Archive for the ‘yoga’ Category


By the way, titles do not necessarily reflect content in my blogs.


Been absorbing the second part of Iyengar teacher track training from two weeks ago.  One of the things I came away with is the need to commit to something.   (Among many things) That trait in teaching will reflect in your life.  It is practice.  NOT that the teacher said that, but when critiquing people, she called them on vague rambling and verbiage and just tell them to do something specific.  Commit.  Tell them to commit.


She was talking at one point about parvritta parsvakonasana and said keep the back heel down.  Over and over.  Most often we are taught to modify there first.  Lift the heel, then get the arm outside.  Someone gave us permission once to lift the foot.  Why do that.  The foot is down in that pose.  It became a habit.  So later, we don’t want to press it down.  We had permission, after all.  Profound.  Think of all the times we heeded a suggestion and never let go.  And didn’t know why.  Didn’t even ASK.  Teaching and practicing is about letting go, being a beginner all the time, and not be afraid to give up whatever dogma you are bringing into it.  There is a reason to commit to that heel, even if you aren’t in the full range of the asana.  Why keep watering it down just to make it more PALATABLE or REWARDING.  There is SO much of that.  Derivative stuff out there.  So also since this session I am seriously considering going down the full track of training, which takes forever.  I am just letting go of having the cert and just committing.  Keep the heel down.


One of the things holding me back is how to practice when I am not in class.  So going from VINYASA to IYENGAR as primary practice has taken a while because the sequencing is so different from what I am used to which is Primary Series or whatever I make up to teach myself. I feel as a vinyasa teacher it is necessary to practice vinyasa, especially PS, because there is so much to learn in that study. So not totally giving that up.  Luckily if you don’t have a teacher, you just practice anyway.  The lack of a local teacher is what drove me to the Iyengar Studio and Maty Ezraty’s teacher intensive, which was pretty much an Iyengar intensive and was such a PIVOTAL experience, I thought, well I can learn this at home. With real Iyengar teachers.
That was almost two years ago and I am just……wrapping my head around it.  Teacher at training said, write down the sequences of the classes you take. I had been doing that a while already.  So I kept studying and then it started to come together. And then practice.  With a whole new set of ideas and language that comes slow, along with the long inversions, the meaning of concave back, and working through the basics of tadasana, dandasana, etc again. Vira b, was doing it wrong.  Bringing the principals into vinyasa, is like bringing in the theory Jois said to not worry about.  Even though they kept asking and asking.   Ashtanga and Iyengar.  Same practice.  Iyengar called it the yoga of motion and the yoga of action.  But same practice.  Same guru.


If I could have found this 30 or 35 years ago. Wow.  The teachers who have taught in that lineage that long have a wealth of knowledge. Again, I am scratching the surface.  Breaking it down AGAIN.  Better than never at any rate.  I am really doing the track not to teach but for my practice.  So basically selfish reasons.

It has give so much. Taught me poise.  Healing my knees.  How to work my BACK. SO much in the shoulders.


Props can make it so hard.  You can cheat your body, not a wall.  Go to a wall




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Over a year ago I starting toying with Iyengar practice.  My main practice had been primary series Ashtanga for a while and I was just getting nowhere with it due to not having a GOOD AUTHORIZED teacher. I could practice it on my own but there were too many questions I had and I could only attend workshops to get answers, ie Richard Freeman, Tim Miller, and then I went to a Maty Ezraty teacher training intensive, like many others, expecting Ashtanga and then getting my mind blown and realizing.  She is teaching Iyengar.

Luckily we have real Iyengar teachers in town.  So I started taking classes regularly and last year at this time explored their teacher training track. I realized I wasn’t ready and went back and practiced and studied and started going to through the teacher training track again this past Friday with the Senior Iyengar teacher that comes to town.  I felt more ready and like I am wrapping my head around the fundamentals FINALLY.  Teachers from around the Midwest attend and want to be teachers.  I am not sure if I will go through assessment. It would be a long time from now, but I still see this as useful. I like a method, more than random drawing from a lot of sources.  Toooooo many cooks you know.  This teacher has taught forever and many of the people who attend have studies with her 20 years or more.  During introductions I realize how long you are a novice so in introductions I joke that I will not live long enough to have 20-30 years study.  Who knows.

