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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!

SALAMBA SARVANGASANA

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:

ss1

There are variations of that (eka pada etc) and it ends with:

ss2

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:

shoulderstandlg

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:

10522150_806244392754377_6376279496429940880_n

MY KNEE REALLY SUCKS

About ten years ago I damaged my right medial meniscus on an f—ing treadmill with elevation. I was told at the time, I would have to have the whole thing removed. By the time surgery rolled around, the swelling and pain were totally gone, so the doc said let’s wait. But you will be back within two years to take that baby out.

Fast forward to about a month ago. After the first episode I committed to a Bikram yoga practice and started gaining back strength and mobility. Through my last year of practicing Ashtanga, I gained back the ability to close the knee almost totally.

I attributed this miracle to yoga. I felt like a walking (literally) testimony.

Then the truck accident. (Bear with me) I was driving into the parking lot at work and hit – something – not a person – and the whole underside of the Escalade got tore up. It was probably a hunk of pulled up road that fell of a truck, because I did not see it.

Two days later, I pulled a muscle in my left calf. My left inner knee started hurting and then the right SHARPLY. The left leg got better but the right, all of a sudden is a mess. Swelling is back. Pain is BACK. Mobility – is GONE.

Refer to post on Richard’s statement on how Ashtanga practice is like a glass mountain. It is beautiful and lucid going up, the fall down is quick, but inevitable and somewhat of a good thing.

So after various x-rays and examinations, I am off to the PT. I can still do yoga and BIKE. But I am not sure if that range of motion will return. Sad to see it go. I am going to still practice some first series, but mostly will be this for my practice:

The long standing poses feel so good and working on my back for the hips and knee. Long slow holds. I can not go fast.

Unless I get a LOT of resolution from PT. There is arthritis and this ugly spur and I got to see the ten year change in my knees from my xrays.

Very illuminating. This age thing is. The Escalade is fine. I did not get HURT in this accident. The knee is symbolic of messing up your foundation. It all fell apart at once. As far as the truck, you know, you have insurance and good mechanics.

The news these days is DISTURBING and it always makes me wonder how some people can be so ambivalent and unaware of the travesty going on in our country and other countries, ESPECIALLY YOGIS, that should develop a deep awareness and empathy for pain. It is compassionate to do so. There are enough people out there that show no compassion for the other guy.

Why are people killing children? Who thinks this is justifiable? I don’t see any justification for shooting someone walking in the road instead of the sidewalk. I do it all the time. It is how I roll.

Okay that is it for politics.

I went to a Max Strom workshop at our studio on breath a few weeks ago. He did five workshops but I was so burned out from the Maty Ezraty week and then moving right into summer intensive for teacher training, I could just do the one. Plus, he is coming back for a four day teacher intensive in March for our Advanced Program and I will go to all of that. The workshop on breath was just a taste. The workshops were geared for the general public and I would rather focus my time on material more relevant to teaching.

I was introduced to Max when he arrived at our studio. My first impression of him is that he is very direct, very present, and doesn’t waste words. He speaks very evenly and firmly and when he delivered his workshop it was the same. As a gifted writer he understands the power of words and the necessity to not waste them. He is the same in class as he is in conversation. The words and direct, clear, and there is no filler. I did my homework beforehand and I love to research the background of the yoga teacher. I did find out that he did Maty Ezraty’s very first teacher training and Sean Corne was in the class. He indicated his main teacher earlier on was Dena Kingsberg. Wow. Very old school.

We just finished the month long teacher training intensive and I am experiencing some burn out.

However, I am back on track with Iyengar. I am starting an Iyengar challenge today.

Appendix 1 has a list of courses and suggestions for a time frame for practice. For example the first sequence is for 1st and 2nd week of practice.

I am going to start with that course and do one every day, even on practice days when I go to practice at the coop or practice primary at home. When I stall on a series, I will stop until I accomplish the poses.

Today is:
Tadasana
Vrksasana
Utthita Trikonasana
Utthita Parsvakonasana
Virabhadrasana I & II
Parsvottanasana
Salamba Sarvangasana I
Halasana
Savasana

It will be interesting to see the point when I hit the wall.

On to day one challenge!

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

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