Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralyzed. Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as bird wings. – Rumi

Yogaview, in Chicago, sponsored Maty Ezraty for a five day teacher intensive and weekend workshops. I have always wanted to find training with the ‘teacher of teacher’s’ so was elated to find they were doing this teacher’s intensive. I am always fascinated by the old videos of Jois teaching Primary and Intermediate students to the small band of students that are now senior teachers in the Ashtanga teaching world, although they have all gone off on their own direction as far as Ashtanga. Maty is one, Richard Freeman, Tim Miller, Chuck Miller and Eddie Stern are others that we look up to in the West. I remember Maty in those videos and admired her intensive focus. I loved seeing Guruji throwing her around in third series, and have heard of the deep respect she has from all who have learned from her.

The attendees were mainly vinyasa and “Ashtanga teachers”, whatever that means. I am sure a lot of people came there looking for some expertise in teaching Ashtanga, whatever that means to you. There was very little of Ashtanga in the training and Maty focuses mainly on Iyengar yoga. Each five hour day consisted of a three to three and a half hour class followed by some work on hands on assists. On the first day she said that she knows a lot of us come from different styles and training and to be open minded about the work we were doing. The classes were very much sequenced like the Iyengar classes I take. The alignment is Iyengar and the cueing. This is, no doubt, somewhat of a shock to those that practice mainly Primary or Intermediate series because, for one thing, the vinyasa is missing. The poses are the same though. I think there are people that think the poses are aligned differently in Iyengar. They really are not. There may be minor spacing of the feet issues etc, but people have to remember. Iyengar and Jois had the same teacher. The sequencing is obviously different. In Iyengar you may be doing poses early in your practice that are not allowed until later in the series of Ashtanga, like handstand for instance. Of course you are doing way fewer poses. In each class with Maty, we did 10 to 15 poses, with a lot of demoing from other students. She pointed out to a rather advanced Ashtangi, that her Trikonasana was all wrong. About an hour later, I saw the trainee sitting and looking a little confused sitting on the floor. I think Maty’s assists showed her there is another way than what she thinks. That is not a bad thing.

For the vinyasa teachers, it is hard to tell. “Power Flow” (whatever that means) students are always willing to work hard but alignment and assists are all over the place so depending on who they worked with, this had to be all pretty unfamiliar. Right away Maty said her assists are for aligning the student, not making them go deeper. In Power Flow you can expect a full range, from mild massage to intense manipulation of the form. Maty made these classes with poses we all practice daily, HARD. Some of the worst moments of the week, arms overhead for ever, a chaturanga on blocks, handstands times 4 or 5 (the girl next to me said she hates handstands too but that she would rather do that than the chaturanga thing on blocks again and I agreed it was awful and I am practicing it every day now), warrior 3 on the wall, and others. We were at the wall a lot. EVERYTHING on the wall is harder. Trust me. I think Maty made the classes hard for a reason. I think the difficult classes with familiar poses reflected that we could do better as teachers and practitioners, no matter what style. Are we really teaching anything or just guiding classes. Do we take our students for granted and let them do what they want or do we find what they need. (Maty is an expert at being the teacher who shows you what you NEED.) Are we really paying attention as teachers to what is going on physically and energetically with our students. Maty is in touch with that and throughout the sessions I watched her change the alignment of the beautiful poses the attendees had into a more profound pose. A young man she assisted in Vira III on the wall came out shaking and bent over and sweating profusely.

Maty teaches the building blocks of alignment that run like a stream through all the poses. The main alignment cues she uses again and again, I have heard, but the progression of what we learned did change on a very deep level. I did not see resistance in the group. I see observation and note taking. She shows how to take crunchiness out of the low back and hips in Virabhdrasana 1 with various attendees. She shows why a person with knock knees can’t bring the bent knee back in Virabhdrasana II. She also teaches that there is a process in bringing the hand to the ground or foot in Trikonasana. Yes! I am tired of seeing the hands hanging in the air that some teachers insist on and that I have to BREAK my students of. (I have trained most of my students that Uttanasana is hands on the ground and not hanging out in ‘rag doll’ in their low back.) Maty insists on this too.

