So refreshing to see this interview with Richard. He is light, heavy, wise, and humble. Rare in the yoga world these days. I hope I can check out more workshops with him 2015. My number one yoga teacher!
My shoulders are feeling very open today after working on this yesterday:
That is, of course, Mr. Iyengar in AMS. Our focus was to get the head to the floor, something you will rarely see in most yoga classes. There were two in the class yesterday that could do it. The teacher and a very advanced student I had never seen before. She was advanced. Period. I know a lot of people struggle with those words as a label or judgement. Whatever. This woman was ADVANCED in her asana practice.
We worked on extending the back lines of the legs and arms and shoulders. If you google this pose and look at images you will see a lot that are a little backbendy as they are extending the spine with the shoulders. (A normal way to work in yoga) Isolating the extension into the thoracic spine and the shoulders is key so we warmed up with a backbend. (My favorite on the chair.)
Most students who start out a yoga practice look more like this:
Comparing the two photos you can see the student needs these two movements to make a shift in the pose to get to the lovely halfway point. The middle ground AMS:
Is that Rodney Yee? I would consider this a pretty Intermediate expression of the pose. There is equal strength, prana, and balance in the upper and lower body and nice back lines. I don’t see this very often.
Looking back at the Iyengar pose and the two other ones, notice the trunk line. My approach to teaching and practice, is to open the trunk first, then the legs, then the shoulders for the final version. The final version takes a lot of strength to work to that level of flexibility. ADS on the wall is also really good for long holds that allow you to work on the shoulder in a way that is not totally weight bearing.
I had a teacher say that urdhva dhanurasana is just reverse ADS. Lots of people push themselves into UD the pose with tight shoulders. The Iyenger AMS would be a great way to prep for a deeper expression of Wheel.
After years of practice and MANY teachers, I went to a very experienced Iyengar teacher for the first time the other night, and at Tadasana she noticed IMMEDIATELY that my toes are not in line. My left toes are an inch in front of my right toes. And she was so nice about it. She even offered I probably don’t do that all the time.
For the rest of class I noticed I do. And since the class, I notice my feet don’t align in tadasana.
Like Theresa Murphy said last weekend, that is information. What does it say about, maybe my wonky, or again to reference Theresa, my guru knee. Or my tight hips. Or my lack of external rotation.
Working with a physical therapist is so funny. He has me strengthening my piriformis and glutes of the minor and medius in order to NOT allow my knee to torque. I had never thought about it. And the exercises he gave me HURT, because my IT band is SOOOOO tight. Still.
So much information. And that wall. I have to have that WALL:
I mean, who doesn’t want that wall. Janu sirsana and paschimottanasana. NOW my new favorite, utthita hasta padangusthasana. (Joan your standing foot is too far BACK.)
Something is helping though because I improved my range of motion in knee flexion and extension. Yes for me and my guru knee.
There is so much you can work on with guru knee or anything else. There is always something. Check your toes for once.
SOOOOO…I am still working through the daily sequence and am stuck on weeks 17 and 18, which is fine. In the next series of poses they start to add more seated hip work, but I am still working on mastering the longer holds for inversions. Iyengar suggests working up to five minutes on sirsana and sarvangasana and I am not there yet.
The sequences start to change quite a bit and the one I am on starts with sirsana. This is very odd if you have been practicing primary series or any type of vinyasa where it is normally at the end. And I don’t quite know why we get so freaked out about it. I went to a Eddie Modestini and Nicki Doane workshop and they started out with inversions in the class. They are both Iyengar/Jois trained, but again, I had never run into that. I often put inversions early in my classes if I know the class is going to be tired at the end so that they actually get it in and don’t flake out at the end of class on their inversion practice. Most of my students don’t do that, but I do think they have more energy earlier in classes for the harder poses.
Last night at the Iyengar class I took, they actually started with handstand and then sirsana, before going through an Iyengar type ‘flow’ which is also incredibly different from what non Iyengar students experience. We worked on bhujapidasana after that and then got to do sarvanagasana on chairs:
That was a serious treat for me. I hadn’t done it that way but it is a good way to work towards longer holds. I could have stayed in it all night. Before that we had also done another favorite of mine on a chair:
I went home and bought my own Iyengar chair after the first time we did that pose and have never looked back. Besides being the inversion king, Iyengar is also the backbend king:
Not ready for that one yet! Looks like a good warm up pose for kapo.
