Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Doing your own sequence in a lead class

I've been leading/teaching classes for about thirteen years now.  I won't say I've seen "everything" because as soon as I say that, some new situation will come along.  But I've seen quite a bit. 

This topic is one I think all instructors (and students) have faced at one point or another, be it from a regular attendee or a drop-in:  the individual who does their own thing through out a WHOLE class.  I believe most instructors or styles encourage the student to make the class their own, to modify when needed, to practice Ahimsa and self care,  but what do you do when you get "that" individual who is, literally, just doing their own thing through the entire class?  To the point where it's distracting not only you, but others?

Some situations I've been in:
  • Where they may be a significantly more advanced practitioner than the present class
  • Oblivious that their actions are affecting class (the person in the front row who's doing "their thing" and the beginners in back trying to follow)
  • They want to be in class, but they don't like the sequencing and do something different
I have yet to find an good solution to any of the above.

Well, except one.  I have had to stand in class in such a way that I couldn't see the individual (they were behind me). Out of sight, out of mind. 

This has brought a greater awareness of my actions when I attend a class elsewhere.  I LOVE to hit Corepower when I'm in the Cities.  Usually my schedule limits me to what I can attend, so not infrequently I'll take a CP1 class (their beginning class, unheated or moderate heat).  Some things I will do:
  • Park my mat in a back corner so I can take alternate moves without distracting my neighbors.
  • I stay within the parameters of the asana being offered.  I will deepen a pose, or work on the next level of that pose, but I won't bust out with a totally different pose.  
  • If the instructor pauses to break something down, I will pause as well and listen respectfully.  Who knows?  They might have a new approach to moving into something that I can bring back to my class.
  • Try to approach any class with a beginners mind. 
So my fellow instructors, what have you experienced and how have you handled the situation?  Or, if not an instructor, but a participant in a class, how has your instructor handled it?  How have you handled it when your neighbor is all over the place?

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

YogaFit Training: Yoga Fit for Warriors - PTSD

I did this training on the same weekend as YogaBacks, at the YogaFit Mind Body Fitness Conference in Minneapolis in June, 2017.

I will be upfront and say this was quite a departure from my usual anatomy, philosophy and flow based workshops and I had some trepidation going in that I wouldn't be a good fit for this topic.  But, this was the next class in line on my list of classes from YogaFit (my A-type personality has me marching down the line for the 200/500 training's), and yoga is about learning to work outside ones comfort zone.  So, I signed up.

This was, simply, outstanding!  You don't have to be working directly with trauma victims in a trauma specific to benefit from this session.  Bottom line -  nearly everyone in our society is coping with some kind of mental or physical trauma and you will never know what that is.  This class raises your awareness of how you can structure your language, your class setting, and some of your actions to accommodate someone who is coping with trauma and PTSD.   It's the little things that can make a HUGE difference.

From the YogaFit site:
This trauma-­sensitive yoga workshop zeros in on Post-­Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Trauma Brain Injury (TBI), the long­term effects each one has on the mind, body, and spirit, and how yoga can bring relief. Anyone suffering from trauma—military men and women, and their families; first responders; victims of violence or abuse—as well as the mental health professionals working with them will benefit from this two-day intensive. 
  • Polyvagal theory, the significance of the vagus nerve in trauma, and the role that yoga plays in its ability to function well  
  • The sympathetic nervous system’s role in understanding PTSD and trauma-­related stress response
  • Specific psoas release exercises, breathing techniques, slower movement, guided imagery, and meditation practices designed to release trauma stored in the body
  • How the language we use as teachers affects our students on a neurological and cellular level
  • How to use YogaFit’s transformational language specifically for this population to facilitate a deeper release of stress
This two day class covered a tremendous amount of information and was a great introduction to the topic.
Class began by discussing the Bhagavad Gita and Arjuna's conundrum on the eve of battle and the right way to live (dharma).  We then segwayed into what it means to be in the military, to live with someone in the military or know someone in the military - basically the expectations of military culture.  I was a bit surprised here when I was the only one in class with intimate knowledge on what it was to be in the military and live with someone who was in the military.  

