Archive for July, 2011

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Pranayama is one of the eight limbs of yoga but when people first start the practice of yoga they are often resistant to the practice. Yoga is about expanding the consciousness into a state of ananda. Ananda is BLISS!

So is Asana. The connection between the state of asana and bliss is the vehicle of the breath. It is often hard to really focus on breath as we move from pose to pose so sitting and tuning up the breath vehicle. One of my favorite breathing exericses to practice or teach is the balancing breath of nadi shodana, or alternate nostril breathing.

The Hatha Yoga Pradipika gives many variations of this practice but the simplest way to start is to just sit and close the nostril on the right side and breath into the left. Right away you are accessing a state of pure consciousness by accessing the right side of the brain. Then closing the left you open the right and exhale. The next inhale is into the right and then closing it, you exhalte out the left. This balances the brain on both sides. This is a scientifice practice and you can build on it by increasing the lengths of the breath and retaining between in and out takes of the breath. Five rounds will lead you into a state of bliss. Build up to 20 minutes and you will be moving towards a deep state of meditation without even thinking about it.

Also don’t beat yourself up if you get frustrated or if it brings up anxieties or other emotional issues. It is supposed to. Like the asana practice you have to consistent and keep practicing.

I love seeing students in a blissful state of pranayama at the end of class. The whole class starts feeding into a state of community bliss and awareness.

So keep breathing everyone. Start right where you are and just start focusing on your breath awareness.

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“I was disappointed to find that so many novice students have taken Ashtanga yoga and have turned it into a circus for their own fame and profit (Power Yoga, Jan/Feb 1995). The title “Power Yoga” itself degrades the depth, purpose and method of the system that I received from my guru, Sri. T. Krishnamacharya. Power is the property of God. It is not something to be collected for one’s ego. Partial yoga methods out of line with their internal purpose can build up the “six enemies” (desire, anger, greed, illusion, infatuation and envy) around the heart. The full ashtanga system practiced with devotion leads to freedom within one’s heart. The Yoga Sutra II.28 confirms this “Yogaanganusthanat asuddiksaye jnanadiptih avivekakhyateh”, which means “practicing all the aspects of yoga destroys the impurities so that the light of knowledge and discrimination shines”. It is unfortunate that students who have not yet matured in their own practice have changed the method and have cut out the essence of an ancient lineage to accommodate their own limitations.

The Ashtanga yoga system should never be confused with “power yoga” or any whimsical creation which goes against the tradition of the many types of yoga shastras (scriptures). It would be a shame to lose the precious jewel of liberation in the mud of ignorant body building.

K. Pattabhi Jois, Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute, Mysore, South India

This post is in honor of Guruji’s birthday this week. I think he would have been 96. Wish I could have practiced with him but I am still hoping Iyengar hangs around long enough for me to go to India.
Dude was a strict teacher. That was written in 1995. I am not sure how he felt about the system of Power flow or Vinyasa in his latter years, but obviously he was against the systemized marketing of American yoga as Ashtanga based. i.e. see Gym Yoga previous post. Is that yoga? A lot of earlier protegees from the west have stayed true to what he taught and others came up with derivative yoga from Ashtanga to meet the desires of the West.

The point isn’t that he is being mean or righteous but that he is honoring his teacher and what he was taught. In the yoga tradition the guru relationship is not to be messed with. You disobey, you are OUT. I see in his writing a traditionalist who believes what he teaches and what he was taught so I am glad there are people out there that stay in tradition. They keep the pure essence of the practice what it was meant to be. These teachings are ancient yet relatively recent in their presentation to the rest of the world.

I have been been spending a lot of time studying Anusara and I know John Friend was a student of Iyengar. Whenever I work with an Iyengar based teacher who has moved away from the tradition, I see a similar thread of knowledge passed down. Anusara is wildly popular and one of the fastest growing styles in the world. It seems like Friend is everywhere.

I enjoy all practice and my first classes were Ashtanga so still have a deep love of the practice. I am all over the place with what I practice and teach but always feel there is an essence to some aspect of real yoga in every style.

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Got up and did elliptical at five am. I am currently splitting my day. Cardio in the morning and yoga at night. A lot of gym rats resist yoga because they don’t feel it is a complete workout. I have done some research on this and the findings are that yoga doesn’t pump the heart rate up like a good run does. No surprise there, although some vinyasa moves pretty fast. I am NOT a fast yogi myself. I like a deeper class, with longer holds, so I add cardio in. My goal this summer was a lot of biking, but due to the extended humidity I switched it back indoors for cardio.

The gym I go to has yoga and I look at the sign up sheets and normally they get one to three people although Spin looks packed. I looked at the yoga teachers credentials and it looked like she had pretty minimal training. I would bet the class is hatha style and doesn’t contain a lot of strengthening moves.

