Archive for May, 2014

straight knee

Teacher “Lock your knee!”

Girl in Back “Got your locked knee.”

Guy in Front “Got your locked knee.”



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.



Teacher “Keep hands on floor!”

Student “Got it!”:


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Practicing primary series, two days after workshops, like the exclamation mark on new found energy SHIFT. Iyengar is like discovering the world is round, and Primary is like exploring the Grand Canyon. Yoga is funny like that seamless and endless. Here is the backbend we did a LONG TIME on Friday. I felt like something was bursting around the sternum:


It might not be as intense for people who have a decent urdhva dhanurasana, but I have lost a lot in backbending over the last year so this will help bring it back I feel, with long holds, but this is not by any means restorative.

Here is Iyengar practicing kaptoasana in same chair:


He really is the master of backbending. And head standing. It is so interesting that you always do halasana an sirsana in daily practice, just like the finishing sequence. In Light on Yoga, Iyengar suggests a minimum of five minutes in each. Since you use so many supports, like blankets, halasana is very doable in five minutes after a while of practice. Building that five minute sirsana is a little harder. I just add time breath by breath rather than watching a clock or timing.

Here are some pictures of using chairs for standing poses:


Now this can be very restorative but it forces you to align hips, and keep the rotation in the thighs since the chair offers resistance. The air doesn’t. This is very hard to correct in standing practice and hard to corred with students.


People tend to flake out in this pose, not going for the intensity and saving it for something like handstand, or they want to bind and make a ‘bird of paradise’ balance pose, which is all fine, but this pose is an important foundational pose. Lengthening that side line is important energetically. In the workshop I was coaxed to stretch my arms overhead. I thought I was.

In Urdhva Hastasana (this is hanstand the other way, just saying) the teacher had us all facing each other and then she had us all come and look at a student. As soon as she lifted her arms overhead, she naturally pressed her abdomen in, locking out her diaphragm. She wasn’t breathing. Then the teacher demonstrated how working properly in the low foundation and setting the pelvis properly engages the abs NATURALLY. The bandhas are already there, whatever you call them. This really wakes the real Core up energetically and lifts the energy, which is what it is supposed to do. You know, and as a society we are always engaging our abs, cause it just looks and feels good, but too much inhibits breath. Really engaging the deep transverse abdominis is what we want to do, let the other abs soften a little when breathing. This is key in pranayama practice.

I hope I can attend her pranayama workshop next time. I have a lot to work on.

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Last night I was allowed to attend a two hour general Iyengar class with Chris Saudek from La Crosse Wisconsin. You can read about her and her background here:


A few weeks ago the teacher whose class I attend on Sunday said she was coming back and that I should go to the General class and maybe the Advanced. Then she warned me that the Advanced class is kind of scary, which mostly intrigues me. I have walked into many situations however that I probably wasn’t prepared for, yoga and otherwise, but so far have never run bolting out of anything. So far.

But what really intrigued me was that a teacher of this caliber comes around frequently to my town, which is very heavy into yoga, like think a yoga studio every few blocks. Pretty much. It is VERY COMPETITIVE here and there is a lot of REALLY GOOD MARKETING, but I had NEVER seen on Facebook or on any bulletin boards that a teacher like this comes to town. And the place was packed.

As a long time practitioner of Ashtanga, vinyasa (whatever that means), and Bikram a while back, it is always interesting how they start the class. She started with a 20 minute Supta Padangusthasana with variations. This is the other shocker, the few poses you do in 90 to 120 minutes. After that we did about five minutes in Sirsana with Eka Pada Sirsana variations then it was on to hip openers in chairs where we focused on VirabII and Utthita Parvsvakonasana. The chair is both an aid and gives you the ability to align and work through the pose in a way you can’t understand until you have done it. Again, I thought the chair is a crutch I don’t need because I know the pose. I practice it daily in Primary series, but there is a depth in the chair that I can use in practice. People are GROANING coming out of it. We did a standing backbend against the chair. I tried to replicate the feeling today and couldn’t do it. Then we did Urdhva Dhanurasana in the chair and Eka Pada variations. The ability to hold that long is profound and my backbend has really been bad since I have been struggling with a half primary for so long. And I miss deep backbends. Anyway MUST HAVE THAT chair. And that wall at home. The class ended with a long Halasana. LONG.

I hope I can go to some of the other workshops when Ms Saudek returns. Maybe one day I can go to that advanced. I know they want you to hold those inversions a long time and I am not quite there yet. We are so lucky we have great Iyengar teachers in town though. Lucky us.

