Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Yoga Girl Video

A bit of a departure from my usual posts, but the Husband found this and we both thought it was quite amusing.  Enjoy!


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Clean. Your. Mat.

Whoops!  I hadn't realized a month has slipped by since my last post.  Felt like I just wrote about Andy just last week.  At least I can comfortably say that Andy and I have come to a better understanding this past month.  He doesn't chew on the rugs and I don't holler at him.  Everyone is content. 

I've been struggling with what to post this go around.  Lots of ideas have filtered through the ol' cranium, but nothing has really leapt out and said "post me! post me!"  until last night.  I've been noticing during class that my hands have started slipping on my mat again, and for anyone who has experienced the slow slide of the palms forward, you know how frustrating that can be during a practice when you are trying to focus on other things.  A niggling need to clean the mat, a promise to do it "later".   The irony here is last night after class a student approached me with the same conundrum. 

A post presented itself!  Perfect for the end of the year.

Clean. Your. Mat. 
We wash our yoga clothes on a regular basis.  We wash ourselves after a particularly vigorous and sweaty session.   We've walked around the studio barefoot, maybe down the hall to the restroom, then we go stand on the mat for the next 60- 90 minutes.  Yet our poor mat is  just rolled up after a session and tossed in the back seat of the car until the next time we pull it out for class.   Where it quietly rests baking in the sun.

Can I say...ewwww?   (And I won't even go into 'borrowing' mats in this post.  Major EWWW.) 


Ecoyogini has a splendid post titled :  How to Clean your Yoga Mat



IF you have a front load washing machine or access to a front load washing machine, that is my preferred method.  Toss it in with a cup of vinegar and just a tich (like a tablespoon tich) of detergent.  No more than that otherwise your mat will be sudsey-greasy.   I prefer a warm/cold water setting.  You might want to run the spin cycle twice to really blast out the water.  Remove and hang to dry at least three days. 

Now, this doesn't work for all mats - the Manduka mats (pictured right, for example)  might overwhelm your home washer.  In that case, hang your mat up, use a squirt bottle with about 1 cup vinegar, 1 cup water and a couple drops of detergent.  Tea Tree oil or Lavendar oil or other anti-bacteria esssential can be use in extreme moderation.  You don't want to add to the slipping problem afterall.  

Liberally squirt the surface down (don't be stingy!), wipe well, "rinse" with a cloth wet down with warm water and let dry.  Repeat if necessary. 

I can't emphasize enough to clean your mat at least twice a year if not more, especially for those of us who practice vinyasa, power, ashtanga, fitness, etc, yoga.  We sweat.  Sweat builds up on your mat. Bacteria grows.  Mat stinks.  Then you are working on Locust Pose and your face is right where you plant your feet.  Yucko!

Yup.  Take a moment here at the end of the year and wash your mat! 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Aparigraha and Andy

My beloved hound Andy is doing his best to teach me aparigraha (non-attachment).  I am doing my best to teach Andy that no means "no". 

This is Andy.  Don't let those beautiful almond eyes and uber soft fuzzy ears fool you into being a crooning puddle of lovey dovey.


This is my (expensive) cotton yoga mat, now being reused as a throw rug.  This is what Andy has done to my cotton yoga mat

.

I'm not sure what he has against my cotton yoga mat/rug.  I think he's trying to tell me to just 'let it go'.  I'm cool with that (it's being used as a rug after all).  But still... chewing holes in it?   Dude.  Not cool.

OOOoooommmmm......

PS - he only does this in the Morning, while I'm pulling breakfast and lunches together.  I suspect that it just smells really really good to him and he wants to have clean teeth before breakfast.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Focus Pose: Virabhadrasana I (Warrior A)

Time for another Focus Pose! For those of you who’ve just joined the blog, I’ve been gradually working my way through the Primary Sequence in the Ashtanga Series. If you use the search engine and type in focus pose you should be able to pull up the postures until now. Or use the “tag” feature on the left hand side.


For those of you who ARE familiar with the Primary Series, you might be wondering why am I breaking down the Warriors now, when, technically, we did 10 of them during the Surya Namaskar B? Well, yes, but there we moved into the pose with one breath, and then immediately exited. Now we have an opportunity to hold for five breaths and to stabilize and strengthen our foundation.

photo from YogaJournal.com pose finder
Over the last several years, I’ve learned there are two schools - so to speak - regarding foot placement. One group feels the traditional way is to keep the back heel down. The other group asserts that the back heel should now be kept up. Either way is fine, in my opinion, both offering a lovely stretch through the hip. Pick the one that works for you and your anatomy. But for today’s post, I’m going to go with the traditional variation of heel to floor.

From Yoga Journal: Virabhadrasana One (Warrior One) the name of a fierce warrior, an incarnation of Shiva, described as having a thousand heads, a thousand eyes, and a thousand feet, wielding a thousand clubs, and wearing a tiger's skin.
We’ve just finished Utkatasana (Chair Pose), moved through Chaturanga Dandasana (plank pose to updog) and are back in Adho Mukha Svanasa (Down Dog). From Adho Mukha Svanasa, step forward to a high lunge, pivot the back heel to the floor and solidify the foundation in a high lunge. When you feel stable, then inhale to standing if appropriate. Otherwise, just stay in high lunge, or bring hands to hips.

**One thing I have noticed is the student’s tendency to rush the inhale to standing, then they are wobbling all over the place. Plant the front foot, plant the back foot, then inhale. Don’t try and keep up with your neighbor. This is your practice. Not theirs.

