Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Shake it up baby!

"Twist and shout! Come on Come on Baby now, work it on out."

I am sure you are familiar with that song which transcends the sixties. As I made my way to class yesterday that was playing in my mind and with good reason. Fall is a time of year when a lot is happening; seasonal temperature changes, lots to get done and even our diet changes with the change in what is in the produce isle at the grocery store. If you are a student, then this is also a time when you need to assimilate all those classes and readings in preparation for midterms.

Twists. What you need to know:
1) The action of squeezing the torso as one rotates from the navel puts a compression action on the organs of the digestive system and will stimulate their action, building the digestive fire - agni. Agni is essential for transformation of food and experiences. Feeling a little overwhelmed? a twist practice just may help.
2) The spine is of major concern when twisting, since we are rotating the vertebrae - thus it is essential to begin with some extensions or laterals, opening the space between the vertebrae.
3) In standing poses, pelvis is not fixed, giving us the freedom to safely warm up to the deeper twists where the hips have less freedom to move like in Ardha Matsyendrasana.
4) Contraindications are any spine injuries.
5) According to Ayurveda, twists are helpful in reducing pitta and vata - perfect for fall.

Twists have a balancing affect. As we move through seasonal change and the hurried pace of fall, twists are essential to helping us to find the balance we need.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

First steps

When an interviewer asked Rod Stryker the question, "What do you wish more yoga students knew?"
His answer: "That yoga doesn't end with the body. My mission is to impart old-school wisdom, teach pranayama and meditation as much as asana, and encourage people to access that inner realm beyond the body. When you connect with the source, the shakti, the sea of intelligence, every part of your life improves. You'll be more joyful, more fearless, and more capable."

Asana is the first step toward accessing the inner realm. Learning to manage your energy, your breath, allow you to quiet the mind and the inner realm becomes illuminated.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Vatta pacifying poses

Ayurveda is the sister science to Yoga. Where asana is designed to help us work with our energy, Ayurveda helps us work with a body that is healthy and balanced. Each of us has been born into this body with our unique nature, our prakritti. The elements of our environment, our diet, the weather, the activities we participate in, and of course asana, affect whether we are in balance or moving more out of balance.

When we are on the cusp of seasonal change, temperatures changing, more wind and damp, everyone is experiencing more vatta. If you already have vatta in your prakritti, it will most likely affect you a little more... just like me.

The good news is that by changing what postures I choose in my personal practice can help balance the vatta. What does the dancer like qualities of vatta need? Grounding - standing poses with two feet firmly planted like warrior two and forward folds. Backbends are still helpful, just best to stick to those with the belly on the ground.

Want to know more about your prakritti - simple; just take the quiz and as Kathryn Templeton, Ayurvedic Guru suggests, probably best to have someone who loves you and knows you well help you stay honest. ;)

Monday, October 14, 2013

Airports and travelers

The continual stream of people wandering by the arrivals board, waiting, watching for someone they love. Just like me.
Waiting and watching. Living in the moment they will be reunited.
Seems challenging sometimes to just be in the moment and not be waiting, rather, just sitting and taking it in,inattached to the story of family and friendships, love that brought people here to a place to be reunited with the relationship they believe they have with another.

Perhaps that sounds cynical, but as I reflect on past relationships that no longer exist, except in the past, I recognize, the love only existed because of what I believed. I believed I loved and so I did. Can I just love without a reason? Can it be easy to just open my heart and send others compassion and understanding? 

Perhaps sitting in a place full of strangers I can just try.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Trikonasana - triangle pose.

One foot forward and facing 12 on a clock. The back foot, perhaps a little wider (like our hips), with the foot turned out slightly. This is the foundation. The weight is distributed evenly between the two feet. The low belly, navel is pulled in toward the spine, this creates space in the lumbar and sacral spine. And this is a common challenge to sustain.

The low ribs lift upward, away from the tops of the hips as the upper body leans out over the front leg, the same arm reaching and creating space. When we get as long on that side as we can, we lower the arm. If it only goes to the knee - that's fine. If it gets to the floor, that is no better. Then the torso turns from the navel as the front body turns and the top arm reaches up toward the ceiling.

With each breath, the crown of the head reaches forward, lengthening the spine, and the exhale reaffirms the navel moving into the body and foundation of the feet. Expansion and grounding down.

If there is a strain in the inner groin, a slight bend in the front knee enables better stability and lengthening. Placing the back of the hand on the sacrum enables you to relax the shoulders away from the ears and open through the upper chest and draw the scapulae together on the back. It is important to ensure that the lower portion of the thoracic spine is not arching.

With all this, the spine lengthening and movement of breath, the containment of the pelvic bowl, energy (prana) moving down through the legs and out through the arms and crown of the head. That's the real juice.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

More than a pose

What do we really do when we stand in utkatasana, chair pose? We feel the lumbar spine (low back) arch exaggerated, we feel the opening in the front body and side body. We definitely feel the legs working, sometimes shaking with joy. With proper cues we become aware of drawing the belly in the tailbone lengthening toward the heels.

And there is a deeper layer of complexity to the pose than the stretch one experiences and the physical effort one must apply. There is the movement of energy in the pose. When we follow the flow of the breath in chair, the pose allows the body to expand in an upward movement through the torso, creating space for upward moving energy, and it strongly creates the movement of energy downward through the legs and the feet.

The awareness we bring to this movement of breath and the flow of energy throughout the body brings our awareness to the degree of stillness, steadiness and ease we experience. Setting the intension to loosen our grip on the outcome of the pose and not resist the pose or fiercely "do" the pose, rather, to rest in awareness, steadiness while also applying effort. This is where the real fruits of our practice lie.