Other things to note about the workshop. I am wondering if my age is what is causing me to gravitate to the practice. I do love vinyasa but the stability and pace of the practice and the PRECISION is fascinating. This is a practice for any age though. There are young people there and it is refreshing to see younger people gravitating to a classic practice. The older people who practice it are STRONG. They can hold those inversions a long time. The lack of in your face promotion and marketing is refreshing. I like fancy yoga clothes as much as anyone, but there is a purity here. No marketing all over FB. Love it. People show up because it is so REAL.

Today I am feeling someone pulled apart. Last night I was a bit frazzled leaving. Any time you get confronted head on with whatever dogma you are plunging through and proves that a lot of your beliefs, and for me it is a belief in what I know, gets tore up and you still survive, this is a good thing. I am not afraid of it. Really this is what I do every DAY. Tore up from the floor up.

I remember last year believing that coming back to Primary Series wouldn’t be that bad, I mean at least I GET vinyasa, and sun sals, and my standing poses are good, and then that all got trashed. Some people go back to the comfort zone of what they do well. I dig in the dirt.

Have pictures coming of my garden endeavors coming too!!!!!

There is a lot of cool stuff in Madison with Yoga though this weekend, Michael Stone! More to come this summer too. Mac Strom is coming to our studio! The learning NEVER stops.!

I am going to post some pics on Monday and will be doing an eaglet blog soon. Get a chair, lay on your back, reach your arms back, stay awhile….

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I have been taking one Iyengar class a week for the past few weeks. I continue my Primary Series practice on other days. Being in the pursuit of two practices that are in the lineage of Krishnamacharya, which is the lineage of what most of the West follows, it amuses me to find that most people have misconceptions about both practices.

When I started back with Primary Series, the remarks I got were mostly that it is too hard, that it was devised for 12 year old boys, and Krishnamacharya got most of his asanas from Swedish gymnasts. At first, I spent a lot of WORDS defending the practice, but eventually I realized that I had done the same thing. I have a hard time biting my tongue in general, but I also don’t have energy to waste.

I am finding the same thing with Iyengar, that people have preconceived notions about the practice and wonder why an Ashtangi would practice Iyengar? If you believe in consistent practice, which I do, why do you mix it up.

My answer is that it is the same. Energetically. It is just a different path of energy. Whatever misconceptions and lack of knowledge (avidya is a DETERRENT to yoga btw) teachers or practitioners have about this lineage, the one thing that both Jois and Iyengar UNDERSTAND and learned from their GURU, is how to move energy.

It is the big mystery the rest of us who call ourselves yoga teachers try to figure out. Someone asked me recently if the Iyengar poses are aligned differently from the Ashtanga, but there is no answer to that on the physical level, it is all on the subtle level and it is the same ends for all of us, just different means. The focus is different between the methods, but it is still focus. In the movie Breath of the Gods, all of the children of Krishnamacharya said their father insisted on Concentration. I often wonder if he used his kids as guinea pigs, I mean, MAYBE if you can teach children to focus you can do the same for adults? Anyway the alignment question answer is easy, the alignment is internal focus and energy so it is ALWAYS different for everyone. It is also different on a day to day basis.

Last week we did a class focused on the standing poses, using chairs, and as usual, I am surprised that this is so intense. We use a chair, and the wall, for trikonasana, which you ALL do wrong. HAHA

I thought this was for SENIORS? But people are absolutely gasping coming out of theses poses. You set up your feet, spin your femurs, open your groins, hand to the chair and then hand over head to grab the wall. Keep BOTH sides of your spine long. It is all about the LENGTH. Hand to the floor, breath. Then come out. And people are gasping when they come out. The prana is moving.


But it feels the same to this person:

tri chair

Then we do it with a TWIST. The next day practicing primary and these poses have transformed for me. The parsovottansana experience for me has totally changed. The pose now is totally different when I practice Ashtanga because the pranic experience has transformed.


I had a discussion with someone about pain recently too. Some people confuse intensity with pain and to be honest lots of people don’t like intensity in their practice and that is fine. That is why there are so many paths. I don’t live in true PAIN so I don’t know….I would probably avoid. But the intensity of the energy is what I find most interesting and it is what makes me go back.

We all avoid pain but that is because we don’t distinguish PAIN that is useful from PAIN that is bad for us because we spend so much time numbing ourselves with EVERYTHING from caffeine to alcohol to alter our state of comfort. I told this person I am in pain almost all the time now from practice. Because I am un-numbing. It went in ugly and now is coming out worse, but what is the alternative? More self numbing? Using practice to continue to mollify anxiety, depression, or whatever the day brings up?

Next week I am going to a two hour workshop with a senior intermediate level teacher and am a bit nervous, but intrigued and excited too. It is like a new toy, or an old toy I forgot about. Practice is always about coming home when it is good.

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