We practice a beginning class for two and a half hours.  I have yet to write the sequence down but will do that today.  That is one of her suggestions for home practice.  I actually do that when I come home from a class because there are seldom more than 12 poses in a 90 minute class.  Their sequencing method confounds me but when they are effective it is an amazing experience.  Soooo I am still burned out today from the Friday morning class. Beginner.  Turning the teaching method session in the afternoon she mentions Guruji says there are no beginning poses.  Vira II above as shown by a younger Geeta Iyengar is flawless.  Definitely not available at this level of depth for the novice.  I seldom see this in even the most intermediate of students where I teach.  I couldn’t even see it before and Iyengar does the same in Light On Yoga, but now I see it a little different.  The legs are perfectly aligned. This is difficult.

The teaching method class consists of the attendees demonstrating the method of teaching a pose.  The senior teacher takes notes.  Gives feedback and suggestions.  Doesn’t miss a thing.  Occasionally throws out a question to those observing, which is a group of experienced teachers, and mostly there will be crickets and everyone sits on edge for her unexpected answer.  Even after years of teaching, the art is in observing.  She mentions Guruji taught teachers that way.  Be an observer.  A student always.

I have been watching the sessions he taught at Yoga Journal conference in Colorado and he says the same.  That he is still a student.  Always.  Be a beginner.

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Above is a picture of Jois and Iyengar doing a variation of Chaturanga Dandasana that I did not know even existed until about a month ago.  We practiced this in one of the Sunday classes I attend.  The toes tucked under provides a firmer base to hold this pose.  On the tops of the feet, as shown here, is MUCH HARDER.  We hold it A LONG TIME in Iyengar. It is a pose in it’s own right but also a part of the transition to Urdhva Mukha Savasana.  Try holding this for 5-15 breaths.  CD is one of the poses teachers study a lot and answer a lot of questions about.  There are a lot of theories of the alignment.  Notice in both how the shoulders don’t dip forward.  The chin is forward and not tucked.  A lot of teachers must teach the dipping and head drop because I see it and they are bad habits difficult to teach out of students.

So I totally got my ass handed to me again Tuesday. I hadn’t been to that teacher this summer because I had been busy.  The Sunday teacher also kills me but I forgot how hard Tuesdays were. It was a class emphasizing twisting and we started with some seated work such as bharadvajasana and other simple twists to eventually move into Parvritta Trikonasana on the wall.  My ribs still hurt.  I practice this pose all the time and thought myself pretty adept but putting your hip and shoulders to a wall and grabbing a rope with the top hand just  changes it all.  The wall props force you to align.

Sometimes I think I wasted years in practice not understanding poses and going through the motions.

I was fearful it was going to be a knee class and it was also that.  I call it “knee class” when there a lot of seated virasana or malasana, utkatasana, or padamasana poses. I struggle so much and have a therapeutic practice that someone is helping me with but it is taking a long time to get the flexion back in my right knee.

“In the medical maps of Vedic astrology, the knee is governed by the tenth house: the 30° section of sky through which the sun passes at solar noon. This position is called the “house of karma”, and is also said to confer data regarding a person’s visible career: how they present themselves to the economy of the world. The knee, therefore, is seen as a joint of mundane pursuits.”

Well I have mastered the art of mundane pursuits in my life so it makes sense I have a knee issue, which is actually related to a blood issue.  Another story.   As a person who has practiced a long time, nothing moves much any more and regular poses are obviously hard.  I am relearning them through Iyengar. I thought I knew them.  Plus I can’t let go of that will to do padmasana.  I am also an intensity JUNKIE in yoga, the more intense the better, and most people probably are not.