We broke down what PTSD is, how it develops, symptoms, and treatments as it relates to the military, but really, these can occur in so many other situations so the application is multifold.
We discussed Traumatic Brain Injury - what it is, causes, and who's at risk. 
We read an interview between a Dr. Stephan Porges  in the Polyvagal theory by Ravi Dykema. 
Then we got into what we can bring to a class, such as: 
  • Bottom-up processing, that uses slower, more methodical movements to help people feel in control of their bodies so they can self regulate reactions. 
  • Observe Orient Decide Act Loops
  • Tapping or Emotional Freedom Techinque (EFT)  
  • Meditation
  • Yoga Nidra
  • Creating safe space - this one was extremely helpful and I've incorporated some small items into my regular classes.  
So much great information!  And two great Master Classes - two two-hour sessions where the instructor incorporated much of the lesson right into a moving class.  We did a psoas release on the second day that was fascinating.

Some notables that I took away and some I've already been doing  - let people know I'm going to walk around and pick up the blocks as they settle into deep relaxation at the end of class, give permission for self care of any kind, be mindful of how loud the music is, options - lots of options! 

To reiterate, I would strongly recommend this session for any instructor. 

If you find you want to delve deeper into trauma-sensitive yoga training, YogaFit does offer a Warrior Training tract, along with a Warrior Kids option.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

YogaFit Training: YogaBacks

I am way overdue in posting a workshop review.  It's been a crazy busy summer and fall isn't looking any calmer.

In June of 2017, I was back in Minneapolis for YogaFit's Mind Body Fitness Conference.  I missed 2016, and in the interim they had changed hotels from downtown Minneapolis at the Hilton to the DoubleTree near St. Louis Park.  I really appreciated the change - parking, price, safety and food options all being key factors.  Especially the free parking! 

I picked up another couple sessions, YogaBacks being one of them.  This is a one day workshop that focuses on back health.  This workshop was led by Kim Gray out of Illinois.  The YogaFit instructors are one of the main reasons I keep coming back to these sessions - the quality of teaching and knowledge these folks bring is amazing.

The background for the course (from the YogaFit website):
  • A basic overview of common back issues, such as herniated discs, spinal stenosis, osteoarthritis, spondylosis, and sacroiliac instability
  • General guidelines for dealing with common back issues
  • How to recognize levels and type of pain, such as acute vs chronic pain
  • Yoga poses appropriate at different stages of back pain
  • Yoga poses to maintain a healthy back
  • YogaBack protocols and sequences that serve as a starting point for a therapeutically based back-care plan
  • Breathing techniques designed to alleviate or mitigate pain
  • How to modify poses, using props and gentle assists, to ensure a safe and appropriate experience
Yikes!  That sounds like some pretty intense stuff!   It was, but it was very doable and approachable thanks to Kim.

Over the course of the day we covered:
  • Causes of low-back pain 
  • Medical Red Flags - with the warning please don't come to class until you've seen a doctor. We don't want to make a condition worse or cause someone pain. 
  • Guidelines for a back-focused sequence which involved numerous reminders to stay pain free, or if already in pain, don't make the pain worse. 
  • Pain discussion - how the body protects against pain. 
  • Anatomy of the spine
  • Breath 
  • Theraputic Yoga for common back conditions
  • and we did a hour and a half master class that was wonderful
My take-away:  this should be a MUST DO class for anyone teaching yoga.  Back issues are so prevalent in our society and having the knowledge to move a class safely through a regular sequence or a back-specific sequence is a must in my opinion.   Having the ability to say to someone, "I recommend you see a Dr. before continuing," rather than assuming the back pain is muscle related, is a yoga practice in itself.  

I highly recommend this session.  

**These reviews are my own opinions and experiences.  I am NOT compensated in anyway by the YF corporation or other entities.  I attend these and other workshops on my own time and with my own finances for self improvement.  I share my experiences to help others find what might work for them. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Studio Review: Maya Yoga, Kansas City, Mo

A studio shout-out is needed: 

I recently visited Kansas City, MO, for a convention and found myself within walking distance of Maya Yoga - an Ashtanga studio in the Arts district of downtown Kansas City.

I admit, I was a little (a lot?) nervous about trying an Ashtanga Studio, not because of the sequence, but because I have had a bad experience at a different Ashtanga studio whose name I shall not mention.  This other studio was elitist, cliquish, and just unwelcoming.  If you weren't practicing The Primary series in an absolutely traditional fashion, well...go somewhere else. 