The breath sequence:

INHALE right foot forward to a high lunge and establish your foundation; continue to inhale hands overhead. I prefer palms apart, shoulders moving away from the ears. Open heart center toward the front of the room. IF you have neck or shoulder concerns/issues, modify accordingly: don’t look up at fingers, use “cactus arms” or forgo arms altogether.


Picture from YogaJournal.com - Pose Finder

Do try to keep front knee over front ankle for all levels. Additionally, keep the knee in line with the toes (think ski’s: foot is on the ski, knee in line with foot and ski) and not rolling to inside or outside.

Keep back heel pressing into the floor. Actively press against the back foot to engage the whole leg and take some of the ‘weight’ off of the front leg. Try feeling the mat from your heel to your pinky toe.

Let go of any muscles that do not serve you in this pose.

Hold for 5 breaths.

INHALE straighten front leg, pivot to face the back of the room, adjust stance.

EXHALE into the pose on the left side.

Hold for 5 breaths.



Some benefits of Virabhadrasana One:

Strengthens and stretches: feet, ankles, legs, groin, abdominal muscles, chest and shoulders. Can help relieve backaches - conversely, it can also aggravate backaches if you are crunching into lower back rather than lengthening and opening through the front of the spine.


Again, there are several variations on Virabhadrasana I. Yoga Journal did an article on four or five styles - Iyengar, Kundalini, Ashtanga, Hatha, and I think one other - about a year or two ago.   The back heel can be up or down, depending on your hips and what you would like to stretch on any given day. Palms can be together or apart. You can look up or straight ahead depending on how your head, neck and shoulders feel on any given day. However, in all variations, try and keep the knee over the ankle and the knee moving in the same direction as the toes.

Below, a video showing Utkatasana, Virabhadrasana I and Virabhadrasana II 







Friday, October 21, 2011

Teaching and Taking Classes

Bear with me - I had a convoluted thought process regarding this post: 

First - Yoga North switched up their schedule a bit this Fall, which enabled me to take a class right after the one I lead on Thursdays.  I'm not completely thrilled about being in town for 13 hours, but the class and timing worked out so I can cope for one day a week.

Second - As I was leaving afore mentioned class a couple weeks ago, a student recognized me and expressed surprise that the 'teacher' was taking a class.  I smiled and said, "Yup!" (I'm not one for platitudes like "oh, we are all students".  Just sounds so hoity toity.).  There are actually three instructors from the studio taking this particular session. 

Lastly -  Ecoyogini wrote a blog post regarding a home practice (Yoga Class Dropout) as it relates to taking classes in Halifax a while back, which got me to thinking about home and studio practices.

And I realized something about why me, myself and I, don't care for a home practice.

I lead 4-5  classes a week.  I work full time.  I leave the house at 730am in the morning and I don't get home till after 500p on non-yoga nights.  Yoga nights it's after 700p.   I have a Husband, two active dogs,  and a house.  Finding time at home what with yard work - we live on 40 acres, our yard is an acre unto itself, I have a HUGE garden - dinner, laundry, spouse time, etc, is...problematic.   I don't feel comfortable practicing at home.  It's my space to unwind, relax, chill, take a load off.  Trying to do asana at home makes me edgy and irritable. 

But there was more to it.  When I do my own practice, I want to be able to turn my brain off completely. I don't want to be thinking of yet another routine. I do that 4-5x a week as it is.  When I do an asana practice, I want to be able to just enjoy the practice for what it is, not be thinking about, "oh, I could do this in class!" or "this is cool, the Thursday class would enjoy this!" or "Awesome routine! I need to write this down..."  I don't want to be jiggling the mouse on my computer when it goes to sleep mid-stretch.  I don't want to be locking myself in a room.  I hate locking myself in a room to do yoga...

If I'm in a studio setting, my focus stays on my practice.  Not my upcoming class, not wondering if the husband forgot the dogs outside, not thinking that I should be doing laundry/dishes/cleaning/yardwork/relaxing.

This, I thought, was huge revelation about myself.  Interesting...

 



Picture found on the web by googling Buddha pictures.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Disappointing Encounter

About a month ago, Yoga North held their Fall Open House.  A splendid affair where the studio opens its doors to the community, giving new folks and regulars a chance to take a small demo class of upcoming sessions, meet the instructors, munch on a splendid buffet and browse the books and props and other stuff for sale.

A new to the area gal was directed my way; she was interested in the vinyasa class and wanted to know if it was anything like what she used to take in her former City.  She described to me what she did, and I replied, "Yes, that is similar to my class." 

She didn't seem reassured, so I asked for elaboration on how her class used to be structured, and again, nodded and replied, "Yes, that is similar to how I lead a class."

She still didn't seem reassured, so I elaborated on exactly what I do in any given session. 

I could see doubt continued to linger, and then she asked me, do I give handouts? 

Surprised I had to reply, "No, why do you ask?"

Well, she wanted something to take home to practice.  I had to politely explain that I don't write down my class sequence for any given day because I tend to make it up as I go along.  What I do really depends on who shows up, what someone may request, what kind of mood I am in and what I did in my noon class.  I don't give handouts because people have perceived these as "homework" and for working adults, that is usually ill received. 

Uncertain now myself, I concluded the conversation with encouragement to just come and try out a class, but the encounter left me feeling like I had let someone down.  All because I don't do 'handouts'.   Interesting.



