Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Teaching Flow

I had a fascinating discussion with a practitioner recently. This gal doesn’t come to my classes but prefers the Iyengar and Hatha based classes the studio offers. She explained to me that while she enjoys the flow of a Vinyasa and Ashtanga class she finds that she has a tendency to injure herself because it brings out her competitive side and so avoids those classes. I completely understand; it is hard to step back and say I don’t have to keep up with flexy-bendy chick in the corner or muscle-dude in the front row because you don’t want to appear to be weak to the rest of the class (yes, yes, an ego discussion is a whole different topic…).

However, her most interesting question was: How do you teach ‘flow’? I admit I was speechless for a moment. Indeed, how does one teach ‘flow’ to a class?

Well, first there is the basic definition:
(from About.com by Ann Pizer) Vinyasa Flow Yoga combines flowing postures with rhythmic breathing for an integrated body-mind workout. Nyasa means "to place" and vi means "in a special way." The entire sequence is structured to gently stretch while building strength and toning muscles through a variety of standing and seated postures. A good class format will incorporate alignment, modifications, and breath work that is appropriate for all levels of practitioners.

The word Vinyasa means “breath-synchronized movement.” In other words, the teacher will instruct you to move from one pose to the next on an inhale or an exhale. This technique is sometimes also called Vinyasa Flow, or just Flow because of the smooth way that the poses run together and become like a dance.

And then we can become more specialized with Anusara, Sadhana Chi, Shakti, and other styles.

But the question remains, how does one teach a class how to move with the breath in a fluid manner? CAN it be taught? Is this something that is intuitive in some and not others? Is it a matter of saying to the ego, “no, you are not part of this class”? Can you teach someone to let go and just ‘flow’?

One thing I'm trying with my classes is a "ratcheting back" concept, to work at 75-90% rather than 100-110% because what I've observed is the tendency to "muscle" or "power" one's way through a session. If you are muscling/powering your way through a session, are you really flowing? Are you moving lightly and with thoughtfulness from one posture to the next or are you more concerned with getting as "deep" into the posture as possible? Are you letting the breath and body dictate where you need to go on that particular day?

So I bring the question to the blogworld - how does one teach flow?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Where Are All the Men?

An acquaintance and fellow practitioner passed this article along to me: Where Are All The Men

This article takes a different look at why guys aren't practicing, pointing out such factors as social obstacles, physical hurdles, unrealized physical benefits, and the emotional challenge.

And after reading that article, I read this one: Model Men: Find out how yoga changed the lives of three men.

How yoga changed the outlook for a millionaire, a football player and a former Marine.

But it was interesting how neither article addressed the media's portrayal of yoga. Especially given Yoga Journal's portrayal of women/men in yoga.Coincidence? Intentional? Perhaps if they de-feminized the magazine a bit they might attract more guys to the practice.

Thoughts? Are the articles representative of the guys you know and the area you live in?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Morning Interlude

Like many folks, I spend a lot of time on the computer. Too much time in my opinion, but that's how it goes. I have however, been trying to limit my computer time at home - which is a bit of an oxymoron as I sit here on a Saturday morning typing up this post.

It's not that I spend an inordinately HUGE amount of time on the computer at home, but I have found myself checking e-mail or perusing blogs over breakfast and dinner (I dine alone)and that rather defeats the whole "being in the moment" concept. I'm not paying attention to the nice meal I just made, my poor hounds are waiting patiently for me to read 'just one more post' before they are fed or we go outside to play. And I cannot forget to mention the absolutely beautiful morning weather I am missing by staring at a flat screen instead of watching the sunlight drift through the leaves and mist.

So I have made an intent to turn away from the computer and eat my breakfast outside, or at the very least at the kitchen table. At 6:30 in the morning the mosquitoes can be quite feisty. Weekdays I don't have a lot of time, but even 15 minutes can make a difference. How you start your morning will carry with you all day.

Weekends though become like a miniature retreat, an hour or hour and a half to just sit. This Saturday I lit the mosquito repelant candles, grabbed my tea and breakfast, and my current study: the Dhammapada by Eknath Eswaran and I sat outside taking that precious "rest between the busy-ness".

To just take a moment and watch the hounds run around and play and hunt. To laugh when Kia-dog "gets a bee up her bonnet" and runs around all crazy like, tongue hanging out and a silly ass grin on her face. To listen to the migrating warblers. The occasional car going by on the road. The far of sounds of a train. The not quite so far off sounds of a highway being torn-up and re-done. The soft rustle of the leaves in the morning breeze.

My world. My moment. Impermanent and perfect.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Yoga North Open House!

If you are in the area and have a moment to come and visit the studio:

Yoga North's Fall Open House is on Sunday Sept. 13 from 2–5pm. This gathering is great fun. There is delicious food, free yoga classes and discounts on everything!

New to Yoga North—FREE PASS for first class
10% OFF everything
QUALITY yoga wear & gear,cds & books
Snacks & PRIZES
Learn about our weekly Philosophy classes and Teacher Training
FREE 1/2 hr yoga class demos—demos are active participation wear comfortable clothes

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Clean Mats

Yoga North Studio was on break the last couple of weeks, and I decided this was a great time to clean my mats. I use three: one at home, one at the studio, and one for the Y. I'm very particular about using my own mat, but I'm not very good about keeping it as clean as I should.

However, I made an intention while on break to wash all my mats! It has been absolutely beautiful outside and I decided this would be a good time to spray down the mats, let them air dry and have the sun dry and disinfect.

Ecoygini has a great article here: How to Best Clean Your Mat and an unfortunate lesson learned on reacting to essential oils.

I used this concoction this weekend. It's actually a basic cleaner I use in my bathroom and around the house.

1/4 cup vinegar
3/4 cup water
1 tsp detergent (liquid laundry preferred)

Mix in a spray bottle. Lasts indefinitely.

The detergent helps to break down grease and oils, while the vinegar acts as a disinfectant and helps to prevent the detergent from sticking. Plus the vinegar is a natural deodorizer for a mat that has become a bit...fragrant.

I also add a just few drops of lavender essential oil to my mixture, but I know I don't react. I sprayed my mats down, wiped them off with a cotton dishcloth, and repeated. Then I let dry in the sun for a hour or two.

Some people swear that running a mat through the washing machine and letting air dry does wonders, but unless you have a front loading wash machine, I would think the swishy-swishy action of the tumbler would wreak havoc on your poor mat.

Yes, there are concerns about putting a mat in the sun, but I reasoned that for the hour it was drying, it would do more benefit than harm.

So I'm ready for Fall session to begin!

Adding a postscript: Check out Ecoygini's results on To Wipe or Wash one's mat. It was very eyeopening!