I used to work out on weights and although I got stronger, especially in the legs, until I started doing a lot of planks, dolphins, and inversions in yoga, I just never got the upper body strength doing isolated movements with dumbbells. I have goten much stronger in the upper body incorporating more muscles into bigger movements using my body as resistance. It has taken a while but I am sure I am the strongest I have even been in the upper body. This is crucial for women especially who struggle with strong upper body.

As I look around the gym, I see a lot of NEED for good yoga. For example, when I see very elderly people on the elliptical plugging away at a slow walk I think it is great they are doing something, but they need more and I don’t think weights are the answer. Doing yoga moves to open the shoulders and the front chest up would help them walk taller. They could do strength moves and get their upper body strong with planks on the wall.

When I see people with light dumbbells going through the motion I feel I have been in that trap before. I have to lift pretty strong weights to even feel my biceps so I have no clue what two pound weights do. Also for the younger people that are really in shape and obviously do a lot of weights/cardio, I see a lot of bad posture.

I auditioned once for a gym yoga class and didn’t get the job. It was early in my teaching career. They didn’t want to breath and seemed to want to do more jerky core movements on the back that strain the neck and don’t really teach you to USE your Core.


Gym has etiquette rules just like yoga studios do although they are not spelled out. Some common ones that I see:

1. Two people talking LOUD on cardio equipment so I can’t hear my music on my Bose headphones.
2. Running or walking flat footed. Ouch to the knee, hip, and ankle joints.
3. Smoking a cigarette outside the gym. (I didn’t actually see this but my husband did.)
4. Eating hash browns at McDonalds after your workout. (I ran in for a coffee once and saw an older man doing this who had just been at my gym.) Not technically etiquette but caught ya!
5. Obvious one in the pic. Talking loud on the cell phone. People do this everywhere though and I am always surprised how much they ‘share’ for the eavesdroppers.
6. Cothes that cover parts that need to be covered. (This is actually a huge issue in yoga too! I see A LOT that I don’t need to.)
7. Hitting on people or talking to me when I am on the elliptical. Take it elsewhere especially if you are holding equipment up.
8. Using drugs or alcohol before you come to the gym. I have had this in yoga. I had two women last year admit to me that they had been to happy hour before my class. They giggled and talked through class and I have no clue why they thought I was okay with it. I have a book I am reading on 12 steps and yoga that I will be reviewing soon. Anyway. INAPPROPRIATE.

I am sure there are more. Future post: When studio yoga becomes Gym Yoga. Not appropriate for all of my audience!

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I have already canned all the beans we will have and last night started on pickles. There will be more pickles. And I cut back on growing cucumbers this year too from last year but they will be pretty thick this year. I planted two types of cukes, one that I liked for pickles and the other, not so much. The one type turns yellowish and the nice ones are dark green on the outside. I need to find the seeds and figure it out. They will all taste well.

Tomatos will be my biggest crop. We have a zillion and a lot of different types. I planted three plants with a variety of small tomatos and we eat those on a daily basis. One is a round yellow cherry and they are just starting to ripen. With the sunny days we have I can actually look out at the back yard and see them ripening over a period of several hours. The other small one I like is a red grape tomato. It is really firm and is not too big. Picking them warm out of the garden is amazing. My husband eats them as he mows the lawn and goes back and forth. He grabs a handful when he goes by the garden. There will be about a billion small ones.

I was reading the Stryker book last night and my first impression is that this book will be popular with Western yogis. Using the eastern Hindu philosphy, he talks about how to live a rich and fulfilled yogic life without becoming an ascetic monk who takes a vow of chastity, poverty, etc. It is tantric. We have to live in the real world. He talks about the different relationships we have in our life and that part of our dharma is to come to terms with them, whether they are mother/daughter, husband/wife, or boss/worker. There is a lesson in all of these relationships and they can all lead us to a higher wisdom. Running away from them sounds good but realistically we can’t. I know I would like to run away a LOT from some relationships and the difficulties inherent in them. I would be a good ascetic. Heck, I raise my own food so I could even avoid the grocery stores.

Again, the thing I love about the book, as well as the Freeman book, is that these are total asana yogis and yet their books are much deeper than move your left hip back two inches etc. That is for yoga class and that stuff is all good and really opens you into deeper levels of concentration and awareness, but how do you move off the mat?

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I have been busy today building my blog in a new permanent place. Look for that next week. I am excited about it as well as some design work I want to have placed in the site. It is a process and I have a direction I want to move into that I will reveal more about later.