In the home sequence I am working on he is starting to bring on the backbends with the first few, through dhanurasana, of the intermediate series and the next sequence adds on the janu sirsana and first two marychyasana poses.
The heart of Krishnamacharya is never far. He taught his students differently, but the stream of similarity is always there. Just like most religions. They are more alike than different.
I have always been intrigued by Iyengar and was the same with Jois. I had always hoped that I could go to their shalas and see them while they were still living. That didn’t happen. But I study and practice their methods and work with their students who teach. I am enjoying the Iyengar quotes today. There is a lot to live by there.
I just started practicing Iyengar lately and have spoken about the misconceptions I had going in. I thought it would be boring and easy. It isn’t. It is one of the hardest practices. I am proven wrong time and time again.
Iyengar gave many gifts. He was true to his guru but independent too. His body of research is extensive. He wrote a lot and wrote succinctly. When yoga students ask me what one book they should buy, I always say “Light on Yoga”. It has everything.
My favorite thing about Iyengar practice is that it is flexible, yet uncompromising. In a lot of modern practices, students are taught to just do what they want and to watch how they feel. The teachers job is to see what their students are doing and teach them how asana should feel. It is a craft and a study and an art.
There are many good stories of Iyengar from his students. He was not always kind (wishywashy) in the Western sense. He was demanding. He drove some students away. Some of those students moved on to develop their own methods but the heart of Iyengar is always there.
The real method of yoga involves discipline. We Westerners kind of suck at submitting to someone. We want it our way.
We mourn the passing but we also need to celebrate the life he lead, what he taught us, and allow him his deserved rest.
And all you mo fos do trikonasana wrong. Just saying. You do.
I am feeling you Brett Favre.
Prepare for a few knee rants.
After a weekend of intense knee pain, I have seen a ortho and doc and start PT next week, but no one will commit to anything. Will I need surgery? Knee replacment?
Thank goodness for the Web. I have found way more out there than in a doc office.
The other big question. Can I work on external hip rotation if I do find alleviation from pain and swelling post PT, orthoscopic, knee replacement.
I actually found NO answer on that so have emailed some well known Ashtanga/anatomy experts.
I just want someone to tell me SOMETHING!
So today I am day four of Light on Yoga challenge. There has been nothing too earthshaking. But I looked ahead. In a few days I am hitting a sequence that begins with variations of Salamba Sarvangasana.
The sequence starts with:
There are variations of that (eka pada etc) and it ends with:
So in the Light On Yoga world we are only months into practice and you are on to a pretty advanced variation of sarvangasana. SS is standard to any Iyengar class. I have not been to an Iyengar class as of yet that did not include SS and Sirsana. Iyengar loves his inversions. In Ashtanga you do SS, halasana, and karnipidasana daily and the breath count is longer than the normal five breath hold in the other Ashtanga poses. Iyengar recommends going up to five minutes in one before going to the next.
When I came back to Ashtanga last year, those poses were hard for me because we weren’t holding them long in other classes and there was no emphasis on safety or alignment. So it took a long time to work up to 10 or 8 breaths in the Ashtanga series. Also there are no props. In Iyengar you use a minimum of three blanket or one of those nice cushions the girl above has.
My opinion is that you need these supports to hold the poses up to five minutes. Below is a nice little picture of what shoulder stand looks like on a wedge or blanket:
A lot of students resist the support. It seems like a crutch to them, but if you look at this drawing the cervical curve is already quite flattened. It is flattened even more if you are flat on the floor.
The goal of the pose is not to flatten out the cervical curve, but to create a strong support in the shoulder and upper back. These parts of our body are not used to supporting weight beyond our heads. To get to the pose with the arms upwards along side the body in the second picture necessitates strength in the shoulders, not compressing the cervical spine in support of the pose, and understanding of upward energy in inversions.
Due to my knee issue, which will probably an issue in forthcoming months, I am going to focus back on inversions and arm supports over binding hip and external rotation poses, for NOW.
Today I moved a big plant of mine off the wall in my home practice space. It is a perfect support for working into this type of practice. A very nice person today said they were sorry for the knee issue I am going through. You mourn the loss and move on. There is always more work.
Use a blanket or two under your shoulders in SS. Okay?
This is Arky, Dakota, and mom: