Cell phones and fidgeting and door slamming oh my! As a teacher, I’ve seen and heard more savasana distractions than I’d like to count. Here are some tips on how to ensure you get the most out of your yoga class without being disrespectful or distracting to those around you.Read More
Thank you to everyone friends and strangers who came out to Yoga on the Row @ Santana Row this Saturday. We had a blast and everyone was such a great sport. Thank you to my beautiful assistants Samantha Armellino and Tricia Salata for all your support.
A few of you asked me for the playlist for our session. I’ve included it below. The yoga itself started with song #4 by Leon Bridges - from there it’s about an hour to the end. Here’s the link to Spotify where you can follow and share this playlist or add the songs to your own playlist.
And here’s the embedded playlist you can listen to right now :)
What we worked on was a very simple vinyasa-esque format! While we practiced we did stuff differently, we held stuff, we jumped - we shook up our energy and woke up the feeling function in our bodies from multiple angles. Then we rested and came back together and with the reminder that for you to be a force of good in the world, you need to feel good. When you practice yoga and teach your strengths to hold the hand of your weaknesses and your patience to hold the hand of your doubt - you start to become more integrated. From that space you can be of greater service to the people in your life who need you. And the human race doesn’t survive divided. Here’s a rough outline of what we did - enjoy!
Apanasana Variations to stimulate breath & core stability
Chair / Squat
Side Angle Exploration
JUMPING (2x for a minute each) then PLANK for one minute! (Macklemore)
Lunges and twists and 1/2 moon
Prone lifts - strengthening the back bone with buddies
Savasana (East Forest)
Getting READY for your blessings, with Music by Chance the Rapper
MUST GET POSE!!!!! MUST GET DEEEEEEP IN POSE!!!! MUST DO HARD POSE LONGER THAN ANYONE ELSE!!!!
I see it all too often. People’s inner “Hulk” comes to the surface.
A student is DETERMINED to get into a pose.
They push, force, shake, stop breathing and BOOM…
They kind of sort of get the pose!!!
Panting and confident they move on to the next thing with no real awareness of what happened in the body / and whether what they did was actually good for them
They do the same thing again 10 minutes later, and in the next class, and next week and next month
Every time I see it happen I cringe a little. Even through verbal cuing / 1 on 1 check ins - its impossible to stop and correct it all. In a “silver bullet” culture - where pills, procedures, and quick fixes are the way of the future - many people have lost the critical skill of working patiently, and diligently over time and witnessing the safe, subtle and lasting transformation that can happen through a well-balanced yoga practice.
I would say that 1/2 of my job as an asana teacher is teaching postures and the other half is helping students in the sophisticated art of finding that balance between effort and ease. What can we look for in students that indicate struggle? Tune in for things like shaking in the body, clenched jaws, stealing from one area of the body to make things look deeper (think hinging at the lumbar spine as the sole source of a back bend), or held breath… to name a few.
WHY IS THIS SO IMPORTANT? BECAUSE WE’VE SPEND YEARS - IF NOT DECADES - CONFUSING OUR BODIES NATURAL DESIGN!
Recently, I read “Move Your DNA” by Katy Bowman. And while I’ve been on the “move smarter not harder” train for a while now - there is a really important idea in her book that all teachers of movement should try to understand: If you spend most of your life challenging your very design by preventing your body from moving in the way it was designed to move (walking, running, climbing, squatting, with bare feet on diverse surfaces - all day long) and then have a life that limits that potential by wearing shoes and sitting a whole heck of a lot, then no amount of personal ass kicking - performed for an hour every other day - is going to be able to bring you into lasting "good shape.” Forcing your body into a state of “struggle” in these classes or activities is likely (over time) to result in injury or pain.
AS WE ADVANCE IN OUR PRACTICE, DON’T WE WANT TO BE MORE SOPHISTICATED THAN THAT?
I’ve said for years that the hardest pose in yoga is patience. Be skilled and patient enough to work with your body and notice the subtle nature of the current condition - coaxing your tissues mindfully towards change. Be patient enough to also get your nervous system on board by incorporating smooth and steady breathing that moves your diaphragm in your body. Be patient enough to find the edge of effort and ease (sthira sukham asanam). Be patient with the parts of your body that say “no, not yet” - because you will also notice the parts that are saying “ahh, yes, like that!” Doing so will set you up for a practice that lasts a lifetime.
