Monthly Archives: December 2014

Yoga blog trends I would like to see in 2015 – part 2

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H.S. Arun’s  flawless Krounchasana

 

I may have lost a few followers since my last post. I do have strong opinions, but they help foster thinking about our practice of Yoga. Some of my most cherished preconceptions about Yoga have been smushed down flat by great teachers who flipped my ideas upside-down (literally). In order to keep evolving in our practice, we cannot take anything as set in stone. I will forge ahead and finish my list of Yoga blog trends I would like to see in the next year.

7) More blogs about the inward journey in addition to the outward journey.

One of the best blogs out there for this is 1979Darryl’s Contorted Strength. This guy has a solid daily practice! He is really trying to find the truth of Yoga among the Ashtanga, Bikram, and Iyengar methods. He is finding that the answers are not easy, but maintains his daily practice anyway. This is very similar to how I started Yoga 16 years ago. I finally settled on the Iyengar system, but this path made it clearer for me to see how the other systems are more alike than they are different. 1979Darryl reminds me that Yoga is Yoga no matter what “style” you call it with his adherence to classical texts and his Tapas.

8) More Yoga blogs authored by Men

I’m not saying this this to be sexist, but I feel the Yogic journey is different for men than women. As stated in a previous blog posts, men are barely taken into consideration by Yoga Inc. As far as Yoga Journal is concerned, men are just the stiff student in the back of the room no one pays attention to. As stated above, 1979Darryl, myself, and a few others have a unique perspective about Yoga as male practitioners, as well as many special issues.

9) More Yoga blogs authored by people over 50

Yoga and aging will be the next big trend in coming decades. There is a slew of new research coming out about how Yoga is assisting the aging process to facilitate more range of motion and mental alertness in the later years. All those pictures you see in Light On Yoga shows a “youthful” Iyengar in his late 40s. It would like to hear more anecdotal evidence by those who have practiced for decades.

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10) On that note…more Yoga research entries

It is fascinating the effects Asana have on our 11 bodily systems. I have written quite a few entries based on research about subjects ranging from inversions and eye pressure, yoga and mental health, to other medically related topics. In the early days of Yoga in the West, teachers would make claims that made Yoga sound like 21st Century snake oil. Now much research is supporting those claims. On the flip side, there is also a body of research that suggest that some Yoga may be harmful. Particularly in modern poses like “wild thing.”

11) Finally, more blogs from Iyengar practitioners

For my fellow Iyengar teachers, we have a beautiful system. We need to share it more with the world. I find it a little sad that me at my lowly Introductory II status is writing blog material that a more experienced teacher can easily expound upon. Luci at Yoga Spy who is also Intro II is the Iyengar teacher who inspired me to start this blog. Luci’s blog was “Freshly Pressed” a few years back and I have almost 40k views in my first year of blogging. Imagine the influence some of you Junior and Senior Intermediate level teachers could have…

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Yoga blog trends I would like to see in 2015 – part 1

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In less than a week, 2014 will be a memory. It was a very interesting year watching yoga blog trends come and go. Here is what I am putting out to the universe (and other bloggers) of what I would and would not like to see more of in 2015:

1) Fewer Selfies

What do selfies really do? Some say they inspire others to practice Yoga, but I think that is a bunch of bull pucky. Just because you can do Pincha Mayurasana doesn’t mean your shoulders are not collapsing. Having lift in the shoulders is something that is learned in as basic of a pose as Tadasana. I have plenty of pictures of myself doing asana in this blog, but to make a distinction, I am using myself as a guide to teach, not to show off my ego. Believe me, I’m not much to look at! Next time you post an asana selfie, ask yourself why you are doing it. Are you doing it to teach, or show off your new yoga pants?

2) And on that note… less “wild thing,” Bakasana, and Pincha Mayurasana in those selfies

If you really want to show off, don’t be like everyone else. Wild Thing isn’t even a yoga pose, but some John Friend distortion of Urdvha Danurasana. Who would want to follow in that guy’s footsteps? Not to mention it is dangerous. And every other person who has half a practice is doing Bakasana. If you want to really wow someone, do Paripurna Matsyendrasana, Kandasana, or even a well-executed Krounchasana . Just don’t do it unless you are ready because you’ll injure yourself.

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3) Less profanity

Lululemon has a recent promotion of being “present” and then shows a yoga teacher saying “f-you.” Every other blog I read has someone dropping the F-bomb or namaste-every-damn-day. Are we yoga practitioners, or truck drivers? I actually know truck drivers who swear less. If you are going to use profanity in your blog, at least make it mean something for emphasis. I don’t mean to be prudish, but Yoga is a sacred subject for those who take it seriously. Can we clean up our language around when writing about this sacred practice?

4) Speaking of Lululemon…less fashion industry influence on our Yoga practice

At what point did Lululemon become the neighborhood Yoga expert? That company doesn’t give a rip about tradition, it just wants to line its pockets. Whenever profit is the first priority, Yoga is not practiced. I am pleased that CEO Chip Wilson was ousted this year, but this company still projects an unhealthy body image with it’s petite line of clothing. As long as you keep shopping there, this will not change. At $100USD for a pair of pants, the real joke is on you. That money is much better spent on a workshop or even a month of classes.