Maya Yoga was 180* different.  I was welcomed at the front desk, and when I explained I was just visiting for the week, I was shown the option of a two week trial period of three classes, which was a really good deal!  I appreciate being offered that rather than just being shoved into the pay-as-I go option. 

The studio was warm, brightly light, and inviting.  The other students made eye contact and said "hello", which is nice when in a strange place.  The students talked, joked, and caught up with each other, which *I* like to see because that tells me a community is being developed.  The instructor took a moment to ask if I knew the sequence, explained he added a couple poses, and welcomed me.  Again - nice! 

And I was SO impressed by the class!  Led by John Moran (according to the schedule), he made the Primary series enjoyable and approachable.  He offered alternate places to work while challenging the more advanced practitioners.  Something I really appreciate in a class.   His cuing was solid, flowed, and had a good cadence.   I was ecstatic.  I haven't enjoyed the primary series like that in years.

Next class I took as a Noon class:  Ashtanga "Power Hour", led by Kim Johnson.  This combined part of the Primary series standing sequence with the first handful of poses from the secondary series.  Awesome!  One of those, why haven't I done this?!   Again, the instructor had great cuing, and offered a variety of places for people to work. 

Last class (sadly), was Led Primary Series by Lainie Pasquini.  Room got a bit warmish, probably hit 90* and very humid (not much unlike a Corepower class), and I thought it cool that the instructor did open some windows to blow out some of that stuffy humidity.   This instructor reminded me a bit of myself.  Very enjoyable session and I was sad it was my last. 

So, if you EVER find yourself in Kansas City, TRY THIS STUDIO.   I see why they've earned the recognition they have posted: 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Being Helpful or an Annoyance?

I hadn't realized so much time had passed since my last posting.  I haven't been to any yoga training this year, opting not to attend the YogaFit Mind Body Conference in Minneapolis in June.  I think I was a bit burnt out from all the workshops I attended last year and needed a break from travel.  

This post topic has been bumping around in my head for a while and I decided to update the blog and jot down my thoughts at the same time.

Background:  I'm an instructor and student.  I understand what it's like to be in a room that is quickly filling up, new faces need welcoming and orienting, regulars saying hi and wanting to catch up, people chatting with mat neighbors (building community!), music needs to be started, doors closed and announcements made.  It can get unexpectedly busy

Situation:  I had the opportunity to attend a class recently (yay!) and the above happened.  It was well after the official start of class, I was next to the door, and, as a courtesy, got up to shut the door and turn off the foyer light.  A small thing.  I've done it before and usually get a nod of thanks from the instructor. 

This time I had the opposite effect than what I had intended.

The instructor rushed over, telling me to sit down and that she would take care of it, that I should enjoy being there without doing "teacher" duties. 

The impression I received was one of annoyance, that she wanted to be able to control the door/class setting and I had stepped on her toes.

This made me reassess my actions: 
  • Was I being helpful or inadvertently sending a message about her time or class management?
  • Was I being helpful or impinging upon her need to be in control?  
  • Was I being helpful or causing her undo stress/anxiety because she wasn't accommodating another instructor.
I have no way of knowing with out asking, and our paths rarely cross if at all.  My intent was simply to help: instructor is busy with a full and boisterous class; I'm next to the door, I can shut the door.  

Ultimately, I can only control my actions, motives, and responses and if the above situation arises again, let it be. 

From the Bhagavad Gita, in which Krishna shares one of the teachings that has always resonated with me: ‘Let your concern be with action alone, and never with the fruits of action. Do not let the results of action be your motive, and do not be attached to inaction’.


Monday, August 17, 2015

Leslie Kaminoff Workshop Part 4: Hands on Assisting Lab

I had the opportunity to attend an anatomy workshop lead by Leslie Kaminoff, author of Yoga Anatomy, during the week of Aug 3-6,.   This was one of my first yoga anatomy books and it remains a great resource. This was day four of the workshop.

Lots of moving today as we explored some individual movements in morning practice and later, partner assisted movements.  I will be totally upfront here - I don't like partner work.  I understand it's value in a classroom environment as a teaching tool, but I just don't like doing it.  That's my personality quirk.

Today's tidbit - Practice of yoga is about eliminating obstacles that exist in our lives.