Maty’s classes left me sore. My thighs and arms hurt. The arms in down dog are different from what I am used to. She insists on 90 degree bend in the standing poses like Vira I and II, which you are holding a LONG time. During the session she tells us when we start practicing like this the four or five breaths we are used to won’t be enough any more. One reminder to use the feet and inner thigh is in every pose. That Chaturanga. When she is teaching that pose and basically NO ONE, even the vinyasis and ashtangis can barely lift their belly and EVERYone wants out. We are sweating and she doesn’t release it, she says it is better to work into the pose this way than do it a thousand times wrong. A thousand time wrong. Of muscling through practice. We ALL do it. That theme comes back over and over. She tells us this is hard because we learned the wrong way. It is harder for us to change. It is easier for our new students. We all come into yoga with patterns and we seek balance and healing. The light goes on for me, that I have worked AROUND my weaknesses instead of working in my weakness. Pretendasana I call it, or muscling through without finding BALANCE. Learning to walk AGAIN.

I just saw this on Facebook this morning and Petri is right. I do teach a teacher training, but I do believe that experience is vital. We do the best we can but I tell every trainee. Never Stop Learning. Maty has that experience he speaks of. Years of working with teachers and students. Watching, observing, finding new ideas, deconstructing old ones. She doesn’t call this an Iyengar training or Vinyasa or Ashtanga. It is pure training with no dogma. I don’t consider alignment dogma. Dogma is an attachment to the theory to the point of excluding other points of view and diminishing them. That is not what this is. It has everything in it from her background. The Ashtanga method is deeply ingrained. A lot of the WORDS remind me of Richard Freeman, who teachers a more Ashtanga with Iyengar influence. There is a lot to learn. You can bring these layers into your teaching. We are there to help our students, even if that means not giving them what they want all the time.

She is the teacher we all want to be. Informed passionate present and compassionate. It is always great to work with someone who is so focused on teaching and giving what they have learned.

straight knee

Teacher “Lock your knee!”

Girl in Back “Got your locked knee.”

Guy in Front “Got your locked knee.”

LOVE THIS BLOG TODAY:

http://pegmulqueen.com/about/2014/05/23/a-forward-fold-unlocked/

Because for one I can live vicariously through her teacher, David Garrigues. I LOVE that they text about this stuff.

This is all so frustrating on the student’s end! Telling them to work evenly through the front leg is a hard concept to grasp. And doing handstands is more fun.

BUT his words, sacrum in legs back to wake up the deep Core, that is EXACTLY what the Iyengar teacher told us last week! See, there are more similarities than differences and we in the WEST think Core is
the rectus abdominis. We work externally because we don’t know how to work within. Working externally LOCKS us out of our potential. And we always want to fight what the teacher is saying or we just aren’t really listening.

From my time in the Bikram hot room, both practicing and teaching I figured out that the problem with the locked knee is when the weight shifts into the heel, and the hip moves BACK. Like the girl in the picture. This puts the forward bend into the low back and the leg is not balanced. Someone doing this well is working strong front to back and the hip stays over the STRAIGHT KNEE and the heel. The practitioner wants to shift the weight forward into the front of the foot so that it balances the leg alignment.

BOOM! It works and you don’t get low back funkiness.

Same thing in Uttanasana. Sounds like David RETRAINED his student.

I am thinking trini is hands on the floor, like the feet to fix the foundation. What is the use of coming up on the fingers. There is no reason for it and it makes no sense. Will be waiting to see if I am WRONG on that.

Iyengar:

utta1

Teacher “Keep hands on floor!”

