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YOGANIDRA AND HELLBENT

Last night I had a dreammmm about external hip rotation and that I was in full yoga nidrasana. I have had several external hip rotation fantasy dreams. Then I wake up and think I can do it, but am WRONG.

I read Hellbent last week in about two days. I resisted when it was going around the studio when it came out because I already know Bikram is a fraud and the rape allegations. I already knew enough and knew that at one time I did drink that Kool Aid. I wanted to be a Bikram instructor, but when I did a one day workshop with him several years ago I got it. I got it was schtick and he is this bizarre clown. After reading what the training is like, I realize it is a gift sometimes to not receive what you intend to manifest. The author came to the same conclusion that I have always felt about Bikram.

He could have offered so much more.

Bikram yoga is definitely for the intensity freaks though and the author Benjamin Lorr, has seen it all and been through it all, competitions, the teacher training, the Esak Garcia Jedi Fight Club bootcamps. He knows the major players. I was shocked he went back a second time to the backbend camp. I follow the Jedi Fight Club on Facebook. It looks like a fun group:

jedi

Yoga competitions have been a big deal in India for a long time. People who are non Bikram people say it is very “nonyogic”. I personally don’t have a problem with it. Hey, if I were younger, I might go to the bootcamp. I hope Esak allows them to drink water though. He came to our studio a while back and was pretty intense, but focused in a good way and delivered a great class.

The author goes to great length to study the effect of extreme heat on the body and obviously the effect of not enough water is just down right dangerous. There are not really any conclusive studies. It’s like everything else, probably very harmful to some and for others their bodies just get used to it. When I practiced a lot of Bikram the only time it was a problem when I was tired, ate too much or too little. When you engage regularly in anything intense you do make changes. You have to be of very eastern European background to be able to practice Bikram six days a week and drink copious amounts of alcohol. Either the drinking goes or the yoga. Ashtanga is like that too though. Serious six day a week early morning Mysore people don’t stay up all night or eat heavy food. It just doesn’t work.

So if you can adapt to the extreme heat, and some people just can’t, and you make major lifestyle changes, less alcohol and healthier food, you are going to have healing and great testimonials. Benjamin includes a lot of transformation stories and they are good ones. I teach in a Hot studio and we hear them on a DAILY basis. That the yoga changes something in people’s lives for the best. Bikram has always made these great claims and let’s just say it does not cure everything. That is the dogma of the practice I never entertained. It doesn’t cure cancer etc or whatever blather the Bikram trained teachers talk on and on about. Snake oil.

Benjamin’s section on the teacher training was hilarious. He recounts a class early in the training where he, and other’s practically die. I would never last a day in that training. No one is locking me in the room and I would not be afraid of the Bikram goons walking around making you stay awake watching movies at 3:00 am. It really sounds like they spend 11 weeks doing nothing but memorizing dialogue, taking two classes a day, and listening to Bikram spew a lot of his garbage. I have heard a lot of the nonsense from his teachers and early on learned to turn off what they were saying and just enjoy the practice.

My favorite part of the book was the section on Tony Sanchez and how he cut off the Bikram umbilical cord. Bikram wanted him to end his engagement. Um, good Tony that you cut your ties. Tony is the best hope for this style of yoga. He doesn’t insist that yoga has to be practiced in extreme heat, he has studied the lineage, is humble, ACTUALLY PRACTICES YOGA, and is everything Bikram isn’t. In other words, he has integrity, study, and practice over dogma.

I feel for the people and students he let down. The same thing happened to John Friend and will happen again in the yoga world. Everyone wants to belong. Everyone wants to be close to their idol. It is always hard when your idol falls and you realize you are – COMPLICIT. People experience guilt. That anyone would refer to Bikram as a guru though, is just sad and pathetic. A system led by a narcissist begets more narcissism. That is just a fact, whether it is yoga, politics, or any other organized group. It is okay to pick the wrong teacher. You can walk away. You can be wrong and not find out till later. It is just human. It is human to remain in denial too. The system invites it. Any system.