Picture from Bing.com.  Wren in the rain.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

10 Questions that Should Not Go Away by David Whyte

Part 10 of 10

from Oprah.com

June 15, 2011
The thought-provoking poet David Whyte considers what we should be asking ourselves—especially when we least want to confront our own answers.

The marvelous thing about a good question is that it shapes our identity as much by the asking as it does by the answering. Nine years ago, I wrote a poem called "Sometimes" in which I talked about the "questions that can make or unmake a life ... questions that have no right to go away."


I still work with this idea. Questions that have no right to go away are those that have to do with the person we are about to become; they are conversations that will happen with or without our conscious participation. They almost always have something to do with how we might be more generous, more courageous, more present, more dedicated, and they also have something to do with timing: when we might step through the doorway into something bigger, better—both beyond ourselves and yet more of ourselves at the same time.


If we are sincere in asking, the eventual answer will give us both a sense of coming home to something we already know as well a sense of surprise—not unlike returning from a long journey to find an old friend sitting unexpectedly on the front step, as if she'd known, without ever being told, not only the exact time and date of your arrival but also your need to be welcomed back.


10) Can I be the blessed saint that my future happiness will always remember?



Here's the explanation for what sounds like a strange question. I have a poem called "Coleman's Bed" about a place in the West of Ireland where the Irish saint Coleman lived. The last line of that poem calls on the reader to remember "the quiet, robust and blessed saint that your future happiness will always remember."


We go to places of pilgrimage where saints have lived, or even to Graceland, where Elvis lived, because these people gave something to the rest of us—music or good works— that has carried on down the years and that was a generous gift to the future.


But that blessed saint could also be yourself—the person who, in this moment, makes a decision that can make a bold path into the years to come and whom your future happiness will always remember. What could you do now for yourself or others that your future self would look back on and congratulate you for—something it could view with real thankfulness because the decision you made opened up the life for which it is now eternally grateful?

David Whyte is the author of The Three Marriages, Crossing the Unknown Sea, and several poetry collections


Frank Lloyd Wright, Taliesen East, WI

Monday, September 19, 2011

10 Questions That Should Not Go Away by David Whyte

Part nine of ten. 

I think this one is especially good.  I've re-named it in my mind: Can I live without fear?  It's not so much can I be courageous, but can I live without the fear that holds me back?  Without the fear of always questioning the ramifications of my actions?  Either way, courage or lack of fear, a most powerful question.  

9) Can I live a courageous life?
If you look at the root of the word "courage," it doesn't mean running under the machine-gun bullets of the enemy, wearing a Sylvester Stallone headband, with glistening biceps and bandoliers of ammunition around one's neck. The word "courage" comes from the old French word coeur meaning "heart." So "courage" is the measure of your heartfelt participation in the world.

 
Human beings are constantly trying to take courageous paths in their lives: in their marriages, in their relationships, in their work and with themselves. But the human way is to hope that there's a way to take that courageous step—without having one's heart broken. And it's my contention that there is no sincere path a human being can take without breaking his or her heart.


There is no marriage, no matter how happy, that won't at times find you wanting and break your heart. In raising a family, there is no way to be a good mother or father without a child breaking that parental heart. In a good job, a good vocation, if we are sincere about our contribution, our work will always find us wanting at times. In an individual life, if we are sincere about examining our own integrity, we should, if we are really serious, at times, be existentially disappointed with ourselves.


So it can be a lovely, merciful thing to think, "Actually, there is no path I can take without having my heart broken, so why not get on with it and stop wanting these extra-special circumstances which stop me from doing something courageous?"



Thursday, September 8, 2011

Oh! The embarrassment!

Oh! The embarrassment!  You've just run into your yoga instructor (who does know you by name) at the local coffee shop.  Greetings are exchanged and s/he exclaims that they've missed seeing you in class.  You stammer out an explanation as to why you haven't been around for [insert time period here] and promise you'll be back soon.  You hastily add that it's been good to see them, and flee with your iced mocha latte.

Sound familiar? 

As both an instructor and a student, I see both sides of this dance.  As a student, I know how difficult it can be to balance work, family, evening events for the kids, home, pets, and, well, life in general.  As adults, our time is frequently not our own. 

As an instructor, I've made a committment to be at class to the best of  my abilities.  I'm holding the space and opportunity for the students.  I think I'm unusual as a yoga instructor - I do work a full time non-yoga job.  It is not unusual that I have to find a sub for my noon classes due to a work conflict.  I have only so much control over meeting schedules and locations.  (I HEART my subs very much!)  But! My current instructing schedule has been the same for the last 3 1/2 years.  Pretty good, eh? 

What I want to emphasize here is, when you run into your instructor out and about town, don't be flustered or embarassed because you've been missing!  A good instructor, the one who knows you, will understand and accept where you are coming from or going to.  When I see someone from class, I'm just happy to see that they appear to be well.  They will either come back to class, or they won't, and either way is lovely.

So please, don't be embarassed when you run into your yoga instructor, or any other instructor for that matter. Come back to class when you can! It will be lovely to see you again. 

Namaste.






Monday, August 29, 2011

10 QuestionsThat Have No Right To Go Away by David Whyte

Whoops! I thought I had my blog posts all lined up while I was away on vacation last week. I’m not surprised I forgot to double check my postings, I was a bit scatterbrained and not very grounded pre-vacation and once I got home, I was just exhausted. A two hour time change is harder to adjust to than I would have anticipated!


