I'm not sure where I first heard the name Judith Hanson Lasater, but from the moment I opened her book "The Yoga Body" in my 300 hour training I thought - "this lass is one smart cookie." With over 8 books, numerous teacher trainings and a heavy impact on Iyengar and Restorative Yoga, Judith has been a beacon of intellect and insight in the yoga community.
Where I feel really aligned with her teachings is her deep commitment to help students access the restorative, supported postures of yoga as a mechanism for stress relief. With studies showing correlation between stress and a myriad of illnesses (google results here), the ability to be still and relax is becoming more "advanced" than any handstand or backbend I can think of. So with a deep bow, I share some of the writings and words of Judith that I have found incredibly helpful both as a teacher and as a student:
- Santosha (Contentment): In a 2017 webinar through Yoga Journal, Judith and her daughter Lizzie discussed the yoga idea of "santosha." What stuck with me most from this discussion was when Judith said, "contentment can be fierce." I think often yoga - particularly restorative / yin formats - can get a reputation for being "easy" or "hippie dippie." But this notion that it takes real "work" to hold your contentment is a testament to the art and science of the practice as a whole. Whether I'm teaching yin or flow I'll often say, "Can you think of this posture as an opportunity to summon your peace and your patience closer to the surface so that you know how to access it regardless of the position you are in." If practicing that isn't the act of a warrior, then I don't know what is!
- "Bodyfulness": In a recent podcast on Yogaland (a MUST listen for all yoga geeks), Judith and Lizzie go into greater depth on the restorative practice - how they tackle it and how they teach it. And it was in listening to this podcast Judith repeated a word I've been thinking a lot about lately not "mindful" but "bodyful." She talks about how sensation is in the moment and how calling awareness, intimately, to the areas of the body that can hold our stress can really help us get out of our heads and into the moment. It made me think of a teaching from Iyengar's "Light on Life" where he talks about the sensation on the "surface of the skin." I don't know why I love it so much... it's visceral when I think about it.
- Really relaxing the belly / pelvic region. I don't know about you, but when I'm late for a flight or stressing hard I feel it from my belly button down to my crotch ... it's sharp and light, loose and tight ... it's like this all encompassing feeling of stress is just oozing and staying in that location - and it can take hours to dissipate. In the same podcast mentioned above I remember her saying "everything comes back to the pelvis" and minding students to relax in their abdomen / get soft in their bellies. Our bellies, pelvis (in addition to our diaphragm, shoulders / neck and face / jaw) are some of the largest stress containers in our bodies (I think this article breaks that down well). I'm now constantly using these landmarks as places where students can carry their awareness and consciously offer an opportunity to soften.
So - for all of that - thank you Judith! I look forward to meeting you in person at one of your trainings some day!