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

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Leslie Kaminoff Workshop Part 2: The Spine as Nature's Masterpiece of Sthira and Sukha

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 two of the workshop.

I found day two to be more engaging than day one, and  it definitely built upon the lessons of the day before.  As I review my notes, I'm struggling with how to describe day two - again, it was that non-linear structure of the class.  There was dialog about the spine itself, there was a soap box rant about Desikachar, there was some personal discussion about what people were experiencing in their bodies...lecture was kinda all over the place. 

So I'll start with a couple definitions:
Sthira - to stand, be steady, stable;  as relates to the spine, protection for the nervous system
Sukha - suk - space,  ha - good,   good space;  as relates to the spine, range and freedom of movement

We again began class with a practice, and this time we did move - it wasn't a lot of movement, it wasn't through a whole slew of postures.  It was a very simple, and very challenging warrior sequence.  Check it out - I think you can probably find it on YouTube.  I will maintain, some of the best asana/vinyasa classes I've been to are the ones who keep it simple.  This was simple and challenging.

Again, practice was followed by lecture.  Some key points from Tuesdays session were:
  • THERE IS NO NORMAL from which we all deviate.  Asana doesn't have alignment, people have alignment.  
  • Alignment is a clear transmission of weight through the bones, though balanced joint space, and this will be different for each person. 
  • If your joints are talking to you, something is unbalanced and needs to change. 
  • Use a little movement from a lot of places; ie, it's not "square the hips", it should be turn the torso (shoulders, sternum, ribs, waist...).
  • The spine is a neutral seeking mechanism due to the compression and tension inherently built in. 
  • Working toward a neutral spine is working to uncover the obstructions that already exist. 
  • There is evidence of wear and tear on the spine as young as 20 years old(!)
  • Restriction in the thoracic spin is there to protect our heart and prevent us from ripping our organs apart. 
  • Roll down the posterior spine, roll up the anterior spine. 
 As I review my notes, more is sinking in.  There was a lot of good, practical, information in this session.

Next,  Part 3 - Our Articular Selves:  Limbs of Locomotion and Evolution

Monday, August 10, 2015

Leslie Kaminoff Workshop Part 1: Breathing as Shape Change


I had the opportunity to attend an anatomy workshop lead by LeslieKaminoff, 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 one of the workshop. 

I will be upfront and say that the workshop wasn’t what I or my friend Laura expected.  We went anticipating an “Anatomy Workshop” where we would learn the relationship between X muscles on Y bones and the functionality of  X muscles and Y bones in [these] poses.  You know....anatomy

The workshop was a bit more loosey goosey than that and I haven’t decided if I’m okay with it or not.   I’m a rather linear person when it comes to learning and the presentation was anything but linear.  Leslie seems to work on the principle of here's what the session is, do you have any questions, and then class is built around the questions being asked.  

Which has it's pros and cons.  It does engage the class more, but when you get four or five outspoken people, class becomes tailored to their needs.  Introverted people are not going to be putting themselves forward, extroverted people are going to be asking specific (and sometimes personal) questions.  This can create some interesting dialog, but not always the best for staying on track.

Day One:  Breathing as Shape Change
This was an exploration of breath as space, what happens when you switch the breath when moving (ie – exhaling when you would ‘normally’ inhale during an asana) and a discussion about yoga and the breath as a method to find different ways to move out of discomfort. 

Class started with a practice - if it could be called that - where we did some breath work, the instructor did lot of talking, and we did a lot of listening but not much moving.   I really could have used a practice given the amount we were sitting.

Lecture followed for the rest of the day with an hour and a half break for lunch.   

Key lecture points included:

  • Don’t necessarily lead with the breath, start movement with the breath
  • Engage the student – ask question such as did you know your knee is doing X?  Do you mean for your knee to do X?  Can you do something different with your knee?  It’s the students job to keep themselves safe.  
  • Yoga is not asana, it is not some mystical pursuit of ultimate flexibility.  Which asks the question just how much flexibility does a person need?  There is always a pose you won’t be able to do.  
  • Breathing is the shape change of the abdominal cavity and the spine is the back of the cavity.
  • ALL BREATHING IS DIAPHRAGMATIC. 
This session did lay the foundation for the rest of the week.  


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