But not to keep you waiting for the last couple of David Whyte questions:


The thought-provoking poet David Whyte considers what we should be asking ourselves—especially when we least want to confront our own answers.


The marvelous thing about a good question is that it shapes our identity as much by the asking as it does by the answering. Nine years ago, I wrote a poem called "Sometimes" in which I talked about the "questions that can make or unmake a life ... questions that have no right to go away."


I still work with this idea. Questions that have no right to go away are those that have to do with the person we are about to become; they are conversations that will happen with or without our conscious participation. They almost always have something to do with how we might be more generous, more courageous, more present, more dedicated, and they also have something to do with timing: when we might step through the doorway into something bigger, better—both beyond ourselves and yet more of ourselves at the same time.


If we are sincere in asking, the eventual answer will give us both a sense of coming home to something we already know as well a sense of surprise—not unlike returning from a long journey to find an old friend sitting unexpectedly on the front step, as if she'd known, without ever being told, not only the exact time and date of your arrival but also your need to be welcomed back.


8) How can I drink from the deep well of things as they are?


In the West of Ireland, there are very old, very sacred wells everywhere. The locals call them "blessed wells" or "holy wells." At them, you find notes to the dead, bits of ribbon, keepsakes that people have left when they've said a prayer for a child or someone who's sick. Often a local church will have a Mass out there once a year. These holy wells are everywhere, and they're part of the local imagination and have been for thousands of years.


So to me, a well, a place where the water springs eternal all year round, is a very real, blessed place to stop and think. Almost always, when I'm struggling over a particular situation, I realize that I am only looking at the surface of the problem and refusing to go for the deeper dynamic that caused all the tension in the first place.


All intimate relationships—close friendships and good marriages—are based on continued and mutual forgiveness. You will always trespass upon your friend's sensibilities at one time or another, or your spouse's. The only question is, Will you forgive the other person? And more importantly, Will you forgive yourself? We have to deepen our understanding, make ourselves more equal to circumstances, more easy with what we have been given or not given. We must drink from the deep well of things as they are.


Lake Tahoe, one of the deepest alpine lakes in the US

Monday, August 15, 2011

10 Questions That Have No Right to Go Away by David Whyte

I've always liked this saying: We were given two ears and one mouth so that we may listen twice as much as we speak. 

Or, If you can't say some thing nice, don't say anything at all.  Sounds like ahimsa, eh? 

And one from the Noble Eightfold path: Right speech, which should be absent of falsehoods, harsh words and useless chatter. 

But while we "know" these truths, when was the last time we actually stopped and listened to what was coming out of our mouths?  And listened to what was bouncing around the skull?  No time like the present....


Picture found on the web.
Oprah.com

June 15, 2011


The thought-provoking poet David Whyte considers what we should be asking ourselves—especially when we least want to confront our own answers.


The marvelous thing about a good question is that it shapes our identity as much by the asking as it does by the answering. Nine years ago, I wrote a poem called "Sometimes" in which I talked about the "questions that can make or unmake a life ... questions that have no right to go away."

7) How can I know what I am actually saying?

Poetry is often the art of overhearing yourself say things you didn't know you knew. It is a learned skill to force yourself to articulate your life, your present world or your possibilities for the future. We need that same skill as an art of survival. We need to overhear the tiny but very consequential things we say that reveal ourselves to ourselves.

I have one friend who, when she is in a quandary, goes out for a drive in her car and sings. Whatever she's grappling with, she sings about it—to the windscreen, to the road, to the oncoming traffic. Then she overhears herself singing how she actually feels about something and what she should do about it.


Sometimes she pulls up to a stoplight, other people look over and she's singing, slightly crazed, into the windscreen, but that's her way of finding out.

 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

10 Questions That Have No Right to Go Away by David Whyte

We've all been here with this weeks question.  "If only I had more time. If only I'd done this sooner. If only, if only, if only..."

10 Questions That Have No Right to Go Away



By David Whyte
Oprah.com
June 15, 2011
The thought-provoking poet David Whyte considers what we should be asking ourselves—especially when we least want to confront our own answers.


The marvelous thing about a good question is that it shapes our identity as much by the asking as it does by the answering. Nine years ago, I wrote a poem called "Sometimes" in which I talked about the "questions that can make or unmake a life ... questions that have no right to go away."

6) Am I too inflexible in my relationship to time?

In Ireland, where I spend a great deal of time, they say, "The thing about the past is that it isn't the past." Sometimes we forget that we don't have to choose between the past or the present or the future. We can live all of these levels at once. (In fact, we don't have a choice about the matter.)

If you've got a wonderful memory of your childhood, it should live within you. If you've got a challenging relationship with a parent, that should be there as part of your identity now, both in your strengths and weaknesses. The way we anticipate the future forms our identity now. Time taken too literally can be a tyranny. We are never one thing; we are a conversation—everything we have been, everything we are now and every possibility we could be in the future.

Statute, Puerto Vallarta, Jaliesco, Mexico
scifiwithpaprika.blogspot.com

Monday, August 1, 2011

10 Questions That Have No Right to Go Away by David Whyte

We live in a world that bombards us with noise almost twenty four hours a day.  We listen to the radio or TV while getting ready for work, we listen to the radio on the way to work, many of us listen to the radio while at work.  We are contantly on the phone. There are TV's in nearly every restaurant. The TV is on from the moment we walk in the door till we fall asleep to some late night show.  We listen to an iPod while running or working out. We congregate with our friends for lunch break and coffee break.  Our brains are overflowing with constant input...