DAY 29 REFLECTION

One more class.   I have to say the very best part of this is the many nice people who asked me how I was doing and congratulated me every day. You all are great yogis. I have loved practicing with people I haven’t practiced with for a long time and the new practitioners. It has also been great practicing with those in the Hot yoga training. I know what you guys are doing is a lot tougher than this.  I am so there for all of you.  The teachers I LOVE.  The Inner Fire Yoga Hot Yoga Teachers are amazing.

My thoughts beyond that at this point beyond being ready to have a day off soon is as follows:

It has been great getting some aspects of this practice back.  I have developed more strength and stamina.  My back bending is so much better. I am a little tired in general, but I also have spurts of energy and generally feel good period.  I would say daily things improve right now. I do need a day off.  If I do more hot challenges it will be like seven in a row, to not lose what I lost.  Also my knee is doing very well. It is definitely better and I am walking with little or no limp.

My final thoughts on this and my thoughts throughout the month continue to be why. I think the fact that anyone, including myself, questions it reflects the answer.  Really any discussion of it reflects that.  Why is there even discussion.  Throughout the month I had many thoughts and opinions and feelings about it and spent a lot of MENTAL energy, or what I call monkey committee thoughts, on the process.  But once you get on your mat every single day, the monkeys go away. I am not really thinking about it much any more. It is a PATTERN now and I am not engaging in a lot of DISCUSSION.  Doing a challenge like this is only effective when you get to the point of not discussing and just doing.  THEN it becomes what it is supposed to be. A meditation.  That means not even thinking of it continually in any way, such as “I can’t WAIT to get on my mat.”  You just do it.  If you think otherwise, once the challenge is done, you probably won’t continue because you see an ending point.  Committing to 30 days or whatever you do, is a commitment to being committed to discipline which allows your boundaries to expand, not get smaller.

Right now I am planning on another 30 challenge, doing something else, for May. I want to cultivate more discipline, more health, and more strength.  A lot changes in 30 days in your life, but having consistent practice allows you to be true to yourself and to not be distracted by trivia or a whole lotta bullshit.

 

On Friday, I am going to a day long Iyengar workshop.  I haven’t done a headstand or shoulderstand  all month. I think my next 30 day challenge will be to do full primary to the Sharath tape, which is a shitstorm for me, but I won’t be blogging about it. I am also adding another layer to that mix.  Like I said, I won’t be blogging about it.  IT is the discipline I enjoy.  I will still do some Hot yoga as a supplemental strengthening practice. I gained a LOT of STRENGTH and STAMINA.

 

I will blog about the workshops I am going to Friday.  One more to go with this challenge, consider it DONE.

 

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HOT YOGA BACKBEND

One of the benefits of a regular Hot Yoga 26 pose practice for me is that my back bending has become stronger and deeper in my 22 days.  Yesterday I had a student tell me one of the things they experience in the early opening poses is that their particular body is not warmed up for the opening spine sequence.

backbend

 

According to Hot yoga 26 pose theory the beginning pranayama is the prep.  That is if you REALLY push the breathing.  The deep breathing oxygenates the body and since the room is so warm the muscles get softer and more open.  For me this pose feels very good and strong after the deep side bending for a minute on each side.  It reinforces the use of strong legs in back bending.  The arms over the head forces the core muscles to work hard too.  If you don’t have the support of leg and trunk strength you just won’t go very far even if you are very mobile in the spine. I love the forward bend afterwards.  I love this sequence of the series.

 

The next back bends are grouped in a series of four back strengthening poses that end with a full range back bend.

The first in the series is Bhujangasana, the cobra pose.  This pose is articulated with the focus on building back strength to lift and bend mostly the thoracic spine, using the hands as a last resort.  The great thing about this pose it is safe and helpful for almost any level of student.  It also encourages the action of bringing the shoulders back and down and pushing the shoulder blades forward. If you are a vinyasa practitioner these actions will help you in chaturanga. I often wish even more advanced vinyasa practitioners would take this pose over a poorly aligned up dog, but they don’t listen to me.

backbend 1

 

The next pose is salabhasana where the leg is lifted independently and with both together.  This forces lower back strength. I hadn’t done this pose in a long time before I started the challenge.  During my first class I engaged the proper action to lift both legs.  Literally nothing lifted.  Not even a toe. This is so counter intuitive for the brain and it was like I FORGOT how to do it.  The second class, I lifted a little.  The shoulder and arm positions are problematic for many students. This is good action however for a series that doesn’t cultivate a lot of upper body strength with the shoulders supporting anything at all. That is why vinyasa practitioners resist.  Hot yoga practitioners who take vinyasa struggle with upper body strength, however, they usually have nice open shoulders with a lot of range of movement.