5) Fewer playlists

I hate to break it to you, but people could care less about your latest playlist. Music and yoga may sound like they go together, but music actually gets in the way of the stopping your mind chatter. There are plenty of music fora out there for you to show off your musical taste. Go there instead instead of subjecting us to your latest taste of mixing Math Rock with Krishna Das.

6) More from the other limbs of Yoga

Asana is only 1/8 of the practice from Patanjali’s thread. When I first started doing yoga, everyone was in it for the mind benefits. Now everyone is in it for the physical benefits. It seems like we have regressed. There are a handful of blogs that focus on Yoga Sutras and other classical texts. It would be nice to see more blogs going in that direction. Yoga is a very internal practice when done correctly.

…to be continued

Savasana: “the most difficult pose to master”

 

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Savasana, or corpse pose is the bridge between the external practice to the internal practice (bahiranga to antaranga). It is the linking pose between Asana and Pranayama (breath/vital energy control). It is one of the few asanas where one can attain Pratyahara (detachment from the senses). In short, it is arguably one of the most valuable postures in Yoga. But because of its absence of physical challenge, it becomes very difficult for the aspirant to stop the mind chatter (citta vritti) which is one of the major aims of true Yoga practice. Because of this, BKS Iyengar often referred to Savasana as “the most difficult pose to master.” Here is a brief tutorial:

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Props needed are a sticky mat, a strap, and a blanket

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Lay the sticky mat flat

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And use the strap as an intersecting line. This will be a guide for the spine.

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Sit on the sticky mat with knees bent and both feet on the strap.

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Symmetrically roll the spine down the strap measuring vertabrae by vertebrae.

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When the head touches the ground see that the chin does not project back like seen in the photo. If your neck does this you need a folded blanket…

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You can now see the neck is soft here.

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Using a chopstick, the measurement should be that the forehead should be well above the chin so the crease in the neck deepens.

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Now grasp the sides of the sticky mat and push the hands towards the feet. This lifts the chest.

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Keeping the feet along the midline…

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Slide one foot out at a time

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And let both feet fall to the side.

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Now release the arms

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And take them to a 60 degree angle away from the torso

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From the base of the arms, roll them externally pressing the index finger knuckle to the floor to spread the sternal area

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Then gradually let go of all effort, closing the eyes

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To create softness in the face, and block out light, you can gently lay the strap over the eyes.

To come out bend the knees to the chest and roll to the right, propping yourself back to a seated position.

In Light On Pranayama by BKS Iyengar, he dedicates 22 pages to teaching this pose (more than any other Asana). In subsequent years he had also taught many more refinements. So my demonstration is just the tip of the iceberg.

The sadhana of lowering expectations of practice during the holidays

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Most of the times during the year, people who practice yoga have a distinct advantage over those who do not. The peace and tranquility of proper yoga practice gives the aspirant a “psychic shield” from the onslaughts of modern culture. However, during the holiday season the tables can quickly turn. A good yoga practitioner who thrives on a regular routine practice will find barriers in holiday class cancellations and family visitors.

I have been in both camps in my years of practice. There have been years where I have shunned family gatherings to make that Sunday class. I was in great shape! However, I think I really missed out on some special family times that I cannot ever get back. So for these next few weeks, I propose a solution: practice when you can, but don’t miss out on special times if there is a choice between loved ones and yoga practice.

Sounds easy enough. Before you hard core practitioners tune me out, I would recommend that you see the film Sadhu. It documents a man living in a cave in India leading an ascetic lifestyle. He complains incessantly about being lonely and cold. On his transistor radio, he hears an advertisement for the Maha Kumbha Mela, a confluence of holy men at the foot of the Himalyas. He quickly packs up his bags, leaves his cave, and treks to event.

He arrives at the Ganges river and tries to fit in with the other holy men. A group takes him in, but in no time they shun him for not bathing in the Ganges at the most auspicious time. He somehow “didn’t make the cut” and curses his own practice.

There is a lot of “not making the cut” in the yoga world nowadays. Just sit through 5 minutes of any yoga championship on You Tube and you’ll see what I mean. If you stray just a millimeter off that thin line of daily practice, you fall endlessly into the chasm of whatever your mind thinks you should be doing but are not doing it. Don’t “fall” into that trap. Instead, just accept the holidays for what they are: a celebration of friends and family and even embrace the spirit. Sometimes being subversive to the culture is not always the best way to stop your mind chatter.

In my work as a mental health counselor, I often tell my depressed clients to lower their expectations during the holidays so they are not disappointed if the season does not bring them the joy that the media says it is supposed to. That seems to work for them. In the same way for yoga practitioners, lowering your expectations to have a consistent practice during this time makes for a more realistic mental outlook. And being more realistic is one of the true aims of yoga. Not doing 15 hours of asana practice per week during Christmas time.