We have become a society afraid to turn off the noise. 


10 Questions That Have No Right to Go Away by David Whyte
As posted on Oprah.com The thought-provoking poet David Whyte considers what we should be asking ourselves—especially when we least want to confront our own answers.

June 15, 2011




The marvelous thing about a good question is that it shapes our identity as much by the asking as it does by the answering. Nine years ago, I wrote a poem called "Sometimes" in which I talked about the "questions that can make or unmake a life ... questions that have no right to go away."


5) Can I be quiet—even inside?
All of our great traditions, religious, contemplative and artistic, say that you must a learn how to be alone—and have a relationship with silence. It is difficult, but it can start with just the tiniest quiet moment.


Being quiet in the midst of a frenetic life is like picking up a new instrument. If you've never played the violin and you try to play it for the first time, every muscle in your body hurts. Your neck hurts, you don't know how to hold that awkward wavy thing called a bow, you can't get your knuckles round to touch the strings, you can't even find where the notes are, you are just trying to get your stance right. Then you come back to it again, and again, and suddenly you can make a single buzzy note. The time after that, you can make a clearer note. No one, not even you, wants to listen to you at first. But one day, there is a beautiful succession of notes and, yes, you have played a brief, gifted, much appreciated passage of music.


This is also true for the silence inside you; you may not want to confront it at first. But a long way down the road, when you inhabit a space fully, you no longer feel awkward and lonely. Silence turns, in effect, into its opposite, so it becomes not only a place to be alone but also a place that's an invitation to others to join you, to want to know who's there, in the quiet.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Matthew Sweeney Workshop Review July 22-24, 2011

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend a workshop at the Yoga House of Edina (link is on the left sidebar) as lead by Matthew Sweeney. This is the third time I’ve attended one of his sessions and this one was probably the best one yet. They all follow a similar format – Fridays are always the Moon Sequence, then the weekends are a combination of practice and technique.

I didn't take as many notes as I usually do.  This was a session for me to just soak in. 

For a more in-depth breakdown of each of these follow the links to previous postings
July 2008 - Chandra Vinyasa
July 2008 - Primary Series; Jump Thru/Jump Back
July 2008 - Secondary Series/Inversions
July 2009 - Overview




Friday – 6:30-9:00p Chandra Vinyasa (restorative vinyasa flow). Done on Friday evenings to mimic the body’s natural tendency to want to start ‘slowing down’ in preparation for the evening and to save some energy for the upcoming weekend. A great sequence for Ashtangi’s and vinyasa folks alike.


Saturday 9:30a-12:00p – Primary Series. Very thoughtfully done with explanations and guidance on some variations to some of the poses.


Saturday 2:00p-5:00p – Jump thru, jump backs. Whoo. Amazing how these two things can take three hours to breakdown and explain and practice. Kinda depressing too, to realize how little abdominal and shoulder strength I have to execute some of these components.


Sunday – 9:30a-12:00p – Intro to Secondary Series. An introduction only, because “technically” and “traditionally” Secondary series is not to be practiced unless the individual can do a dropback and a pop-up unassisted. This was one of the best intros to Secondary that I have yet attended. Again, very methodical instruction, great breakdown and explanation of the postures and sequencing, and incorporated Saturday afternoon’s technique.


Sunday afternoon was back bending, but I couldn’t attend. Needed to pick my pups up from the kennel by 5p and I was looking at a three hour drive. 

Everytime I go to one of his workshops, I pick up another nugget to take back with me. There is usually so much being thrown at you, as a student, in these indepth weekends that after a while the brain really does turn to mush.  In a good way. 


My only complaint with the weekend was the studio owner refused to turn on the air circulation and so 40 of us were practicing in a small room that easily hit 85* (29.5*C) and the same in humidity. It was stifling. The air was so heavy as to be almost suffocating. I don’t mind practicing in a warm room, but my goodness, keep the air flow fresh! It was honestly cooler outside, and outside was 80*+ (26*+C) because the sign down the street said so! And if I wanted to do Bikram, I would. Ashtanga is not Bikram…  Seriously, everyone was sweating just sitting. 


So if you ever have a chance to attend a session with Matthew Sweeney – GO! GO! GO! It will be a challenging session or weekend, but so very, very informative.  And hopefully your studio will be more moderate in temperature and airflow...

Monday, July 25, 2011

Substitute Teachers/Subbing for a Class

Just a brief interlude from David Whytes 10 Questions!  This was on my mind. 

Two separate and independent conversations recently brought to my attention the issue of substitute teachers and subbing. I can also recall a blog posting or discussion on whether or not to announce a substitute teacher and some of the justifications for each, but alas, I don’t recall where that was.



First discussion involved my younger Sis. She is not a regular practitioner, but would like to be someday when her work schedule is not so wonky. The stars finally aligned to allow her to attend a class at her local Lifetime Fitness. She said she got there early, rolled out her mat in the middle of the room and watched the people slowly fill up the space. She estimated by the time everyone was in, there were about 50 people. Then the instructor came in, announced she was a substitute and that this was going to be a Hatha level II class…despite it being advertized as a level I. This caused some anxiety for my poor Sis…not what she had expected! Sis said they started moving, and the instructor put them in all sorts of pretzel poses. She said about 10 people out of the 50 could actually do those poses. Finally, sore, sweaty, and somewhat freaked out, she was able to quietly slide out of class near the end. Dismayed. Upset. In shock. Unhappy.


