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Archive for December, 2011

THE TEACHER

Oftentimes MUST find the student. Because sometimes just going through the motions of teaching is not enough.

And we often take things for granted. So the teacher has to reach out beyond the confines of their own wisdom/experience/knowledge so that there can be transformation.

Then we all transform together. And join together in yoga.

These photos are from Yoga Prison Project. They shifted my Thursday.

I was in San Francisco a few weeks ago and John and I took a tour of Alcatraz prison. Millions of people have done this tour and what resonated with me is that you can feel the stories on the whole island. As you go through the tour you hear about the prisoners and their stories. Movie makers and writers must have felt that as they created the lore of Alcatraz.

The stories and lives are hard. It is the ultimate practice of compassion to hear them and not be able to feel for the people who were responsbile for committing horrific crimes towards others.

Riding back from the tour and viewing the beauty of the San Franciso skyline it is easy to forget and not LOOK IT IN THE EYES. By looking at something straight in the eyes that is disconcerting to us usually will mirror back some deep impression (samskara) in our own sub consciousness we don’t want to deal with.

On to the Ashtanga.

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THE CORE OF MANIPURA

The desire that people have to work their Core and obtain strong toned abs is amazing. Everyone wants the strength and appearance of a firm and strong midline. There are a million styles of exercise and variations of Core yoga that promise to fulfill the desire. I don’t think one method is any better or worse than the next, unless it is harmful to the low back or strains the neck. (Think pumping motions that don’t actually move from the Core.)

Yogis teach the practice of Uddiyana bandha, accompanied by Mula bandha, to strengthen the Core. The shifting of the tailbone into the body lenghtens the low back and truely engages the low abs in a lifting and strengthening ACTIVE movement upwards, to enhance the yoga practice.

This practice is imperative for inversions. The first thing beginners need to learn in inversions, even sarvangasana, is to hold the Core, or bandhas FIRM.

However it occurred to me this morning as I was practicing Pincha Mayurasana that it is important to invoke the subtle energy, especially manipura chakra. Without it, all the Core work in the world won’t help you in the upside downs. I found I was flopping up against the wall and was not using my bandhas properly. This necessitates a flinging into the inversion, rather than a movement from the Core. I had just done a long Forrest Core sequence too. So what was the problem?

Probably not feeling my own personal power. When the light of our confidence in our own power is diminshed, it does affect practice. Since I have been feeling ahhhh DIMINISHED lately, it showed in my practice. What to do?

Sit down and do a meditation on the chakras and FEEL where you are diminished, strong, weak, or fulfilled. Without the practice of awareness of subtle energies, yoga turns into the gym. The thing is, I have probably have had MANY practices where my heart was heavy, I was to grounded in muladhara, and the third eye is all over the place. But I wasn’t aware of it. I just thought it was enough to barge through the practice as it is, and make up for it tomorrow or the next day.

Will focusing on Manipura all the time make your Core strong or your inversions lighter? Not all the time, but make it a part of your practice. Practice breath of fire as you focus on this chakra. Building awareness and a more complete practice is the eight limbs. It doesn’t happen all at once or every day. It adds a beautiful level to your practice.

Keep practicing!

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SPLIT SERIES

Right now my home practice goal is to alternate the primary and intermediate series at 4-5 a week and then two Forrest practices inbetween.

Totally psychotic. I know. But remember that is the GOAL. The reality is a little different.

Did you know that Madonna moved into the third series (different division than between primary and secondary) in a matter of MONTHS.

Since I work some rather LONG days, I found it is better to split them up. This morning I did the first hour of the primary and then will do the rest after work. Not optimal I am sure, but sometimes you do what you have to do.

I have not been able to get through the full Intermediate. It moves really FAST. I have been following the Richard Freeman dvd, but am going to switch off to my Swenson DVD Thursday. Tomorrow will be a Forrest practice.

I really need to learn the Intermediate series by next year for a specific training I want to go to. Some of it I rock and some of it I roll over and DIE. LOL

All I want for Christmas is to have four more hours in my day, although as I have mentioned I am trying to go vegan and am about 60% raw right now. It DOES enhance the yoga. I seem to have more mobility and space in my hip and shoulder joints. I am thirsty ALL the time though and drink gallons of water. That could be winter dryness.