The mundane is also, well mundane.  Above is Geeta Iyengar practicing Vira II.  So does your Vira II approach anything like this?  You can check out her Dad’s in Light on Yoga and it will look the same.  The thigh is PARALLEL and the back leg DEEPLY ENGAGED. Those Iyengar’s sure have long limbs.

You can learn a lot from pictures.


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“Flexibility is a very temporary result of yoga, but the patterns last forever.”  Richard Freeman


So the last session with that Iyengar teacher was sort of amazing.  But I am always amazed and impressed by yoga teachers who are REALLY experienced and have taught a LONG TIME and have WATCHED AND LEARNED FROM STUDENTS.  Like they KNOW what is wrong by looking at students and how to FIX it.  So here is my moment. I always have them.  She tells us to get bolsters for supta virasana and I am like oh f—- my knees.   I had just come off a month, literally the day before, of my Hot yoga challenge. One of the things I was looking for, besides getting my back bending back, which I DID, was getting more flexion in my knees. I got a MINIMAL amount.  I can not lay back in Hot yoga in this pose and can sit on two blocks on a good day.  Three on a bad. In Iyengar they want you to wrap your knees close in a strap and lay on bolsters.  So I get the blocks out and she says to go get as many bolsters as I need to lie back.  I get three. Because how can you even stack three let alone four and I come back and she says what is wrong with my knees. I tell her arthritis and she says out loud does anyone else here have arthritis in their knees and of course there are several laying back on bolsters that raise their hand.  She looks at me and says “you have to work on your issues”.  DING DING DING DING She says to the group of teachers YOU ALL have to work on your issues.  Most of us are insecure about our issues.  But students have them.  What we learn HERE, by watching and paying ATTENTION will allow us to help our students later.  This manner of learning to teach, through the eyes of someone EXPERIENCED, allows for continual revelation. It is the small things. Lack of action, lack of intention, lack of consciousness.  There is SO MUCH TO LEARN.  You learn as much from your own practice as others. I know teachers who DON’T practice.




And I am like oh yeah, just avoiding the issues won’t help the issues. I say this all the time when I am teaching.
So since that day I decided to just do Iyengar yoga pretty much and focus on these issues.  And study Iyengar. It is funny how those teachers can refer to Light on Yoga for pretty much any answer.  She says, do you all have the book? Well PICK IT UP once in a while.  So funny.  HAHA what good is the book doing on the shelf. She says she is on her THIRD COPY she has used them so much.



And then, you know I have this constant struggle with what to practice.  And I keep finding out my FAVORITE Ashtanga teachers also practice IYENGAR or have studied it.  (Freeman, Ezraty, Garrigues)  SO yesterday I am watching this AMAZING Maty Ezraty interview:



I studied with her last summer. The five day teaching immersion it was VERY little how to I bind in Marichy B/D.  Actually it was NONE of that, but it was more how to work through your issues with alignment rather than just push through it.  So in the interview she talks about the differences and then how to STUDY one form to make the other BETTER.  And she is so right. There is no right path.  I have seen a lot of discussion on inversions and whether they are safe blah blah blah and then some cop out nonsense on NOT teaching them. So do you not practice yourself? Is that a good idea?  What is a teacher? I don’t know.  So then I see this from Garrigues:


“But inversions, they – I mean, it kinda gets into a whole subject, but they have to be done properly, but if they are done properly, they’re the most amazing anti-aging thing, like, incredible health-giving benefits and youth – keeping you youthful, but – so the Iyengar people do it in the afternoon just ’cause it takes longer, and so it is a nice time to do it if you can carve out the time, just because, like you guys were saying, the Ashtanga practice is so demanding, and so it’s a – what I think is – I think it’s the kind of worst thing in a way, the biggest shadow aspect, or one of them, is the – how the inversions are getting kind of cut out of the practice or getting way less emphasis because of how tiring the practice is and how much emphasis is being put on the postures and the series, and then by the time you get to that part, you’ve spent it all. And so I am not a big fan of that. I think that, especially as you get older – and partly because the practice – remember, it’s not about – I mean, its main thing is about meditation, really, and meditation does require stopping the body, you know what I mean? There is moving meditation, but really, at some point, you just have to stop your body and stop the thoughts going through.” – David Garrigues