People often come into classes complaining of low back pain. Because of my history with an L4/L5 disk herniation I love to nerd out with people about their backs - and test ways we can find relief. Recently a few students asked me what I do for low back pain - so here are some poses / rolling techniques and off the mat things you can try!Read More
Many people have asked me “how did you get a teaching job at XX studio or with XX company having only been here for a year.” Welp, here are my answers. These are the things I do when I find a place I know I want to teach.Read More
I’ve had some people ask me to post a “recommended sequence” for those with plantar fasciitis. Here are my thoughts and a quick video with a few techniques to try. Give em a shot and let me know if they work for you!Read More
It’s a funny thing to hear right before someone walks into your class… but it happened to me last week. Here’s the story of how I turned it into a teaching moment and developed a class on “perspectives” that took us into Warrior 3 - seven different ways.Read More
#StanTheYogaMan is back and showing off one of my favorite variations of Sun Salutation A. In this version we step into a lunge and a balance posture on the way to the top of the mat. This can also be done in "step back" format - which can be easier for populations newer to yoga or those who carry more weight around their mid section.
I love this lunging variation of Sun A because it not only works balance early on in practice, it provides extra lengthening for the hip flexors - which can be critical for a population that spends a lot of time sitting. If I'm working towards bigger back bends - then I'll use this sequence in the beginning quite often. The key here is to do this slowly first and impart the importance of keeping a strong belly and rooting down into the legs for the lunge with the knee down - especially if they want to lift their arms here. For some, it may make more sense to keep hands down on blocks and have those blocks available for standing split (which may also turn into more of a supported warrior 3).
Here is #StanTheYogaMan - my newest creation. Stan is here to help me share my latest sequences, thoughts on poses and nerdy yoga stuff. This post gives a break down of Sun Salutation A, explains why I think Sun Salutations are important in general and why I teach them in almost every, single class!Read More
“I can’t meditate because I can’t sit still…” I’ve heard it more than once. If you’re looking to take charge of the unique conditions that are your life and want to free yourself of old voices and unnecessary stress / anxiety - then this post is for you!Read More
I love the internet. It helps me follow and learn from amazing yoga instructors all over the world! One of my faves to follow is Judith Lasater. Every time I listen to her speak I learn something I want to use in my classes or rethink my approach to something. Here are my top three Lasater nuggets that I’ve used in my teaching in the last year …Read More
Chanting isn't some hippie dippie thing - it's a workout for your mouth and can help with focus, breath regulation and concentration. Here's a short post with some fun facts from other cool yoga blogs.Read More
When I talk about asana or "postures" in class, I like to remind students that postures are opportunities to collect information. It's not about forcing something that isn't there - it's about bringing yourself into a position and allowing the posture to reveal more subtle information that which is embedded beneath the surface. By doing so, you summon patience, discipline, self-compassion and breath as your key partners for navigating things that feel challenging. Not only is this a critical skill that can help you overcome tough or chaotic times outside your yoga studio - but you also stand to unpack some pretty interesting information about your body as well.
The thing is, your body has an innate intelligence. In Iyengar's Light on Life he talks about how every cell in your body, through a complex network of nerves, is connected to your brain. Therefore, every cell in your body has an intelligence. As you practice, you should continuously be scanning the sensation on the surface of your skin all the way to the marrow of your bones - gliding your awareness seamlessly across the layers of your being to identify areas that are calling out for support, release or attention.
In a recent training, my mentor Jacqui Bonwell, discussed how our bodies remember the physical positions we are in when we encounter stressful information or in a state of stress - and this physically impacts the tissue. She gave the example of being under duress while answering phone calls in a previous job that lead to severe pain that ran down the whole side of her neck on the side she used for phone calls. The funny thing was that this injury was ultimately healed by one, solid Reiki session - and not physical therapy or medicine (not knocking them - just interesting that we can tackle physical trauma from many angles).
The point of this is that yoga is trying to teach us to stop trying to force it, fix it or fidget our way through it - as none of these things can serve us as much as sitting still and allowing our breath and our focus to reveal what we need to know. As we hold position our breath will help us make space with each inhale and either soften or strengthen into that space with each exhale.
When you can allow your body and breathing to do the work, you are naturally training your mind in the more sophisticated art of being aware of everything that composes the position at a higher level. You notice nuances, small shifts, displaced areas where you thought things were happening - when, in reality, most of the information is coming from someplace else. (Some day we'll talk about "Systems Thinking" as it relates to yoga :)
Ultimately, if we can hone this sophisticated skill of allowing our breathing to impact the position we are in - we can become better not only at yoga - but in relationships and work and in all aspects of our lives. Notice the next time you encounter something that throws you off your game - something that might normally be "stressful" for you and ask yourself:
"Can my breathing impact the position I am in?"
Give it 10 breaths and then come back here and tell me about it - I'd love to do a follow up post!