The reasoning behind all of this will be in the Esalen post. The turning vegan is a little harder than I thought and have been doing a LOT of research. There are a lot of good blogs where people have nailed it down so I am studying and mirroring.

I am going to break out the Christmas playlist later this week, probably for the Advanced class on Saturday. I don’t usually use music for that class, but plan to have a fun Christmas eve class with a lot of upside downs. Also, I usually spend 0 time on playlists but this one is really fun. I probably will tweak it a little, but last year it was a good playlist.

Stay out of the mall because I have to stop by today.

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LOVE CHRISTA

Here is an amazing clip of Christa Cahill. She and her husband both ROCK the inversions. He can do anything in a handstand. Look at her CORE. Everything moves from her CORE.

A lot of people want to do inversions and learn them relatively quickly. I am NOT one of those people. But I do practice using the bandhas in all of my practice. This makes the practice lighter overall and it teaches you to use these muscles to support the low back.

I had this really great draft of my Esalen experience and lost it. WordPress claims all drafts get saved, but I think they don’t on the Ipad for some reason. I looked EVERYWHERE.

So my goal this week is the Esalen experience post. It will be long. I hope it is thorough.

Yesterday I did a dvd at home from an Iyengar teacher. I at first pooh poohed the sequencing as being too easy but it ended up being hard. I threw some Core, knee, and extra inversions and it turned out to be a nice deep practice. I did not feel wiped out. I have been feeling a little wiped out lately due to the fact I am transitioning to a vegan diet, which is a BIG SHIFT. It is one of the things I decided to do in Esalen, because I ate that way there and after two days felt AMAZING. It is harder to transition in my life because my husband iS not INTERESTED AT ALL. So it means a lot of cooking. I am just not used to it and with being sick for two weeks after Thanksgiving, my energy level has fluctuated.

So just doing this day by day. I will recount the vegan experience at Esalen in the longer post.

I have some time off this weekend for the holidays and plan to do a lot of practice and meditation. (Not shopping and baking, althought I did find some vegan treats I want to make)

I hope eveyone enjoys the holidays.

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MESMERIZED BY THIS

I am obsessed with this.

This is the ending to the third series of Ashtanga yoga. The pranayama is being taught by Pattabi Jois to Richard Freeman. In the four minutes he is taking ten full breaths and then ending with ten shorter breaths in the lift. I have been trying to practice the breathing with them and after one of those long inhales and exhales, my heart starts beating fast and I feel like I just ran ten miles. Look at the focus Richard Freeman has. Watch his torso on the inhales and exhales he is just taking in a little at a time. Talk about focus AND intensity.

I try to teach pranayama in classes and a lot of people DON’T want to practice, even though it is one of the eight limbs. Sometimes students will just sit there and looook at me, like, well just get ON WITH IT ALREADY. And then some get right into their bliss place. I will bet Richard NEVER gave Jois THAT LOOK. He trusted his teacher and that is why he was able to practice the Advanced series and why he is one of the most knowledgeable, revered yoga masters around. AMAZING.

Speaking of yoga masters Happy Birthday Iyengar!

What are they smoking? Looks like an Indian version of Grumpy Old Men.

I love teachers who have worked with either Jois or Iyengar. I am honored to have them as my teachers.

Last night my husband and I had a ballroom dance lesson after being gone for two months on vacations etc. Our ballroom master teacher is SO patient. We basically had to just review steps we have done a million times. Bijan keeps saying it is all muscle memory but I have such a hard time remembering the steps. It was fun though. We just need to PRACTICE.

Now that it is getting close to Christmas I am thinking of breaking out my Christmas playlist soon. I have developed this over like five years. My playlist is odd. There isn’t a White Christmas or Jingle Bells on it. Think the Ramones and Run DMC and Snoop Dogg. In general, I don’t listen to Christmas carols unless forced to in the mall.

Still thinking of themes for tomorrow Intermediate and Saturday Advanced so leave any suggestions or wishes in the comments area.

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WEDNESDAY AM PRACTICE

HA HA THE MASTER. I don’t know what it is about this guy but he sure knows how to RILE people.

That is a pose I want to work on. Working into the splits gracefully in forearm balance.

During my two week illness I did not practice yoga due to severe stomach cramping. I am just getting back into practice. I have two things to say about this.

One, taking two weeks off from everything was very healing. I think my body needed a break and a lot of the little annoying pains and issues are gone. I had a slight wrist tweak, neck, and hip. So take the advice but I know you won’t. Practice meditation and pranayama in lieu of asana for a couple of weeks.

