?

A. Totally! Plus keep in mind that what we’re doing posture-wise isn’t wrong, it’s just not right to do all the time.

K. Do T-Rexes really hate chaturanga?

A. The poor dudes actually hate YOGA because their puny arms make a lot of postures inaccessible. THEIR practice has been to get over this complex (internet memes be damned!) and come to class regularly, without too many preconceived notions about what their poses ‘should’ look like. I think a lot of humans could learn from their example.

K. How did you acquire Rex?

A. Rex is from Cuba. I received him as a birthday gift, which I took as A SIGN since the people who gave him to me had no idea about all of the T-Rex jokes popping up in my yoga classes. I COULDN’T NOT bring him into my next Inversions and Arm Balances class as a joke, so I did.

Of course, once you bring an actual freaking T-Rex into your yoga class, there’s no going back.

K. How did you acquire T-Dogg?

A. One of my students was browsing a candy aisle somewhere when she came across a random, out-of-place T-Rex sitting amongst the sweets. She immediately thought of me, and rescued him. I became his adoptive mother and named him after Snoop-Dogg. He joined me and Rex in class that very night!

K. Tell us about the first time they came to yoga with you.

A. With Rex sitting up at the front of the room, I told everyone to do chair pose with their ribs thrust, elbows in, arms short, and hands clawed, then stomp around, thrash and ‘Rawrrr’ at each other.

I asked them, “Do you feel ridiculous right now?”

Most people nodded.

“So why are you letting your spine LOOK LIKE HIS --” (I pointed at Rex) “-- in your postures?”

Afterward someone came out of class and said, “That T-Rexing thing really makes a lot of sense.”

Of course, once your T-Rexes start producing ‘Eureka moments’ in your yoga class...

K. What’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened as a result of having DINOSAURS in your yoga class?

A. Oh, I’ve caught them lying on each other inappropriately… Rex sometimes tries to eat T-Dogg…  and even though I try to corral them at the front of the room, midway through class I’ve found them on or in front of peoples’ mats. I mean, they’re T-REXES. It would be weird if there weren't weird things happening with them in class.

K. Would you consider them to be mascots?

A. Some teachers have singing bowls, others have candles… I have a couple of T-Rexes.

K. Do they come with you to EVERY class?

A. Most definitely! They have been around for almost two-and-a-half years. It feels wrong to be in class without them.

K. What happens if somebody subs your class? Do the dinos still go to keep the spirit alive?

A. I do ask my sub teachers to bring the dinos into class with them if they don’t feel too strange about it, but I think only a couple ever have. (Not sure what that says about us, haha)

K. Surely even T-Rexes need a break from time to time. What happens if the DINOS need subs?

A. Poor Rex has a bad history of health: broken feet, broken wrists, a toothache and even a broken jaw, so he has spent quite a bit of time in the hospital getting put back together. The doctor said it might be time to retire the poor guy, but I told him that Rex just needs to stop trying to do handstands!

Since Rex has a tendency to injure himself, T-Dogg has been on his own sometimes. But recently we added a couple of GODZILLAS to the Yogalife Fam, so when Rex is away, Godzilla fills in.

The fearsome Mechagodzilla fills in for T-Dogg when he’s away (most likely because I forgot the Rexes at home while in transit from studio to studio… d’oh!)

K. With all these giant lizards running around, do you think there is any real danger of Yogalife being overtaken by reptiles?

A. Nah, they are a bunch of gentle giants! Though during/after particularly tough classes I’ve had students tell me that they wish the dinos would eat ME!

K. What is Rex’s favorite yoga pose?

A. ‘Sexy T-Rexy’ because it’s named after him, but next to that, it’s Nose Stand!

(Nose Stand is pretty much like Plank except his arms don’t reach the floor, so he uses his schozz  instead to hold himself up and work his core.)

K. What about T-Dogg? Fave pose?

A. T-Dogg loves his version of fetal position, called 'Side Slump'. He often falls into it mid-class, sometimes to get a short nap in.

Feeling like you need a little T-Rex to inspire YOUR best posture? Click here for Amy’s upcoming class schedule >>