Above is a picture of Richard Freeman, an esteemed yoga teacher. Primarily an Ashtangi, I look forward to doing a silent retreat with four teachers later this year and he is one of the primary teachers. Obviously a very accomplished asana yogi, I am reading his book, THE MIRROR OF YOGA. There is no asana involved in this book. He delves into the spiritual pursuit of yoga and makes a good case for asana as the vehicle towards enlightenment and presence. It is not a light read. I would recommend it for students familiar with the sutras. He is a beautiful writer and I find myself reading passages over and over. It resounds of the philosphy of Buddhism and I connected to it because of my training with Tias Little, who is also a part of the retreat. Check the book out here:


As I have said I am a mulitasker (unfocused person) and just order the following book on Kindle which is also written by a strong asana based yoga teacher but is more about contemplation. I have heard great things about Rod Stryker and recently took a strong class from one of his students. The book is called The Four Desires and is more based on traditional Hindu yoga philosphy. I am guessing the dharma path is similar to Freeman’s so will look forward to cmparing the two in a later blog. Here is the link:


I also changed the blog so you can leave comments if you choose. If there is anything else you wish covered in the world of yoga, gardening, canning, politics, just asked. I have really been biting my tongue on politics lately.

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I gravitated to home practice out of necessity and will. Necessity due to the constraints of time equals if I want to take a class today I am going to have to tack on additional driving and preparation time and I don’t have that time. Will due to equaling I am not always getting what I need in class and need to refine my practice.

Setting up a home practice involves, first of all, well putting a mat down on the floor. The next hurdle is what do I do? This is the most perplexing issue for people comtemplating a home practice. Luckily there are a lot of options. You can practice your favorite studio class. If you can’t remember the poses or sequence of your favorite class, you can always buy a dvd or find an online streamed class. There are many options and this at least gives you a structure.

You can always start with sun salutations. That is a normal yoga warm up and a lot of times it will lead you into following your intuition. For me, a few sun sals move me into a place where I can access my intuition. Maybe I decide to focus on balance poses. One day last week I did almost all inversions. Of course, this method will be harder for a new practitioner, but you can always start somewhere. Just sitting on your mat might lead you into some nice hip stretches or core work.

My main problem at home is FOCUS. I don’t have a lot of focus to begin with. Also, I am a NOTORIOUS muli-tasker so a lot of times I find that my practice at home can involve laundry, cooking dinner, vacuuming the hall, wiping a floor, and weeding the garden too on really unfocused days. Luckily I RECOGNIZE when I start losing focus and then I resort to dvds. I have a large library of great dvds from all my favorite master teachers. Even if I never get a chance to go to a training or workshop with teachers I admire, I can get a little taste of it at home.

Even though a lot of people have no interest in home practice, I usually get a lot of questions on students immersed in daily practice who have an occasion where they can’t get to studio, like a vacation or a business trip. You can always use google to see if there is a studio you can visit. I have found this to be a lot of fun and usually going to a new studio is a great learning experience. Also since the yoga community is always so warm and welcoming I always feel at home in a studio when I am away from home.

But remember, if you are going somewhere with no studio, mats are mobile. Take one with you and destress in meditation or do some sun sals on the beach or in your hotel room just to get into your breath and body. Follow your intuition and see what happens. You might access your great internal teacher – YOU.

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This was the apex pose in Noah Maze’s class on Friday and I did it for the first time. The key was in the preparation. I had the similar experience with Noah that I had the first time I took a workshop with Steve Emmerman and Talya Ring from Turbodog and they talked me into Eka Pada Koundinyasana, which was successful. I wasn’t even that strong in Bakasana and here I am in a harder arm balance.

It made me believe that anyone that can do Bakasana can learn any arm balance based on their level of practice and flexibility but Vismamitrasana was really fooling me.
So breaking it down it basically is a side plank, a deep hamstring openener, and a deep spiraling of the spine. Add in some shoulder flexibility. All of those things are really strong points in my practice.

So the key from Noah’s class is the set up. He had us a do an exercise in the sequencing class on poses to build into a balance pose and then he incorporated it later in his class. Sneaky of him. I like. While I was brainstorming to figure out the poses that warm up to the standing balance poses I was pretty spot on with what he did in his class, but didn’t realize that was a pose that also built into Visma. Genius! It worked for me.

So I tried in my Saturday am class and a lot of students were successful or very close to it. Most important I hope they were closer than they thought they would get. That is key. It isn’t important to get in the pose, but to find the point of struggle in the practice, whatever it is, where everything stops. Then you have to stop and look at what your mind and heart are sayng. Of course if you say I CAN’T, YOU WON’T. You figure out what you CAN do RIGHT now, then you proceed. That is the success of yoga. Finding the moment of success, struggle, epiphany, anguish and stop and LOOK at it. It just is. Then ask where do I go from here. What are my choices.

Today I am practicing at home and working on deep hip openers for the theme NEXT week. I will continue to work on Visma and other stuff this coming week.

I have to go can my beans now. Happy Sunday!

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Find the nearest tree and work the Core today.

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