Two, I thought getting back into practice would be hard but it isn’t. That rest seemed to have worked out some of the hard edges in my spine and hips that probably resulted from overworking those areas.

This morning I did a focused Forrest style backbend practice and my spine was very supple. My hips were also pretty flexible.

In the two weeks, I did lose a little strength and that is why I went for a Forrest style practice with strong ab and upper body work with a lot of dolphins. I have been practicing mostly Ashtanga since I have gotten better so this was a good complimentary practice.

There are things you need to do every day however if you have a practice that includes inversions and hand/arm balances. I know people who don’t do them at all or teach them, but if you practice them you almost have to get upside down or on your hands daily. Before my trip to Esalen I was on a 30 day pincha mayurasana challenge and we were not able to do a lot of inversions at Esalen due to a lack of solid walls in the yoga facility so I did lose the pose a little. I am back to that challenge for the rest of December.

The same thing with arm balances. Today I did astavakrasana and it definitely felt like starting over since I hadn’t done or taught that pose in a while.

Also if you are doing any therapeutic work you have to do that regularly. For me it is knees and I developed a knee series that helps increase my mobility but it needs to be done DAILY.

So all I need is three hours a day to do all this. Just kidding! But if I get back into my inversions, two or three time a week backbend focused practices, and strengthening work this pose should be doable without the flinging action of kicking. I want to and will step into the pose.

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THE MASTER

I have been not posting for a couple of reasons.

Number one I have been drafting a post about my experience at Esalen, which is ALMOST done. It was so profound and yet all people ask me is how I could possibly be silent for over five days and I want to express the experience eloquently. And to make the point that that wasn’t REALLY the point. Still refining.

I was also sick for TWO weeks with what intially was thought to be a gastrointestinal flu and turned out to be cryptospiridium. I am better, but it started RIGHT after Thanksgiving and with the timing of that after the trip, with the holiday, along with some yoga stuff happening in my life back HOME ended up REALLY testing what my intention coming out of retreat was. SORELY TESTED IT.

But I do want to add my two cents in to the Bikram debate. Bikram is suing Yoga tothe People for infringing his copyright. To make a long story short. Huge debate on this. Most yogis, per the blog world and FB feel that Bikram is in the wrong, isn’t practicing yoga, and is a greedy bastard. Wow. Big news there. Did you not know this about him before? I saw one rather well known vinyasa teacher talking about BOYCOTTING BIKRAM!

I am ALL about the BOYCOTT when it comes to where I spend my money, because, politically speaking, it is where I can get the biggest bang for the buck. However, I am guessing the vinyasa world isn’t practicing all that much of Bikram yoga so it seems a moot point.

There also is a large group of yogis that feel the West is the West and we are all about the money anyways and with the proliferation of products we all like to buy and support, it shouldn’t surprise us that yoga teachers ae going to take this approach. You steal my shit, I sue you.

I have talked before about humility in yoga and the lack thereof and if you are supporting a system of dogma and worshipping a ‘master teacher’, you ultimately will be disappointed. If you believe your system is THE system and your teacher is THE teacher, you are probably being pulled in by a master marketer, not a master teacher. A REAL master teacher probably doesn’t refer to himself as such. Bikram, John Friend, and others have HUGE followings of believers. AND they are great teachers, but ultimately their following MOVES on. They grow, they find new teachers, they walk away from one system of dogma, and find another and dismantle it. It is called GROWTH in the practice. That is Bikrams REAL problem. His followers move away and try to give the gift and he tries to pull them back because he believes in the system of yoga where you have a teacher and you stay TRUE to your teacher as he did.

That being said, people have their preferences. You can love the message and hate the messenger. I think he is a repulsive person but love and honor the practice and know that it has done millions of people service and rescued them from pain in their lives. I don’t practice the style any more but realize that when I did it was a GIFT and a PRIVILEGE, so I owe gratitude to Bikram.

I believe the way we react to this situtation is a reflection of who we are and some attachment or aversion, both are roadblocks in the yoga path. So I am choosing to observe and remain removed from REACTING to this situation. That is part of the lesson I learned at Esalen as a YOGIC PRACTICE.

It is one of the hardest too. It is so much easier to jump into the opinion line but for today, this is the practice I am practicing.

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