In our partner work, we did:

Roll down and roll up exercises.  This comes back to day one of the workshop, where we learned how to focus on the posterior spine rolling down, and to use the anterior spine coming up.  In partner work, we were too look for areas that move as sections, rather than segments.

Standing Stick Fall.  We "fall" into our partners hands in a chataranga dandasana position, maintaining a strong line of energy and engaged abdominals.

Drishti-driven movementYou are well versed in the doctor asking you to follow his finger at your yearly appointment?  Well, expand this to following your partners finger in a wider range of movement that engages the whole body.

I think this exercise has some potential to help alleviate stiffness in the neck, but I also think there are some limitations (contraindications) to preexisting neck conditions and this should perhaps be used with care.  In my humble opinion.

Movement before breath.  We really did explore breath and movement throughout the week, but here we used bridge pose as a "technique for breath release...exploration of all three bandhas".   This is a variation on uddiyana bandha, and should not be overdone.  A couple three repetitions are adequate.

This was an interesting recommendation:  use a metronome in ratio breathing because we tend to naturally speed up on the inhale.  

Also of note, our heart rate naturally speeds up on the inhale and slows down on the exhale.  A variable heart rate is a healthy heart rate.   Which is interesting because the last time I donated blood the phlebotomist commented on my pulse increasing and decreasing.  

Out of the four workshop sessions, Thursday just flew by.  Out of the four sessions though, this was probably my least liked.

Overall, I think this was worth attending even though this wasn't what I was expecting at all.  Upon reviewing my notes for these posts, I learned (or was reminded of) quite a bit.  This is definitely an approachable anatomy session - good for instructors or someone who wants to deepen their own understanding of how their body moves.   I also this this is a good starting point to move into further, more in-depth, anatomy classes.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Leslie Kaminoff Workshop Part 3: Our Articular Selves: Limbs of Locomotion and Evolution

I had the opportunity to attend an anatomy workshop lead by Leslie Kaminoff, author of Yoga Anatomy, during the week of Aug 3-6.   This was one of my first yoga anatomy books and it remains a great resource.  This is day three of the workshop.

On Wednesday of the workshop we started with our feet.  I finally got a better explanation of the difference between tadasana and samasthti - more so than just mountain pose and pose of equal balance with hands at namaste.

Tadasana (mountain pose) - with feet together, hands beside hips
Samasthti (equal balance) - feet apart (hip width or rooted under the sit-bones), hands at heart or hands at hips.

Though, in all honesty,  I think the definition remains variable depending on who the original instructor was.  In this case, it was Krishnamacharya to Desikachar to Leslie.  Doesn't get closer to the source than that. 

Wednesday's practice involved identifying the three points of contact at the bottoms of the feet and the lines between them:  the ball of the big toe, the ball of the pinkie toe and the heel.  The lines are the medial arch, the lateral arch and the transverse arch.  These three points and the accompanying lines create a tripod.  It is these three points of contact with which you want to firmly root on the ground in standing asana.

I really enjoyed the feet exercises.  I have maintained for years in my classes that our feet are undervalued and we need to stretch and move our feet as much as possible.  And we did just that with a few very basic exercises that focused on moving between each of those points of contact.

One underlying message was:  We've living in an industrialized world; at some point all of us will have some issues with our feet.  TAKE YOUR FEET OFF ROAD!  Ie, move your feet, go barefoot, go barefoot outside!

Another message:  when your feet start working better, everything above will feel better.  

From our feet we moved up our body to the hips, hands and shoulder girdle, spending the most time at the shoulder girdle and the hands.  This also was interesting, and I'm finding lots of tidbits now that I've had time to reflect upon my notes.

For example, to bear weight on the hands (weight bearing meaning bone to bone) the energy/weight transference must move through:
  • wrists
  • radius and ulna
  • elbow
  • scapula
  • acronium clavicular
  • clavicle
  • sternoclavicular joint
  • sternum
  • to the thorasic spine.  
By comparison, to bear weight on the feet:
  • ankle
  • tibia and fibia
  • knee
  • femur
  • hip
  • SI joint
Remarkable.  Lots of little bones and smaller joints have to support us in our hand balances, compared to the solid foundation up which we already stand. 

The days message again was HEALTHY MOVEMENT IS WELL DISTRIBUTED MOVEMENT.  Use more than just one part of your body to move you into your pose.

Next,  Part 4 -Hands On Assisting Lab