Student “Got it!”:

utta2

ARKY&KOTA

Practicing primary series, two days after workshops, like the exclamation mark on new found energy SHIFT. Iyengar is like discovering the world is round, and Primary is like exploring the Grand Canyon. Yoga is funny like that seamless and endless. Here is the backbend we did a LONG TIME on Friday. I felt like something was bursting around the sternum:

chair3

It might not be as intense for people who have a decent urdhva dhanurasana, but I have lost a lot in backbending over the last year so this will help bring it back I feel, with long holds, but this is not by any means restorative.

Here is Iyengar practicing kaptoasana in same chair:

chair4

He really is the master of backbending. And head standing. It is so interesting that you always do halasana an sirsana in daily practice, just like the finishing sequence. In Light on Yoga, Iyengar suggests a minimum of five minutes in each. Since you use so many supports, like blankets, halasana is very doable in five minutes after a while of practice. Building that five minute sirsana is a little harder. I just add time breath by breath rather than watching a clock or timing.

Here are some pictures of using chairs for standing poses:

chair1

Now this can be very restorative but it forces you to align hips, and keep the rotation in the thighs since the chair offers resistance. The air doesn’t. This is very hard to correct in standing practice and hard to corred with students.

chair2

People tend to flake out in this pose, not going for the intensity and saving it for something like handstand, or they want to bind and make a ‘bird of paradise’ balance pose, which is all fine, but this pose is an important foundational pose. Lengthening that side line is important energetically. In the workshop I was coaxed to stretch my arms overhead. I thought I was.

In Urdhva Hastasana (this is hanstand the other way, just saying) the teacher had us all facing each other and then she had us all come and look at a student. As soon as she lifted her arms overhead, she naturally pressed her abdomen in, locking out her diaphragm. She wasn’t breathing. Then the teacher demonstrated how working properly in the low foundation and setting the pelvis properly engages the abs NATURALLY. The bandhas are already there, whatever you call them. This really wakes the real Core up energetically and lifts the energy, which is what it is supposed to do. You know, and as a society we are always engaging our abs, cause it just looks and feels good, but too much inhibits breath. Really engaging the deep transverse abdominis is what we want to do, let the other abs soften a little when breathing. This is key in pranayama practice.

I hope I can attend her pranayama workshop next time. I have a lot to work on.

IYENGAR WORSKHOP

ITYEBGAR

Last night I was allowed to attend a two hour general Iyengar class with Chris Saudek from La Crosse Wisconsin. You can read about her and her background here:

http://yogalacrosse.com/la-crosse-yoga-instructors/

A few weeks ago the teacher whose class I attend on Sunday said she was coming back and that I should go to the General class and maybe the Advanced. Then she warned me that the Advanced class is kind of scary, which mostly intrigues me. I have walked into many situations however that I probably wasn’t prepared for, yoga and otherwise, but so far have never run bolting out of anything. So far.

But what really intrigued me was that a teacher of this caliber comes around frequently to my town, which is very heavy into yoga, like think a yoga studio every few blocks. Pretty much. It is VERY COMPETITIVE here and there is a lot of REALLY GOOD MARKETING, but I had NEVER seen on Facebook or on any bulletin boards that a teacher like this comes to town. And the place was packed.

As a long time practitioner of Ashtanga, vinyasa (whatever that means), and Bikram a while back, it is always interesting how they start the class. She started with a 20 minute Supta Padangusthasana with variations. This is the other shocker, the few poses you do in 90 to 120 minutes. After that we did about five minutes in Sirsana with Eka Pada Sirsana variations then it was on to hip openers in chairs where we focused on VirabII and Utthita Parvsvakonasana. The chair is both an aid and gives you the ability to align and work through the pose in a way you can’t understand until you have done it. Again, I thought the chair is a crutch I don’t need because I know the pose. I practice it daily in Primary series, but there is a depth in the chair that I can use in practice. People are GROANING coming out of it. We did a standing backbend against the chair. I tried to replicate the feeling today and couldn’t do it. Then we did Urdhva Dhanurasana in the chair and Eka Pada variations. The ability to hold that long is profound and my backbend has really been bad since I have been struggling with a half primary for so long. And I miss deep backbends. Anyway MUST HAVE THAT chair. And that wall at home. The class ended with a long Halasana. LONG.