Second discussion was with a long time friend who has rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia and is on the generously built side. She signed up for a slow hatha class through her local community education and was developing a tenuous understanding with the regular instructor about her abilities. And then came the sub….who, according to my friend, seemed intent on singling her out with persistent adjustments throughout the entire class. Even though this was the first time the two had met.


Now, this isn’t a posting about an instructors ability to teach, but rather, how a substitute teacher approaches a class that is “not theirs”. They have not developed any kind of rapport with the students, they may never be back again, or back infrequently. I myself have subbed and have been in a class with a substitute instructor so I can see both sides of the discussion.


From my point of view, and humble opinion, why would an instructor bump up the level of a class from what is advertized? Ego? Misinformation? Misunderstanding when talking to the regular teacher?  This is where knowing how to ‘level’ a class is mighty handy. Offer a place for everyone to work, and teach from the middle. Anything more is just showing off. A more experienced practioner is going to know how to add on to a pose – and an experienced practioner is also going to know to accept what ever is being offered and work on the things that we “can’t see” (bandha’s, breath, internal alignment). Nothing will turn of a potential new student than being “blown out of the water”. 


Adjustments – a personal thing to be sure. I do very little hands on adjustment in part due to the nature of a flow class and in part due to my training. 98% of my adjustments are verbal; spoken out loud to the entire class or offered quietly one-on-one with much pointing. However, speaking from experience, if I’m subbing, unless the person is going to hurt themselves, I’m totally hands off. I don’t know the students, I don’t know what injuries they are coming to class with, what experiences, and I won’t see them again for months afterward. Or maybe never. Who am I to suddenly start making all sorts of adjustments based off of one 60 or 90 minute class?


I’ve seen students get hurt because of that. One gal I know received a ‘simple’ stretch while in downdog, in a workshop, and her hamstring hurt for 6 months.


Now this isn’t to say I haven’t made mistakes too. But I hope I’ve learned from them – and from watching others, and I’ve add those experiences to my filing cabinet of “things to be more aware of”.


So, fellow yoga peeps, what are your thoughts on subbing a class or being in a class that has a substitute teacher?  What do you like to do, or what do you like to see?

Monday, July 18, 2011

10 Questions That Have No Right to Go Away by David Whyte

10 Questions That Have No Right to Go Away by David Whyte



from Oprah.com
June 15, 2011


The thought-provoking poet David Whyte considers what we should be asking ourselves—especially when we least want to confront our own answers.




4) Where is the temple of my adult aloneness?


In 1996, I wrote a poem called "The House of Belonging." In it, I spoke about the small, beautiful old house I came to live in after the end of my first marriage. In the poem, I wrote:
This is the temple of my adult aloneness
and I belong to that aloneness
as I belong to my life.


That temple was the house I moved into after the end of a chapter in my life. There I would live alone, but also with my son a good deal of the time. It was a new start. There was a great deal of grief in letting go of the old, but I was so very excited about my new home. I felt that even though it was such a small house and an old house, it had endless new horizons for me, as if the rest of my life was just beginning from that place. It is important to have the equivalent of this house at every crucial stage in our lives. Where do you have that feeling of home? Do you have it in your apartment? Do you have it when you walk along the lakeshore or the seashore? Where do you have that sense of spaciousness with the horizon and with your future?


Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Water

Gaston Bachelard, a French philosopher, said that one of the beautiful things about a home is that it is a place where you can dream about your future, and that a good home protects your dreams; it is a place where you feel sheltered enough to risk yourself in the world.

Monday, July 11, 2011

10 Questions That Have No Right to Go Away by David Whyte

How apropos given the season of Summer for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. 

3) Am I harvesting from this year's season of life?
"Youth is wasted on the young" is the old saying. But it might also be said that midlife is wasted on those in their 50s and eldership is very often wasted on the old.



Most people, I believe, are living four or five years behind the curve of their own transformation. I see it all the time, in my own life and others. The temptation is to stay in a place where we were previously comfortable, making it difficult to move to the frontier that we're actually on now.


People usually only come to this frontier when they have had a terrible loss in their life or they've been fired or some other trauma breaks open their story. Then they can't tell that story any more. But having spent so much time away from what is real, they hit present reality with such impact that they break apart on contact with the true circumstance. So the trick is to catch up with the conversation and stay with it —where am I now?—and not let ourselves become abstracted from what is actually occurring around us.


If you were a farmer, and you tried to harvest what belonged to the previous season, you'd exhaust yourself trying to bring it in when it's no longer there. Or attempting to gather fruit too early, too hard or too late and too ripe. A person must understand the conversation happening around them as early in the process as possible and then stay with it until it bears fruit.


photo from namastefromduluth.blogspot.com


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

10 Questions That Have No Right to Go Away by David Whyte: Question #2

This is question #2 and I feel he really sums it up at the end: "What can I be wholehearted about now."  That is a really immense question.  We are so busy trying to *get* something else that we just don't pay attention to what we have *now*.  We want to be able to the full expression of "that" pose, we want the job/house/car/entertainment system/computer/iPhone, we want... we want... we want...   But what if we stopped and acknowledged what we have now?  Can we find contentment by simply being in the present? 

10 Questions That Have No Right to Go Away

By David Whyte


Oprah.com
June 15, 2011

2) What can I be wholehearted about?

So many of us aren't sure what we're meant to do. We wonder if we're simply doing what others are doing because we feel we don't have enough ideas or even enough strength of our own.

