Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inaugural Week!

I have been undecided about what to post for this week. Should I comment on this oh-so-very-historic presidential nomination or something else? Two posts on blogs that I follow swayed my opinion and I decided to link to their posts.

Brenda over on Grounding Through the Sitbones comments ever so beautifully on Let's be the Change

I couldn't agree more. President Obama speaks of change, but change can only happen if it starts with us. BE that change.

And that change could start here, with a posting from Dee on Tangled up in Sticks and String:

"Now that we have an African-American president, a woman Speaker of the House, a governor with physical limitations, Hispanic, Jewish and Muslim people in Congress, and a woman over 40 has won an Olympic gold medal and gone into space (different woman, of course, not the same one --- NOW can we please stop describing the accomplishments of people with an limiting adjective before their name.

We will never over-come racism, ageism, or prejudice of every kind until we stop describing winners and people of accomplishment as "the first black man to become president", the "oldest man in space", the "first Cuban refugee to win public office", etc...

In my not so humble opinion, adding these qualifiers to any one's accomplishment diminishes what they have done. It's almost like saying, "wow, who wudda thunk a blind guy could play the piano like that", or "for a woman you done good".

Why can't we just honor the person and their accomplishment--- not the black person, not the old person, not the handicapped person --- just the person.

This is my hope for the future. After all today, more than most, is all about the audacity of hope and the promise of change.

Good luck to you President Obama. You have a challenging road ahead of you and I look forward to seeing your promise of tomorrow's change becoming today's reality."


Have a great week everyone!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Focus Pose - Parivrtta Parsvakonasana (Revolved Side Angle)

My oh my! Where does the time go? I didn't realize so many days had passed since my last post. But, things should go smoother now - I purchased a new computer last week and now that it is mostly set up (talk about a practice in patience!) I should be back to regular weekly postings.

First, I thought this article on YogaJournal.com was very interesting: Square Your Warrior

So this week I thought we would look at Parivrtta Parsvakonasana or Extended Side Angle pose. This is a challanging pose for a lot of people. You are stretching through the hips, the legs, while twisting though the spine and shoulders. Oy! Lots going on!

As practiced in the Ashtanga sequence, we move into Parivrtta Parsvakonasana right after completing our fifth breath of Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle). Also, please recall that I prefer to teach what I call "contemporary Ashtanga" and the breath will differenciate slightly from a "traditional Ashtanga" sequence.

From the left side, we INHALE to come up to warrior II to re-establish our foundation and EXHALE turn the torso to face front in a modified warrior I posture (hands at namaste). INHALE to lengthen the spine and EXHALE bring the elbow to the knee. Hold for FIVE breaths.

A couple of tips:
> The elbows should be pointing toward the floor and the ceiling.

> Palms are pressing together and you are trying to rotate the torso to bring the sturnum in line with the hands.

> The lower elbow should be moving toward the OUTSIDE of the knee. Often the tendency is to rest the elbow ON the knee. By moving the elbow to the outside of the knee, we can gently press knee against elbow and vice versa to help deepen the twist.

> Back foot is pressing into the mat - feel the floor from your pinky toe all the way down to your heel.

> If this is too extreme on the ankles, knees or hips, lift the back heel off the floor and come into a high lunge.

> As with Virabhadrasana II and Utthita Parsvakonasana, hips are moving earthward.

> Gaze can be up or straight ahead.

After five breaths, EXHALE to look down at the floor, INHALE strongly lift yourself up, EXHALE to the opposite side and find your foundation. Don't rush through this. INHALE to lengthen spine and EXHALE, elbow to knee. Hold for five breaths.

To exit, EXHALE look down at the floor, INHALE come to center of mat (arms at waist or wide), EXHALE pause, INHALE to Samasthti.


Did I mention there was a lot going on?

Again, this is a very intense stretch and twist. The tendency is to collapse through the shoulders because we are tight in the lower back, the hips, and the shoulders. But we want to keep lifting and opening. There is so much we could discuss about this pose, but I think that's enough for now.

I couldn't find a picture of the modification, but here is a picture of the full expression of the pose. This is what we are working towards:


Picture from yogajournal.com

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Yoga Mala by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois


Happy New Year!

So the calendar has officially turned over, offering us a opportunity for a clean slate, to begin anew, and give us a fresh start. We start January giving up this, that or the other thing, making resolutions and promises to lose weight, eat better, exercise more, read more or whatever. Come February, most of those resolutions have tapered off, we feel bad, and come next year, we repeat the cycle.

But what would happen if instead of making resolutions, we gave ourselves permission to work with intent? Just like we come to our mat with intent, let us move into this New Year with intent.

One of my intents this year is to delve more into yogic and Buddhist philosophy. I am starting out the year with this book review: Yoga Mala by Sri K. Pattabi Jois.

This is a great little book. The first 1/4 of the book Pattabi Jois discusses yogic philosophy and practice, even including a summary of the yamas and niyamas, pranayama, who can benefit from practicing yoga (everyone!), what is yoga, and terms and definitions. This is concise without being preachy.

The remainder of the book is a breakdown of the Primary Series. He systematically moves through each posture, discussing the flow of the sequence. Each asana is accompanied by photographs of either Pattabhi Jois or Sharath, his grandson. I found the photo's fascinating - an established practitioner will be able to see how the focus on alignment has influenced today's practice.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys the ashtanga practice or a vinyasa flow practice.