I hope I can go to some of the other workshops when Ms Saudek returns. Maybe one day I can go to that advanced. I know they want you to hold those inversions a long time and I am not quite there yet. We are so lucky we have great Iyengar teachers in town though. Lucky us.

Other things to note about the workshop. I am wondering if my age is what is causing me to gravitate to the practice. I do love vinyasa but the stability and pace of the practice and the PRECISION is fascinating. This is a practice for any age though. There are young people there and it is refreshing to see younger people gravitating to a classic practice. The older people who practice it are STRONG. They can hold those inversions a long time. The lack of in your face promotion and marketing is refreshing. I like fancy yoga clothes as much as anyone, but there is a purity here. No marketing all over FB. Love it. People show up because it is so REAL.

Today I am feeling someone pulled apart. Last night I was a bit frazzled leaving. Any time you get confronted head on with whatever dogma you are plunging through and proves that a lot of your beliefs, and for me it is a belief in what I know, gets tore up and you still survive, this is a good thing. I am not afraid of it. Really this is what I do every DAY. Tore up from the floor up.

I remember last year believing that coming back to Primary Series wouldn’t be that bad, I mean at least I GET vinyasa, and sun sals, and my standing poses are good, and then that all got trashed. Some people go back to the comfort zone of what they do well. I dig in the dirt.

Have pictures coming of my garden endeavors coming too!!!!!

There is a lot of cool stuff in Madison with Yoga though this weekend, Michael Stone! More to come this summer too. Mac Strom is coming to our studio! The learning NEVER stops.!

I am going to post some pics on Monday and will be doing an eaglet blog soon. Get a chair, lay on your back, reach your arms back, stay awhile….

I have been taking one Iyengar class a week for the past few weeks. I continue my Primary Series practice on other days. Being in the pursuit of two practices that are in the lineage of Krishnamacharya, which is the lineage of what most of the West follows, it amuses me to find that most people have misconceptions about both practices.

When I started back with Primary Series, the remarks I got were mostly that it is too hard, that it was devised for 12 year old boys, and Krishnamacharya got most of his asanas from Swedish gymnasts. At first, I spent a lot of WORDS defending the practice, but eventually I realized that I had done the same thing. I have a hard time biting my tongue in general, but I also don’t have energy to waste.

I am finding the same thing with Iyengar, that people have preconceived notions about the practice and wonder why an Ashtangi would practice Iyengar? If you believe in consistent practice, which I do, why do you mix it up.

My answer is that it is the same. Energetically. It is just a different path of energy. Whatever misconceptions and lack of knowledge (avidya is a DETERRENT to yoga btw) teachers or practitioners have about this lineage, the one thing that both Jois and Iyengar UNDERSTAND and learned from their GURU, is how to move energy.

It is the big mystery the rest of us who call ourselves yoga teachers try to figure out. Someone asked me recently if the Iyengar poses are aligned differently from the Ashtanga, but there is no answer to that on the physical level, it is all on the subtle level and it is the same ends for all of us, just different means. The focus is different between the methods, but it is still focus. In the movie Breath of the Gods, all of the children of Krishnamacharya said their father insisted on Concentration. I often wonder if he used his kids as guinea pigs, I mean, MAYBE if you can teach children to focus you can do the same for adults? Anyway the alignment question answer is easy, the alignment is internal focus and energy so it is ALWAYS different for everyone. It is also different on a day to day basis.

Last week we did a class focused on the standing poses, using chairs, and as usual, I am surprised that this is so intense. We use a chair, and the wall, for trikonasana, which you ALL do wrong. HAHA

I thought this was for SENIORS? But people are absolutely gasping coming out of theses poses. You set up your feet, spin your femurs, open your groins, hand to the chair and then hand over head to grab the wall. Keep BOTH sides of your spine long. It is all about the LENGTH. Hand to the floor, breath. Then come out. And people are gasping when they come out. The prana is moving.