So doing the extra practice.  Studying. Svadhyaya.  WORK ON YOUR STUFF.  Watch.  Be conscious.  Be aware.  PRACTICE


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One more class.   I have to say the very best part of this is the many nice people who asked me how I was doing and congratulated me every day. You all are great yogis. I have loved practicing with people I haven’t practiced with for a long time and the new practitioners. It has also been great practicing with those in the Hot yoga training. I know what you guys are doing is a lot tougher than this.  I am so there for all of you.  The teachers I LOVE.  The Inner Fire Yoga Hot Yoga Teachers are amazing.

My thoughts beyond that at this point beyond being ready to have a day off soon is as follows:

It has been great getting some aspects of this practice back.  I have developed more strength and stamina.  My back bending is so much better. I am a little tired in general, but I also have spurts of energy and generally feel good period.  I would say daily things improve right now. I do need a day off.  If I do more hot challenges it will be like seven in a row, to not lose what I lost.  Also my knee is doing very well. It is definitely better and I am walking with little or no limp.

My final thoughts on this and my thoughts throughout the month continue to be why. I think the fact that anyone, including myself, questions it reflects the answer.  Really any discussion of it reflects that.  Why is there even discussion.  Throughout the month I had many thoughts and opinions and feelings about it and spent a lot of MENTAL energy, or what I call monkey committee thoughts, on the process.  But once you get on your mat every single day, the monkeys go away. I am not really thinking about it much any more. It is a PATTERN now and I am not engaging in a lot of DISCUSSION.  Doing a challenge like this is only effective when you get to the point of not discussing and just doing.  THEN it becomes what it is supposed to be. A meditation.  That means not even thinking of it continually in any way, such as “I can’t WAIT to get on my mat.”  You just do it.  If you think otherwise, once the challenge is done, you probably won’t continue because you see an ending point.  Committing to 30 days or whatever you do, is a commitment to being committed to discipline which allows your boundaries to expand, not get smaller.

Right now I am planning on another 30 challenge, doing something else, for May. I want to cultivate more discipline, more health, and more strength.  A lot changes in 30 days in your life, but having consistent practice allows you to be true to yourself and to not be distracted by trivia or a whole lotta bullshit.


On Friday, I am going to a day long Iyengar workshop.  I haven’t done a headstand or shoulderstand  all month. I think my next 30 day challenge will be to do full primary to the Sharath tape, which is a shitstorm for me, but I won’t be blogging about it. I am also adding another layer to that mix.  Like I said, I won’t be blogging about it.  IT is the discipline I enjoy.  I will still do some Hot yoga as a supplemental strengthening practice. I gained a LOT of STRENGTH and STAMINA.


I will blog about the workshops I am going to Friday.  One more to go with this challenge, consider it DONE.



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One of the benefits of a regular Hot Yoga 26 pose practice for me is that my back bending has become stronger and deeper in my 22 days.  Yesterday I had a student tell me one of the things they experience in the early opening poses is that their particular body is not warmed up for the opening spine sequence.



According to Hot yoga 26 pose theory the beginning pranayama is the prep.  That is if you REALLY push the breathing.  The deep breathing oxygenates the body and since the room is so warm the muscles get softer and more open.  For me this pose feels very good and strong after the deep side bending for a minute on each side.  It reinforces the use of strong legs in back bending.  The arms over the head forces the core muscles to work hard too.  If you don’t have the support of leg and trunk strength you just won’t go very far even if you are very mobile in the spine. I love the forward bend afterwards.  I love this sequence of the series.


The next back bends are grouped in a series of four back strengthening poses that end with a full range back bend.