There was a time, many years ago, working at a nonprofit organization, trying to fix the world and finding the world didn't want to be fixed as quickly as I'd like, that I found myself exhausted, stressed and finally, after one particularly hard day, at the end of my tether, I went home and saw a bottle of fine red wine I had left out on the table that morning before I left. No, I did not drink it immediately, though I was tempted, but it reminded me that I was to have a very special guest that evening.

 
That guest was an Austrian friend, a Benedictine monk, Brother David Steindl-Rast, the nearest thing I had to a really wise person in my life at that time or at any time since. We would read German poetry together—he would translate the original text, I read the translations, all the while drinking the red wine. But I had my day on my mind, and the mind-numbing tiredness I was experiencing at work. I said suddenly, out of nowhere, almost beseechingly, "Brother David, speak to me of exhaustion. Tell me about exhaustion."

And then he said a life-changing thing. "You know," he said, "the antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest."


"What is it then?"


"The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness. You're so exhausted because you can't be wholehearted at what you're doing...because your real conversation with life is through poetry."


It was just the beginning of a long road that was to take my real work out into the world, but it was a beginning.


What do I care most about—in my vocation, in my family life, in my heart and mind? This is a conversation that we all must have with ourselves at every stage of our lives, a conversation that we so often don't want to have. We will get to it, we say, when the kids are grown, when there is enough money in the bank, when we are retired, perhaps when we are dead; it will be easier then. But we need to ask it now: What can I be wholehearted about now?


photo by scifiwithparika.blogspot.com


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

10 Questions That Have No Right to Go Away By David Whyte: Question 1

This was forwarded to be by a friend and it really was too good not to share.  However, it is too long to put on one posting, so I'm going to post the questions over the next week or so.  Enjoy!

10 Questions That Have No Right to Go Away

By David Whyte


Oprah.com
June 15, 2011


The thought-provoking poet David Whyte considers what we should be asking ourselves—especially when we least want to confront our own answers.


The marvelous thing about a good question is that it shapes our identity as much by the asking as it does by the answering. Nine years ago, I wrote a poem called "Sometimes" in which I talked about the "questions that can make or unmake a life ... questions that have no right to go away."

I still work with this idea. Questions that have no right to go away are those that have to do with the person we are about to become; they are conversations that will happen with or without our conscious participation. They almost always have something to do with how we might be more generous, more courageous, more present, more dedicated, and they also have something to do with timing: when we might step through the doorway into something bigger, better—both beyond ourselves and yet more of ourselves at the same time.

If we are sincere in asking, the eventual answer will give us both a sense of coming home to something we already know as well a sense of surprise—not unlike returning from a long journey to find an old friend sitting unexpectedly on the front step, as if she'd known, without ever being told, not only the exact time and date of your arrival but also your need to be welcomed back.

Here are my 10 Questions That Have No Right to Go Away.


1) Do I know how to have real conversation?
A real conversation always contains an invitation. You are inviting another person to reveal herself or himself to you, to tell you who they are or what they want. To do this requires vulnerability. Now we tend to think that vulnerability is associated with weakness, but there's a kind of robust vulnerability that can create a certain form of strength and presence too.


There are many tough conversations, but one of the most difficult is between a parent and an adolescent daughter, partly because as a parent we are almost always attempting to relate to someone who is no longer there. The parent therefore usually tries to start the conversation by offering a perspective that the daughter finds not only out of date but also unhelpful; the daughter then replies by way of defense with something just a shade more unhelpful, and so the process continues. A year or so ago, I found myself in exactly this dynamic, my daughter's bedroom door slamming shut just as I was just about to say that last, deeply satisfying unhelpful thing.


But I caught myself and said, "David, this isn't a real conversation. How do you make this a real conversation?" I gave it the old 10-minute cooldown time, walked into the kitchen, made tea and put out a tray, and on the tray: a plate of cookies, a milk pitcher, a cup and a saucer. Then I knocked on her door and said in a very different, more invitational voice, "Come on, Charlotte, I've made tea. Let's go and have a talk."


As soon as I put the tray down and we had sat next to each other, almost by accident I happened to say exactly the right thing—I said, "Charlotte, tell me one thing you'd like me to stop doing as a father. And tell me one thing you'd like me to do more of." She suddenly gazed up at me with a lovely look in her eyes, one I knew from her very early infancy. She was engaged again because at last I was really inviting her to tell me was who she had become—not who she had been or who I wanted her to be—but who she was now.

Monday, June 20, 2011

I apologize for being a yoga teacher...

...because I am flawed.  And therefore, shouldn't teach yoga.

Perhaps I said something that didn't sit right with you.

Perhaps I didn't say Hello when you walked in.

Perhaps I suggested an adjustment that didn't work.

Perhaps I played some music that you didn't like.

Perhaps I did a sequence that was too hard/too easy one day or not what you wanted.

Perhaps I was the substitute instructor.  

Perhaps I quoted a poem during savasana.

Perhaps I opened with a chant.

Perhaps I read a passage from the Bhagavad Gita and you are a devout Christian.

Perhaps I quoted a biblical saying and you are an Atheist.

Perhaps I have a physical disability and therefore cannot demonstrate every posture perfectly.

Perhaps I have an emotional disability, which you can't see, but you wonder about anyway.

Because obviously I'm not fit to teach yoga....


You judge me on all these things.  Forgive me.