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Poorna Salabhasana uses full back body strength to lift.  This pose also feels good.

backbend3

 

Next is bow pulling pose.   The prior poses warm up nicely to prepare for this pose. It is a little more advanced and many people can’t reach their feet.  Knee alignment is important. The knees should not be visible in the mirror. I am guilty of this too.

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Ustrasana is pretty much dhanurasana only on the shins.  This comes after supta virasana where you get a change to elongate the quads, another important element in back bending. The hips have to move forward and you need quad strength and stretch.  This pose is harder for me in the hot room. Some days it is easier than others, but in a normal environment this pose has always been available to me.  So I don’t know if it is the heat or just being tired later in the sequence.  This is the pose that allows you to open to kapotasana so again, leg strength is crucial.

 

backbend5

 

Day 22 was good practice, but I am tired today. I get to practice earlier today.  Last night was too late. Late does not work for me on work nights.

I am looking forward to it being over just because I am tired and would like a day off. I don’t want to have to do two in a day. No way. I taught a class on Tuesday and then tried to take the class afterwards.  It was a disaster and I barely made it through.

I am also anxious to get back and play with more backbends and to use props and my Iyengar chair after my challenge, now that my back has opened up quite a bit.
The Master of Back Bending:

backbend6

 

That’s how I like it, with walls and straps and blankets and bolsters!

whyiquitmyyogaclass

 

Yesterday I completed Day 20 of 30.  Last week there was a melt down day and I am slowly recovering from that.  Here are the positives of it so far:

  • Daily studio practice with community is enjoyable.
  • The Inner Fire Yoga hot yoga teachers are amazing and gifted.
  • My body is getting stronger
  • My knee is doing better, however the chair poses are a struggle.
  • I am getting a deeper back bend.  This is a great sequence for cultivating deep back bending and strengthening.
  • My skin is soft.
  • I eat and sleep better
  • I have periods of high energy

Here are the negatives:

  • My facial skin is broke out and red.
  • My hair is a disaster.
  • I have deep energy lulls some days.
  • There are some body imbalances that would not allow ME personally to continue this as my main practice (that is only for ME, I am not making that as a judgement call for any one else.) This was never in the plan anyways.
  • I miss my Ashtanga and Iyengar practices.

Ongoing, my plan is to continue this practice one to three times a week.  The logistics of it are kind of a nightmare for me on a daily basis.  Sometimes I have to wait until too late at night to go. I am NOT a night practitioner.  There is a lot of driving involved to practice daily.  Also a LOT of laundry to do.  I am really looking forward to getting back to Iyengar and Ashtanga practice. I have some workshops in both coming up at the beginning of May.  My teacher Richard Freeman is in Chicago in September too.  I will enjoy taking a few Hot yoga classes weekly to be around the nice students and teachers.  It is also a nice practice for focus.  There is frequently loud music booming in the next room. I enjoy that this practice allows space for mental focus and calmness.  I have a lot of MENTAL struggle with getting to class.  Yesterday I spent the whole day pretty much thinking about how much I did NOT want to take the 5:45 class.  About ten minutes into class I was glad I was there and I felt really good afterwards.

 

Over the next few days I am going to have some posts about my thoughts on some of the key poses of Hot yoga, their alignment, benefits, and how to improve them.

 

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DAY 16

Feel awful, tired and don’t know why I thought this was a good idea. Don’t know why I did it period.  Have a ton of anxiety.  That is it.