386_Utthita_Trikonasana_with_chair_as_prop

But it feels the same to this person:

tri chair

Then we do it with a TWIST. The next day practicing primary and these poses have transformed for me. The parsovottansana experience for me has totally changed. The pose now is totally different when I practice Ashtanga because the pranic experience has transformed.

download

I had a discussion with someone about pain recently too. Some people confuse intensity with pain and to be honest lots of people don’t like intensity in their practice and that is fine. That is why there are so many paths. I don’t live in true PAIN so I don’t know….I would probably avoid. But the intensity of the energy is what I find most interesting and it is what makes me go back.

We all avoid pain but that is because we don’t distinguish PAIN that is useful from PAIN that is bad for us because we spend so much time numbing ourselves with EVERYTHING from caffeine to alcohol to alter our state of comfort. I told this person I am in pain almost all the time now from practice. Because I am un-numbing. It went in ugly and now is coming out worse, but what is the alternative? More self numbing? Using practice to continue to mollify anxiety, depression, or whatever the day brings up?

Next week I am going to a two hour workshop with a senior intermediate level teacher and am a bit nervous, but intrigued and excited too. It is like a new toy, or an old toy I forgot about. Practice is always about coming home when it is good.

Teacher Training

http://pegmulqueen.com/about/2014/03/21/why-almost-everything-you-learned-in-teacher-training-is-wrong/

This article. I think it is well thought out but the title is somewhat bothersome. Overall my opinion is that someone who did a 200 hour training should not diminish what others are doing just because they have grown and moved on. Yes she moved on to connect with the right teacher and style for her, but the article suggests that 200 hour trainings try to fool trainees into thinking they are something they are not. You know what you learn in 200 hour teacher trainings? You learn 200 hours of whatever they are teaching. You get a little history, a little philosophy, and little alignment and if you as a trainee stop there and never attend another workshop or training, that is all you will know. I always strongly encourage trainees to go to as many as they can. The 200 hour is and should be the beginning, not the end all be all. People come to their first training with a desire to learn, grow, and give back. I would assume this training or practice won’t serve them their whole lives and they will also move on.

I did. I did a 300 after my 200, attended other specific trainings, countless workshops, and I did change my practice from a style to a lineage. And I understand the difference. I also feel that constant study and focus on your practice should be the priority. And I always choose the BEST teachers to learn from. Locally I do not have the opportunity to work daily with an authorized Ashtanga teacher, so I go and learn from the Iyengar peeps. The people I know who are doing teacher trainings are also passionate about giving worthwhile training. I have never met a trainee who talked about money to be made or being a famous teacher. My experience is they are anxious to learn and are always surprised at how little they DID know and then even more anxious to learn more.

Most important, they want to help people. Because they have been helped or healed.

Many have gone on to additional trainings and studies and they get better as teachers. I would assume those who don’t are stagnant or maybe did not really want to teach but just wanted to understand more beyond what they are taught in a yoga class.

Sometimes it is easy to stand on the pedestal of an long standing practice and to be in the place that finally feels RIGHT to you and look at those who are not where you are NOW and as I said diminish what they are doing. For all teachers, style or lineage not withstanding, our job is to be compassionate, teach what we know (it may be very little), and know that growth comes at different rates for all of us and to work in a way as teachers that allows growth for EVERYONE.

BROODING YOGI

ITYEBGAR

Lately I have been brooding over the fact that I don’t have a ‘teacher’ to work under. I pour over blogs and Facebook posts that have pictures and stories of yoga shalas and communities with an authorized teachers where the community is immersed in serious practice and the practitioners are like minded in their pursuit of yoga and the lineage they practice in. While I am able to get out of town for workshops and practice with a small local group with the same interests, I often wish I had that here. I know. Whoa is me.