If you are a perfect instructor, please let me know, and I will humbly step aside and take my place in the rows of students to sit before you.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Focus Pose: Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana (Half Bound Lotus Standing Forward Fold)

Another focus pose! This particular asana people love, or they hate. You are putting pressure on both knees, the hips, the shoulders are opening, while (maybe) adding a forward fold. Lots going on and depending on your anatomy, it either feels really good, or it’s agony in the making – in which case modifications are necessary! Please, listen to your body, it’s trying to tell you something.



While looking for some further details on this pose - which comes after Hand To Big Toe (Utthita Hasta Padangustasana) and before Pyramid Pose (Parsvottanasana)in the Ashtanga sequence - I came across this article from Yoga Journal as written by Beryl Bender Birch: Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana

 
In 2005 I went to a workshop conducted by David Williams – he skipped this one completely with the reasoning that most people dislike the whole balance/twisting/bending aspect so why do it standing at all when you are just going to repeat it in 10 minutes on the floor in seated variation? Interesting point.


Yet, it’s a good pose to know.  If you are a cyclist, an endurance athlete, runner or triathlete, it's a great way to stretch the hip.  I love doing this stretch after Spin class or a long ride. 



Half Bound Lotus Standing Forward Fold


(From the Ashtanga sequence)


You’ve just finished Side B of Hand to Big Toe pose (Utthita Hasta Padangustasana) in your variation and returned to samasthti at the front of your mat.


Press your LEFT foot toward the earth.


INHALE, bring your RIGHT foot toward your left hip flexor:


      NOTE: I cue “toward” your left hip flexor. Please listen to your knees and hips. If such an extreme flexion is not appropriate for you, take Tree Pose (Vrksasana), or a Standing Pigeon Variation.
Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana

Level 1: Standing Pigeon or Tree Pose

Level 2: Tuck heel in toward hip flexor, grasp foot with left hand underneath, wrap right arm around behind. Maybe you’ll grab your elbow, maybe forearm, maybe wrist.

Level 3: With heel tucked in, right hand is grabbing right toes.

Level 4: IF RIGHT hand is grabbing RIGHT toes, begin to experiment with forward fold on an EXHALE. IF forward folding, over time, start to walk left hand back toward left foot.


Hold for 5 breaths.


Two ways to exit:

A) INHALE - look up EXHALE – pause INHALE – bending supporting knee slightly, come to standing

B) INHALE all the way to standing.




Both places, EXHALE to samasthti.

Repeat LEFT side.




 This is another pose where there is some deviation in what to do with the arms. One variation has the practitioner keeping the opposite hand at the hip. The other variation has the practitioner raising the arm over head and keeping it extended as they forward fold. Which variation you do will depend on when your instructor learned the pose, and who they learned it from. Either arm position is correct.


Bent knee – try and keep the bent knee pointing somewhat down toward the Earth and not jutting out toward the side. Again, how you are built will dictate where in space your knee is.




Some contraindications:


PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE! IF you have had knee surgery, knee issues, hip surgery or hip issues modify modify modify!

If forward folding, try not to hyper extend the supporting knee.  Be careful exiting the pose – bend the supporting knee. Engage your core.

Do the same thing on BOTH sides.  If you keep working toward your strong side, your weak/injured side will not have a chance to catch up, and you will create an imbalance in your body.  Modify the same on both sides to achieve equilibrium, then move forward from there.


Alternatively, do tree pose (Vrksasana) standing, and work on the nuances of the pose when you come to it in the seated sequence. When you feel comfortable with your balance, then start to build from there.


And because a video can convey so much more:




Namaste!

Pictures taken from the web by Googling ardha baddha padmottansana.  Video is from YouTube.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Grieving

Last weekend The Husband and I were faced with the decision and need to put our beloved Kia-dog down. I had taken both dogs in for their annual check-ups, thinking she had gastritis, upset tummy, or perhaps had swallowed something she shouldn’t have (she was a lab…). They sent me home with Pepcid AC. Four days later she stopped eating and I took her back in for x-rays. It was a shock to find out she had a partially collapsed lung and fluid in her abdominal cavity which was putting pressure on her stomach – hence the lack of appetite – but no discernible mass could be found. This time I went home with steroids and painkillers which were supposed to help with appetite. I consulted a specialist on Wednesday and we sent a fluid sample off to the lab to determine what kind of cancer and explore treatment options. Late Friday night/very early Saturday morning, her breathing had changed for the worse and we knew it was time to let her soul go.



This was perhaps one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make – and looking back at that week of vet visits – I think both Kia and I knew the end was coming. For the week prior- as her health rapidly deteriorated - I was up with her in the middle of the night, listening to her shift around on her pillow, for slight changes in her breath that told me she was laying on the uncomfortable side, for a quiet polite whine to let me know she wanted to be outside where it was cooler.


I grieved in the darkness.


I wrote her blog Memoriam.


And we said our good-byes.


Grieving is such a personal thing. I felt I was really able to draw on my eastern philosophy lessons and readings (yogic and Buddhist); that everything is impermanent, we control nothing, and the concept of aparigraha (non-attachment) of which Hilary talks about today on Life on Riverview Street (coincidence? I don’t believe so). I re-read Linda-Sama’s posting: Today is A Good Day to Die  and took comfort in her words. Kia was so very dear to me, and it was easier for me to understand her passing from this plane into the next existence by drawing strength from what I’ve learned. I can talk about her passing, I can rejoice in the time she gave me, and derive delight in listening to stories others had about her.





May her rebirth be fortuitous.