To briefly outline the first twelve days of Hot Yoga challenge, it would look like this:

Days 1 to 5:  Not much going on the yoga poses, even the ones I can normally do.  The main issue is nausea and dizziness after almost every pose in the standing series.  I used to do the three balance poses fairly well, but they aren’t there at all.  I am focusing on keeping my standing leg straight for the duration of the pose rather than going deeper.  I can not keep the leg straight for 60 seconds at this point.  I can’t stay the duration of most of the first set.  I fidget between poses and have to keep my gaze down due to the dizziness. On the floor I could not lift my legs during salabhasana.  When I try to lift both legs up together engaging all of my back strength literally nothing lifts off the floor. I can’t take my heels in ustrasana, which is normally very available to me.

Days 6-10:  The nausea and dizziness are gone, except the day after I had my phlebotomy lab where they take a great deal of blood to keep the iron levels in my blood in a normal range. I felt good that morning, but almost blacked out at Dandayamana-Dhanurasana.  The standing poses were pretty much done for me after that.  The floor series was fine.  I was dizzy for an hour afterwards.  The sanskrit pronunciations are driving me crazy after the Nicolai Bachman workshops I attended a few months ago.  I have to research the Sanskrit words in this series to check the pronunciation.  Finally I can take my heels in Ustrasana the second set.  I lift my feet three to four inches now in Salabhasana.  The standing balance poses are coming back. It drives me insane that people still kick out in standing head to knee with the standing leg bent. It drove me crazy teaching it.  I actually saw a local studio put out a video of someone demonstrating this pose with a bent standing leg.  NO NO NO NO, that is NOT right.   I finally can kick out with the straight leg standing on a straight leg for a short period of time. I keep the core as engaged as my standing leg to support the low back. The rounded spine forward bends are different for me. I never teach them this way and I know if I don’t support it correctly, low back pain will result.

Days 11-12:  These were the best days so far. I can see progress in the poses and feel a lot of strength and focus coming back.  This is my favorite thing about the series.  I never have to hear the word ‘playlist’ in regards to this practice.  Don’t even use that word with me discussing yoga. I hear this constantly. “I love her/his classes.  He/she has such a great playlist.”  Snore, boring, snoozefest, yawn.  I love a Hot yoga class when everyone is focused on what they are doing and breathing and they remain still between poses.  That recovery period allows for intense practice in the poses.  The quiet time is essential to settle the mind so you can go into the next pose.  Love this.  There is nothing like it.  Ruddy Ruddy at Inner Fire Yoga KNOWS how to hold space like this in his classes.

Here are some other tips for the practice:

Water and Sleep are your number one friends. I take 32 ounces to bed at night and drink it all night and am still thirsty in the morning. If you take a morning class you have to be careful to prehydrate because you get so naturally dehydrated over night.

If water and sleep are your number one friends, alcohol is your arch enemy. I had two margaritas on Saturday very early in the evening. I was fine the next day but won’t habitually do that.

Food management is crucial.  For a morning class you should be hydrated and have light food, a banana or a piece of toast.  That is it.  For an after work class I eat a heavier lunch four hours earlier.

I spend a lot of time in showers, washing hair, and washing clothes.

I want to start adding back some Ashtanga and Iyengar this week.  I am going to another Iyengar workshop all day on the first of May and there is also an Ashtanga workshop in the area I want to attend. I haven’t done a sun salutation in 12 days. I miss it.  After the 30 days the plan it to continue this 4-5 days a week with other yoga for a couple of months. It is great conditioning and such an excellent foundational practice.  I lost so much from stopping it. I love the Hot yoga people at my studio and enjoy seeing them and practicing with them. I also love the Inner Fire Hot yoga teachers.

Here is some Kino love for you today:

 

 

Also some love from two of the three naughty Decorah eaglets.  The baby is sleeping under mom, or actually I think that is dad.  Bonking buddies.

 

DECORAh

 

 

On April 1 I started a 30 day Hot Yoga challenge.  Many ask why.  Here are the reasons:

1.  To detox.

2. To get back to a hard daily practice for a while to make my Ashtanga/Iyengar practice stronger.

3. Everyone thinks I won’t make it and will quit.

4.  Hot Yoga is also emotionally cleansing.  Hence the title, I need it obviously. (Also no Facebook backlash on how “unyogic”, whatever that means, I am.   It is my blog and I can write what I want.)

