Monday, January 25, 2010

Yin Yoga

Over the last month I’ve been talking about various ways to keep a class – and yourself – energized. Well, I’ve found another item to add to the growing list of suggestions: learn a new style of yoga!

I recently had the privilege to sub in a Yin yoga class and the teacher I was subbing for kindly gave me Paul Grilley’s DVD Yin yoga to study and use as a prep. I wasn’t certain what I would think of such a 180* style from my Vinyasa/Ashtanga classes, but I found I LOVED it!

What is Yin yoga you ask? From Sara’s blog at Do Restorative Yoga

Yin Yoga is a calm, meditative practice which employs long held, seated postures which focus on stretching the connective tissues of the body such as the fascia, ligaments, tendons and joints. It is a balancing practice to "Yang" styles of yoga such as Ashtanga, Vinyasa, or Hatha. (Yang practices focus more on muscles vs. connective tissue.) Although Yin is a slow practice it can be just as challenging as a faster paced posture practice. Stretches are deep and we are playing our edge all the time. It is important while doing Yin Yoga to really focus on what your body is telling you and never go past your edge into pain.

Sara found a great article from Yoga Journal on the safest way to practice Yin Yoga:
The 4 tenets of Yin Yoga

1. Find an Appropriate Edge
As you enter a pose, move slowly and gently into the suggested shape—without a picture of how far you should go. As Sarah Powers says, "There's no aesthetic ideal; there's no end result we're looking for." Pause and listen to the body. Wait for feedback before moving deeper into the posture. Many people, especially dancers and athletes, have lost much of their sensitivity to the signals of the body and are used to overriding those messages. Look for an appropriate amount of intensity, a balance between sensation and space. "It's a good opportunity to create a renewed kind of innocence, a listening to the intelligence of the body that gives you feedback about when it's been triggered to feel outside its comfort zone," Powers says. Relax into the body; discover and explore each subtle layer along the way to your deep resting place.

2. Be Still
Resolve not to fidget. Don't try to fix or change the pose, to intensify it, or to escape the sensations. Consciously try to release (or even just imagine releasing) into the shape. Doing that helps you relax the muscles around the connective tissues you are most attempting to influence. In addition, moving can cause unsafe stress on the connective tissue, causing injury: To be safe, hold statically at the edge of your range of motion and engage muscles around sensitive areas or use props when needed.

3. Hold for a While
[Sarah] Powers recommends hold times anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes for beginners and up to 5 minutes or more for advanced practitioners. Use a timer so you can relax without watching the clock. Substantial holds train the mind to respond skillfully to difficult circumstances. They teach you that you don't need comfort to feel at ease. Instead of contracting around feelings and sensations, invite space and breathe steadily.

4. Release with Care
In Yin practice you put your body into long holds with joints in vulnerable positions—positions that might be dangerous if you move into or out of them quickly or aggressively. As you come out of the poses (for example, Dragonfly), use your hands to support your legs and to lightly contract the muscles that oppose the openings you've been working. It can help to do a very brief, actively practiced counterpose: After doing Saddle (the Yin version of Supta Virasana), for example, sit with your legs out straight and engage your quads.
You are challenging very deep tissues that the body usually protects from lengthening—because if they're stretched suddenly, they're easily damaged. You may experience discomfort, shakiness, and instability when you come out. Don't worry; these sensations will change.

Since the concept of Yin yoga is new to me, to familiarize myself with the poses I am take one pose and incorporating it into the end of my vinyasa class when everyone was nicely warmed up and we were starting our cool down in preparation for deep relaxation. When I practiced with the DVD, my only complaint was it seemed the stretches just “started” – there was no transition from sitting to holding. I had terrible cramps and pinching for the first 15 minutes before my muscles said, okay! I’m ready to stay still now!

I am looking forward to exploring this style further – thank you Sara!

Saturday, January 16, 2010


So, now the class knows each other as they walk out the door energized yet hope, because the little worm of doubt has been creeping in during the session. The class energey seemed off tonight, you stumbled over your cues, you were feeling a bit tired, or you were subbing a different session and not as familiar with everyone's needs. Or your expectations for your session didn't quite matarialize and now you're wondering if you met the students expectations for class because they seemed more subdued leaving tonight and ohmygosh, did I say something that offended or didn't say enough and I forgot to put the music on but it wasn't the music I wanted it was all wrong...!


Take a deep breath.

Turn off the mental tape player.

It happens.

A quote from from Amelia Gambetti: "A teacher who says 'I am a good teacher' is in trouble. A good teacher is frequently troubled, in doubt, frustrated. Perfection doesn't exist."

Brenda on Grounding Through the Sitbones recently posted on being the student again (Leaving the Biz..) - on being able to let go of the teacher aspect and immerse yourself in the experience. Let go of your doubts here as well, you did the best class you were able on that given night. Next session is a different session.

So my question is, how do you cope with your angst when it shows up?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Keeping Class Energized part II

Last posting I talked about how I've been trying to keep class energized as I move into the New Year (see post here).

Yogiclarebear offered these suggestions as well: I like to do themed classes every now and then. this year we did surfs up yoga (outdoors), yama-niyama yoga, heart chakra flow, freedom flow (4th of july). its fun for practitioners to see an incorporation of the physical practice into a specific theme, and it helps me deepen my knowledge as a yoga guide.

I've done one themed class that I titled "Let Your Spirit Soar" where we kept coming back to Warrior III. I can't take credit for the title: one of my students was teaching some kindergartners and as a quick break he had them stand up and do some yoga poses. One little tyke spoke up and said, "Mr B! I can do flying warrior!" and she tipped forward and said, "And let my spirit soar..." Major cuteness and a great idea for class. Though afterwards the other students did jokingly ask John not to give me anymore ideas... :)

And I also came up with one more way to keep class energized: Introductions! This one is especially good at the start of a new session. I have the front row turn around and pair up with someone in the back row, ask their name and a question, such as, what are you currently reading?, what is your favorite dessert? what is your least favorite yoga pose?

Then the pairs have to introduce each other and tell the class the answer to the question. It's better than the traditional "go around the room and introduce yourself" because it makes people interact!

Another advantage is, again at the beginning of a new session, it gives stragglers a chance to find the room and get settled without disrupting class too much.