Mele Kalikimaka!

 

 

Help! Help! I’ve been one starred on Yelp!

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I have to admit that I am a Yelp fiend. Because I enjoy writing, I often write reviews on places I frequent. I rarely one star businesses unless I feel they are preying on unsuspecting customers. Also, it is lousy to be on the receiving end of a one star review. And that is exactly what happened to me this week.

I was perusing yoga studios on my Yelp app and came across my own studio and noticed the stars have gone down. Much to my dismay, I came across this:

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Because I am classy, I left out the reviewers name. But I noticed his name didn’t match any of my students, so I complimented him. I said, “Funny I didn’t recall telling anyone who was male not to drink water in my all female attended class.” He later added the last part of his review stating he wrote it for his daughter.

As it turns out, the daughter had attended another teacher’s class and he wrote the review without even verifying which teacher his daughter was upset with. The good people at Yelp removed the post quickly as it violated their terms of service for reviewing a place you haven’t even patronized.

In a way I wished the review was accurate, because my mentoring teachers used to say I had a monotone presentation. Being compared to a basketball coach would make them proud!

As for the water complaint, my studio has a policy not to put water bottles on the new hardwood floor and another teacher probably asked the guy’s daughter to put her water on the shelf. In Iyengar Yoga, students don’t need to stay an arms length away from water just to stay alive like other styles. The teacher in question probably relayed that to her and all she heard was “you can’t drink water.”

It’s not good karma to one star people who don’t deserve it on Yelp. And because I live in accordance to the Yamas and Niyamas,  good things tend to come my way. I received another review from Luci at YogaSpy which was named one of the top 100 yoga blogs. She said in her recent post commemorating her five years of blogging that Home Yoga Practice is one of her favorite blogs! Coming from Luci who is a great blogger and seasoned Iyengar practitioner, this review feels better than being Freshly Pressed. Thanks Luci and congratulations of making 5 years as a blogger. That is a feat that I cannot image.

 

 

Iyengar Yoga helps wounded soldier regain daily functioning

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Today would have been B.K.S. Iyengar’s 96th birthday. To illustrate the legacy of Iyengar’s teaching, I would like to draw attention to this video. It is an interview with Mark Zambon who attended Geeta Iyengar’s 10-day intensive that wrapped up last week.

Zambon lost both of his legs in a bomb blast when he was serving in Afghanistan. To assist with his rehabilitation, he was directed to an Iyengar yoga class taught by a Vietnam veteran. The elder veteran advised Zambon to try Iyengar yoga. He said “combat veterans take well to Iyengar yoga because it touches a very similar space in the experience of life.”

Zambon said the loss of his legs after the bomb blast radically changed his body functioning aside from the obvious loss of two useful limbs. He said it was difficult to cool himself down because 30 percent of his body surface had disappeared and he would sweat profusely after doing basic activities like simply getting into bed.

He states that during his Iyengar practice he was taught Salamba Sirsasana and states that the pose made his phantom leg pain disappear. He also notes that it has sharpened his senses. Zambon also noted that during the 10-day intensive, the pranayama practice showed him the more internal dimensions Yoga. “At the end of the pranayama drills, I feel a tranquility in my mind…a wonderful peace.”

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He said that Iyengar’s emphasis on getting the body back into alignment has helped him not only regain the ability to do daily activities like drive a car, but states it was able to allow him to continue his hobby of mountaineering. Zambon climbed to the summit of Mt. Kilamanjaro and proudly displayed a Salamba Sirsasana atop the mountain.

Being no stranger to challenges, Zambon states he wants to now train to be a certified Iyengar instructor. Although it is a tough path to get certified, Zambon shows that he has the true grit to ace the certification process.

An early birthday tribute to B.K.S. Iyengar

 

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Courtesy Penney Sing

This Sunday will have been B.K.S Iyengar’s 96th birthday. I would like to dedicate my 100th post as  a tribute to him and his teachings. When he passed away in August, he left a legacy of a renewed interest in Yoga worldwide, a beautiful system of instruction for those who want to learn Yoga, and his children who are continuing his path to train and teach his style of Yoga.

Manouso Manos, a senior teacher said that Iyengar is a “500 year yogi” meaning that there is only one teacher of his kind to inhabit the planet once every 500 years. Many of us are lucky to have been alive at the same time as him even if unable to actually attend his classes. I feel very fortunate to be the last graduating class of Iyengar teachers with a diploma that bore his signature.

Many in the community are still mourning his loss, and probably will continue mourning for some time. Since his passing, many in the community have even drawn closer together. This past week, Geeta Iyengar, B.K.S.’ daughter, conducted a 10-day retreat in Pune, India attended by thousands from around the world.

Even if you practice another style, there is a large chance that what you are learning has been influenced by this great man. So on Dec 14, set aside a space in your mind for B.K.S. Iyengar, the 500 year yogi.

Thank you Guruji for all that you have given to humanity.