5.  It sure will keep me from drinking alcohol.  After today’s class all I want is a Coke. Nectar of the gods.

6.  It is 90 minutes of the day I am not distracted by other negativity or fundamentalism. (Christian or yoga opinions or otherwise.)

7.  I ALWAYS feel great after class.  ALWAYS.

 

This used to be my main practice and I was rather established in it before I moved on to other styles, such as Forrest, Ashtanga, Iyengar etc.  Well, that is all gone now and I really am not very established at all.  Some of the poses I was relatively open in are not attainable.  During the first few days I am exploring how to get SLOWLY back to these postures.  It is a meditation in that respect.  I am really HOLDING the foot until my standing leg is STRAIGHT (not hyperextended) before I kick out.  I didn’t do that the first time around. I practiced the kick out and worked on straight legs later. I got them, but that was a bad idea.  I always taught it that way and I notice in classes about half the students still do that.

The most troubling aspect is getting used to the heat again. I feel like I am in a head spin when I go into poses. I have to come out, over the 4 days, I have built up to the longer holds. I am still not there.  My head spins and I have to bend over.  I won’t get sick, because I KNOW not to go in with food in my stomach.  Only water.  Pre-hydration is ESSENTIAL.  I still lug in 32 ounces of water but I know it is too late if I am dehydrated at all.  Going in a morning class with any alcohol from the night before even a glass of wine is DEATH.  For me anyways.  It comes out FAST but it feels AWFUL.  Today I just want that COKE.  Today the room was extra hot so it was difficult, but my body is stronger.

 

(Here they are the three Decorah eaglets)  LOVE LOVE LOVE

 

 

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Ashtanga and Iyengar are BOTH strengthening styles of yoga, but here is the thing and I have always experienced it this way.  There is always something you aren’t getting.  My low back and something in my hips is working DIFFERENTLY in these poses. It is probably the balance work for the hips and the variety and amount of backbends.  I can not grab my heels in Ustrasana, although I can at home.  Every time I drop my head back I feel like fainting.

Today the class was enjoyable because the other students were SO FOCUSED.  It makes me focused.  I love the INTENSITY of the FOCUS in Hot yoga.  You are in the room and are not in the room.  I have noticed people doing alternative poses in these classes this week and that is a distraction for me.  No one was doing that today.  Who told these other students that is okay? It isn’t for this style, unless you are modifying for a contraindication, not because “Oh I think I will throw a pigeon pose in here.”  WHAT?  Not in my time of teaching it.  Not happening.

So I am back tomorrow again in the morning.  My hope is that in the next few days I can stop being so dizzy, be able to hold the poses the full length, and see some of my old backbend come back.

I have a great deal of energy right now. I am cleaning, writing posts, moving around, but I also know I will TANK at some point this afternoon.  Sleep has been delightful.

I will post more on progress through out the week along with my specific view on some of the Hot Yoga poses.

THE HUMBLE MASTER

iyen

It makes me uncomfortable when a yoga teachers refer to their classes or themselves as ‘Master’. The true masters bow in humility to their own teachers. We don’t understand that in the West. The reference to ‘Master’ is considered an effective marketing skill to entice students to higher learning. It is also reflective of high self esteem and those are character traits we value as they are indicators of our potential success, measured by status in life, size of bank account, etc. The true masters don’t refer to themselves as Masters and honor their teachers. I am lucky to have had these types of teachers. And I have to post this at least once a year because so much of social media is filled with advertisements for Master Classes from Master Teachers.

Humility is an under valued quality at any rate.

About a month ago, I took a two and a half hour Iyengar class from Chris Saudek, who is a Senior Intermediate Level III Iyengar yoga teacher. She has studied and taught yoga since 1981. Here is her web site:

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

This class included a lot of Iyengar teachers and students like myself who are interested in learning more about the practice, so it was part practice and part looking at poses. The class was approximately 2.5 hours long and was typical to an Iyengar class without demonstrations. Frequently, she would take a pose and then pull out everyone except for maybe two people. We would look and give feedback. (Not me, but the teachers.) It was amazing to me the degree of detail that Iyengar teachers are able to break down asana. One example was in up dog. I thought both students demonstrated the pose very well, until someone pointed it out that the action of the shoulders was moving forward, instead of back. It was a small detail the small shift changed the form and energy of a pose that students often ‘hurry’ through or do not do mindfully. The student changed the action and the pose changed physically and energetically, but very minimally visually.