My solution has been to work with a small group that are in the same situation that I am and practice at home. And hope for something different some day. And enjoy practice.

Fortunately there are TEACHERS of the lineage of Krishnamacharya in town so I am enjoying going to Iyengar yoga IMMENSELY.

How did two teachers with the same teacher develop such different forms of yoga?

As I practice and study I find as many similarities as differences. Iyengar is very adamant on not teaching vinyasa krama, or movement with breath. His ideal is that the yoga pose has what he refers to as a ‘holistic’ or ‘wholistic’ experience. The forms have a lot of theory in order to experience the pranic quality. In Ashtanga vinyasa, the focus is on the quality of prana, or breath over the theory of form. The form follows and the only way to experience it is through consistent practice.

The ashtanga practitioners who have been consistent with the practice for years attest to this. The novice is never sure. They don’t really understand the bandhas or the energetic promise of experience, especially in the West, we want to know why, or HOW does it work. We in the West even doubt in the experience.

Crossing the lines of styles is also verboten in certain circles. There is a distrust among the Ashtangis about Iyengar, I remember Richard Freeman saying yes this is kind of the ultimate SIN to throw some Iyengar in, but my favorite teachers, like Freeman or Tias Little do this SO WELL.

In the Iyengar classes I have taken, we practice many of my familiar primary series poses. Parsvottanasana for example:

iyengarparva

Is the same pose in both practices, with the Iyengar being a little wider base in the jump out, then turn, the approach is very adho mukha and that approach is very uttanasa, which I GOT yesterday. Brilliant.

I love the break down. I also love the vinyasa. But the breakdown helped me realize something about the pranic quality or the EXPERIENCE, that maybe I wasn’t getting the answer too, or I WAS getting the answer to over a LONG PERIOD of practice.

When I went back to classic styles a little over a year ago I thought, oh yeah, well I have these standing poses DOWN. Turns out, I was wrong. There is always MORE, especially in the Foundational work of yoga. If I have one critique of the current state of yoga, it is the total lack of Foundations in practice. Everyone wants to do a handstand, like, yesterday.

Handstands are fine and fancy poses, but so are the bridges, blocks, streams, and walls.

I am going to do a Foundations workshop series this spring. When people ooh and aah over yoga poses on social media, that is the first thing I point out, those people practiced Foundations a long time. I don’t know of any exceptions that that rule. That is my current yoga theory. The lessons never stop on planet earth.

Coming soon, a post on Trikonasana

IRISH ASHTANGI

"Body not stiff, mind stiff." ~ S.K.P.J.

The Flexi Foodie

Low-fat, plant-based, whole foods, yummy recipes & healthy living tips

Serene Flavorful

inspiration yoga pretty things tasty things fearless kindness

The Confluence Countdown

Ashtanga yoga news, opinion and resources from two practitioners seeking to deepen their Sadhana

The Shift Has Hit The Fan

One person's perspective on the Earth's energetic shift

Are We There Yet?

Fingers Pointing to the Moon

Nion Alchemy

Better Living Through Metaphysics

elysha lenkin: mind body soul stylist

new york editorial, commercial, kids, personal stylist for the mind, body and soul

Yoga Ph.D.

Integrating the Life of the Mind and the Wisdom of the Body

Spirit Wonk

Meditation. Yoga. Buddhism. Self-expression.

Fork and Beans

Encouraging adults to start playing more with their food.

Up(per Midwest)ward Facing Dog

Practicing gratitude, patience, peace, and laghu vajrasana. In the cold.

Prana and Peaches

Yoga, Health, Life

The Babarazzi

Giving Yoga Culture The Star Treatment

ahimsamaven

Life in a yoga blender.

Savasana Addict

My Ashtanga journey, one breath at a time

CultFit

Form, Flow and Grace

QuantumCocoon

YOGA HARMONY BEING

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 436 other followers