The first in the series is Bhujangasana, the cobra pose.  This pose is articulated with the focus on building back strength to lift and bend mostly the thoracic spine, using the hands as a last resort.  The great thing about this pose it is safe and helpful for almost any level of student.  It also encourages the action of bringing the shoulders back and down and pushing the shoulder blades forward. If you are a vinyasa practitioner these actions will help you in chaturanga. I often wish even more advanced vinyasa practitioners would take this pose over a poorly aligned up dog, but they don’t listen to me.

backbend 1


The next pose is salabhasana where the leg is lifted independently and with both together.  This forces lower back strength. I hadn’t done this pose in a long time before I started the challenge.  During my first class I engaged the proper action to lift both legs.  Literally nothing lifted.  Not even a toe. This is so counter intuitive for the brain and it was like I FORGOT how to do it.  The second class, I lifted a little.  The shoulder and arm positions are problematic for many students. This is good action however for a series that doesn’t cultivate a lot of upper body strength with the shoulders supporting anything at all. That is why vinyasa practitioners resist.  Hot yoga practitioners who take vinyasa struggle with upper body strength, however, they usually have nice open shoulders with a lot of range of movement.



Poorna Salabhasana uses full back body strength to lift.  This pose also feels good.



Next is bow pulling pose.   The prior poses warm up nicely to prepare for this pose. It is a little more advanced and many people can’t reach their feet.  Knee alignment is important. The knees should not be visible in the mirror. I am guilty of this too.



Ustrasana is pretty much dhanurasana only on the shins.  This comes after supta virasana where you get a change to elongate the quads, another important element in back bending. The hips have to move forward and you need quad strength and stretch.  This pose is harder for me in the hot room. Some days it is easier than others, but in a normal environment this pose has always been available to me.  So I don’t know if it is the heat or just being tired later in the sequence.  This is the pose that allows you to open to kapotasana so again, leg strength is crucial.




Day 22 was good practice, but I am tired today. I get to practice earlier today.  Last night was too late. Late does not work for me on work nights.

I am looking forward to it being over just because I am tired and would like a day off. I don’t want to have to do two in a day. No way. I taught a class on Tuesday and then tried to take the class afterwards.  It was a disaster and I barely made it through.

I am also anxious to get back and play with more backbends and to use props and my Iyengar chair after my challenge, now that my back has opened up quite a bit.
The Master of Back Bending:



That’s how I like it, with walls and straps and blankets and bolsters!

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Yesterday I completed Day 20 of 30.  Last week there was a melt down day and I am slowly recovering from that.  Here are the positives of it so far:

  • Daily studio practice with community is enjoyable.
  • The Inner Fire Yoga hot yoga teachers are amazing and gifted.
  • My body is getting stronger
  • My knee is doing better, however the chair poses are a struggle.
  • I am getting a deeper back bend.  This is a great sequence for cultivating deep back bending and strengthening.
  • My skin is soft.
  • I eat and sleep better
  • I have periods of high energy

Here are the negatives:

  • My facial skin is broke out and red.
  • My hair is a disaster.
  • I have deep energy lulls some days.
  • There are some body imbalances that would not allow ME personally to continue this as my main practice (that is only for ME, I am not making that as a judgement call for any one else.) This was never in the plan anyways.
  • I miss my Ashtanga and Iyengar practices.

Ongoing, my plan is to continue this practice one to three times a week.  The logistics of it are kind of a nightmare for me on a daily basis.  Sometimes I have to wait until too late at night to go. I am NOT a night practitioner.  There is a lot of driving involved to practice daily.  Also a LOT of laundry to do.  I am really looking forward to getting back to Iyengar and Ashtanga practice. I have some workshops in both coming up at the beginning of May.  My teacher Richard Freeman is in Chicago in September too.  I will enjoy taking a few Hot yoga classes weekly to be around the nice students and teachers.  It is also a nice practice for focus.  There is frequently loud music booming in the next room. I enjoy that this practice allows space for mental focus and calmness.  I have a lot of MENTAL struggle with getting to class.  Yesterday I spent the whole day pretty much thinking about how much I did NOT want to take the 5:45 class.  About ten minutes into class I was glad I was there and I felt really good afterwards.


Over the next few days I am going to have some posts about my thoughts on some of the key poses of Hot yoga, their alignment, benefits, and how to improve them.




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