The thing I always take back from the class, is that we tend to categorize poses as hard or easy, when the truth is if we are labeling poses merely on the level of difficulty, we are not exploring their potential or to the deeper level of the koshas. Even more important is that we are not fully practicing each pose. In “Yoga A Gem for Women”, Geeta Iyengar states, “No portion of the body or mind is left untouched when an asana is carefully and correctly performed.” To be able to teach this form correctly takes the ability to see the physical alignment and energetic quality of the individual student. An example of this was when the teacher corrected a student’s trikonasana and then asked us if we saw something else that could be changed. No one said anything because the pose had just been realigned. It looked visually perfect. I was looking for a micro physical change, but no, the teacher pointed out it was static, lacked interest by the practitioner, and had a general lack of energy. The well aligned pose had literally turned into a statue, rather than vibrant, breathing form. There is no perfect alignment without prana. In vinyasa, breath is the alignment of the pose.

One thing that didn’t strike me until half way through was that we were not using props. In a normal Iyengar class you are constantly gathering and putting away props, yet, if you look at Light on Yoga, the master himself uses none however. The poses demonstrated in Light on Yoga are considered the form we practice to achieve but along the way we use props to practice the form appropriate for our experience. It was interesting to practice that form that way and the way I am used to practicing in Primary Series. I imagine because it was sort of a teacher’ intensive? We used them for sarvangasana though, of course. And in a general class, we use them for most poses.

I was trying to hide in the back row so I could goof off if necessary, but they are sharp and don’t let me hide. The practice exposes everything. Next time I will go in the front row. For some reason I could not do ardha chandrasana that day which is a pose I normally have no problem with. It was a mess my hip kept cramping, maybe due to the long holds in the other standing poses we did to prepare for this pose. So I was allowed props and a wall, which I normally don’t need. I was told to lift out of that compressed hip.

I am attending more of these workshops in March this coming Friday and May and look forward to not only the practice, which I do not seem to be able to replicate on my own and also the observing, questioning, and feedback. The feedback cuing is so subtle but changes the form much more than a hands on assist. The mind has to be listening, put the words in the body, and then then remember it later. This morning I practiced and could barely muster Virabhdrasana III, another form I usually don’t have a problem with.

The practice is so pure and so basic, but it teaches me there is always more to look at. It allows the development of a sharp incisive mind. Practice, like anything else, can become rote and boring. It is why I enjoy Ashtanga too. The focus is on mind and breath quality. And refinement. Refinement is important too.

Yesterday I took it a step further and attended my first teacher training course, mostly as an observer. It was somewhat daunting. We began the day with a 2.5 hour class with Chris.

The first half hour to 40 minutes was spent in seated poses such as Dandasana with arms overhead. For long periods time. The cues were a lot of don’t let your head move forward, lift the arms from the low back. The first cue is to correct our normal bad posture habits. My left hip bothered me during the long Dandasana and found out later it is a similar problem with navasana. I was working more in the hip flexors than the abdominal muscles. We did Supta Padangusthasana, the two navasanas, and then moved into Sirsana. We worked on Eka Pada for Sirsana at least three rounds and then full sirsana. On to standing poses, which were Utthita Trikonasana, Vimhasana, Virabhdrasana 1, and Parvritti Trikonasana. Then it was down to the floor for Chatushpadasana, Urdhva Dhanurasana on a chair, and of course Sarvangasana. So in two and a half hours we are practicing maybe 15 poses? I didn’t count, I am sure I have forgotten some.

