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TRUE RADICAL YOGA

“I like to define Yoga as being universal and only applicable in the present moment: anything that takes you out of the present moment is not Yoga. As there is no past and no future (they don’t exist) the present moment is all there is, which is universal. The majority of the activities of the mind are not Yoga – the mind tends to look to the future and debates endlessly on that, or looks to the past and indulges in that. The fluctuations of the mind cease when one is in complete surrender to the present moment.

Thus any tradition or technique, which by definition and application are typically “located” in past and future – do this practice and you will become enlightened, more spiritual, healthier, loose weight, better looking etc – can ultimately lead to a non-Yogic state. If Yoga is the present moment, and in the moment there is nothing but awareness, then that is all you need. Awareness is all you are. This is one of the basic contradictions of Yoga practice – are you being present versus trying to improve? Are you being aware or are you practicing a technique in order to then be aware? Any technique can easily be an obstacle to loving awareness.

At some point a Yogi has to abandon tradition and technique for the purpose of true presence and enlightenment.” Matthew Sweeney

The full blog post can be found here:

http://www.yogatemple.com/musings11.html#!the-evolution-of-ashtanga-yoga-part-ii/cped

The blog world and instagram world and Facebook world is so full of advice, promotions, and opinions, it is always refreshing to have someone write on the true nature of yoga. While I enjoy reading and learning, I find more joy in the simplicity of practicing in the present daily. I was just saying this weekend that a lot of current practices create more distractions for us than we already have and this is an impediment to true yoga. And then low and behold I find:

DavidG

So nice to see teachers speaking truth rather than truisms.

I like to talking to yoga friends just about yoga and not what other people are doing or trying to adhere to some dogmatic philosophy. The philosophy is pure and the essence is in Patanjali etc. You don’t have to keep looking for the truth, it is right there.

Sigh……practice.

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!

ADHO MUKHA SVANASANA

My shoulders are feeling very open today after working on this yesterday:

Iyengar adho mukha

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:

regular joe adho mukha

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:

adhno mukha regular

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:

IYENGAR 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.

IYENGAR SEQUENCE

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:

ss_chair

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:

backbend with chari

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:

backbend on wall

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.

THE MASTER

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.

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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.

ITYEBGAR

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.

brett-favre-wolfman1

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!

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