In the afternoon about 20 of the ‘trainees’ met with Chris and the experienced teachers, like my teachers were there as observers. I am not sure if I am on the teaching track. The sessions were offered to teachers or those who want to learn more about Iyengar Yoga. We were asked to submit homework. One submission was a paper on Prakriti/Purusa. Easypeasy for me. I know Samkyha philosophy! The second was a sequence for beginners or continuing beginners. When you begin teaching Iyengar, you only teach beginners. Probably for a long time. The people in the group who were already teachers and hadn’t gotten their first level of certification had taught from 0 to 5 years. We also had to highlight one or two poses to teach. I already told them I wasn’t comfortable with that yet, as did others. I wanted to see what it was about. When the trainees took their turn teaching to us, they gave everyone their sequence. Chris and the experienced teachers gave feedback. I learned a lot from this and have a lot of notes. The sequencing is something that is confusing to me but it merits study. I didn’t understand the ashtanga progression and studied it a lot before it made perfect sense.

During the teaching demos most of the critique ended up being more about creating an experience for the student and creating space, over placement of body parts. They all know the alignment of the poses already. She kept insisting that you have to create space for the student. The only trainee who messed up the sequence took them right into ardha chandrasana from parsva hasta padasana. The pose is normally sequenced from Trikonasana. She also reminded them to go back to Light on Yoga. She asked the group what were the benefits and differences between paripurna navasana and ardha navasana. Ha ha. Crickets. She said it is right there in Light on Yoga. (Massive scrambling for the book.) Another great reminder was to understand WHY you are teaching something. She asked that a lot and that is a hard question to answer but comes from practice and study. The correct answer is not that you do it because you LIKE it that way. (Welcome to my world. I hear this constantly or doing it because another teacher does it that way.)

She had a lot of antidotes about her recent visit to India and some good Geeta Iyengar stories. We are very fortunate in the West to have really great female teachers, but Geeta and Saraswathi, Jois’s daughter that are still around. These two are really the most knowledgeable women in yoga and practiced with their fathers for years and years since they were young girls. I recently bought Geetas book, Yoga A Gem for Women. This is a great book and required in the syllabus to become an Iyengar teacher. I might do a blog on these two soon because I just noticed after having the book a month, that there are pictures of a younger Geeta in the back of the book doing the poses!

If there is one thing I took back it is the effect of arms overhead not only to open tight shoulders, but to strengthen the back. My back has felt very open and alive and strong all weekend. I will continue to work on this. This simple action is a preparation for Urdhva Dhanurasana, Adho Mukha Svasana, and many many poses. And then today I read THIS in a blog about why following the progression of poses in Ashtanga is important. This particular section talks bout handstands:

“In Ashtanga, Handstand is more of a transition. Legs straight in the air while standing on the hands is usually a path to another pose. Usually, it is not until Intermediate Series that legs straight in the air with straight arms is worked on as an aid to a controlled drop over into Wheel with straight arms. Some teachers will have a Primary Series student, who is close to entering Second Series do these as well and they will also allow students to add them to Primary Series transitions. It should be noted that, Sharath Jois, the current lineage holder for Ashtanga, has spoken out against the over use of Handstand and it is frowned upon in Mysore. By the time a student starts playing with Handstand, the shoulders are extremely open from all the binds and back bends they have done previously. They have also established strength and stability by Jump Throughs, Jump Backs, Shoulder Pressure pose , Crow Pose, Forearm balance, Fire Fly Pose and other transitions they have encountered on the way.”

This is totally my experience as a teacher and I have seen this in many students. Thank you to whomever wrote this. But it is a reminder that there is a reason for what you are doing. Or not doing.

Yoga works best when it is a system. Just making a hodge podge of movements and endeavoring to do impressive poses will always take you to a point of frustration or boredom. You are likely to quit when you get to this point. I love the Ashtanga and Iyengar yoga practices because they make sense. It take a long period of time before you figure that out though. Holding your arms over your head for long periods of time (took me back to last summer’s Maty Ezraty intensive where I swear my arms were overhead a couple of hour every day), working on tight external hip rotators, etc is not romantic or sexy or even fun. Practice is like our daily life. We have things to do. We have to understand why we are doing them. We do it for a reason

I am going to do teach a pose next session I decided. Just to get my feet wet. It will be along time before and if I ever decide to actually teach this method. But learning is fun and the teachers are for real.

IRISH YOGI

~ an ashtanga journey through the different stages of life ~

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