Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Stretching and the Fuzz

My teacher, Maria Cristina Jiminez, recently did an intensive dissection workshop with a doctor in San Fransisco.

The video below gives a short idea of what happens when we stretch and why it is more important than you thought. Check it out!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

aMUSEing: the Creative within

This talk by Elizabeth Gilbert [author of 'Eat,Pray,Love'] explores the idea of creativity and ingenuity.

I feel like she evokes a few interesting ideas in this talk. First, creativity and the creative process...the creative process works with two intense and oppositional forces - creation and destruction - of which the end product is a balance of these elements. Also, remaining realistic - yoga is always moving toward move out of illusion and myth and impure thinking. She talks about being humble, in that one's whole person is neither "genius" or "not genius" and is not the 'vessel' of ingenuity, but that an individual is totally capable of having a genius experience.
Check it out for yourself:

Here's the deal: "Elizabeth Gilbert muses on the impossible things we expect from artists and geniuses -- and shares the radical idea that, instead of the rare person "being" a genius, all of us "have" a genius. It's a funny, personal and surprisingly moving talk."

Monday, April 18, 2011

Hot Yoga - Whats the Hype About?

At the office this morning, a couple of my coworkers were talking about "hot yoga," in an effort for one to convince the other to begin a practice. The one needing convincing raised a few valid and presumably wide-held concerns about exercising in a room pre-heated to 105-118* F. Let me help clear the air. Hot Yoga" is a type of hatha yoga [physical practice/postures] practiced in a heated room, and is usually performed in a set sequence of poses that the yogi practices in the same order in each class.

The physical benefits of a hot yoga practice are many: To start, the external heat allows your muscular body to deepen into poses with an ease that one may not find in a tempered room. With the additional heat, muscles are more supple. Likewise, a solid hot yoga practice allows for deeper breathing, which moves more oxygen through the body, which allows for the body-mind to deepen and soften.

The sequencing for these classes is generally rigorous, but even a beginner could benefit from this particular style of class without missing the experience of integration that yoga offers. Heat builds quickly inside the body due to the sauna-like conditions of the studio. My coworker was worried she might pass out from the heat. This is possible, BUT knowing that you will lose a lot of water during the course of a class, prepare by staying well hydrated a few days prior to your first class. Also, expect to take your first session easy. Even if you are a well-practiced yogi, the heated environment brings about a totally different experience.

When I held a dedicated hot yoga practice, I was soaked through-and-through. Practicing hot yoga demands that you remain well hydrated, even between sessions. Not only are you sweating profusely, you are purging toxins from your skin and internal organs. You might imagine how great your skin looks as a result...

If you decide to take a hot yoga class, take my word and plan to take 2 instead. Here's why: Your first class you will be challenged by the experience, but so will your mind. Your awareness will be all over the amount of sweat you're producing, how sweaty your classmates are, avoiding slipping, adjusting to the grip factor, etc. Plan to take the second class so you can plan ahead for these variables and focus more on the practice.

Bring a towel to wipe yourself off between poses and enjoy it!

We All Think We're Broken, So We All Want to Heal

My teacher's teacher!
This woman, Caroline Myss is a retired medical intuitive who gives a super grounding talk about what "energy anatomy" is, how the system works, and how it applies to us in our daily lives. She goes into detail about what a chakra is and does, what an aura is and a few reasons why we feel bogged down. ...if you're not into this sort of thing, i would recommend that you approach her talk with an open mind. her perspective is really interesting!

"Our goal while on this earth is to transcend our illusions and discover the innate power of our spirit. We are responsible for what we create, and we must therefore learn to act and think with love and wisdom and live in service to others and all life."

- Caroline Myss

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Yogic Road: How Physical Yoga Moves Us Still

I recently had a conversation with a fellow yoga teacher about our shared background in psychology and neuroscience. She and I agreed that understanding the practice of yoga from a more Western perspective is helpful to students who don't resonate with the "hippie dippy" yoga stuff - chanting, sanskrit, ritual.

The physical practice of yoga - a.k.a. hatha (pronounced HA-tah) yoga - is one of eight ways on the yogic road to stillness. In the states, and perhaps even more in sprawling, overpopulated cities like Los Angeles, experiencing yoga through the body is sometimes the most visible way to get there.

The human experience is composed of a constant influx of sensory information and internal dialogue as a result of what we take in. Our mind works relentlessly to organize, prioritize and find homeostasis among the high volume of information.

Moving through a yoga practice allows our minds to focus on coordinating body movements with instructions from the teacher, and even deeper, to more subtle movements like our breathe and attitudes. With practice, this physical exercise permeates our mental movement and then the more powerful aspects of yoga begin to take place. The waves of information we absorb during the day surge less often, or with less velocity. As the physical practice grows with more loyalty, the undercurrent of yoga (literally, "to yoke") stabilizes the reactive processes of the physical body with the flexible resilience of the mind.

Think of final resting pose (a.k.a. Shavasana/Corpse Pose) after a vigorous flow class, or challenging standing sequence. You've spent the last hour or more honing your focus from the sound of your breathing patterns to the physical placement of your hands, feet, thighs, tailbone...your eyes are closed, your heart rate is neutralizing, and you feel a sense of calmness move through you as you melt into your mat. This integration point is the epitome of what it means to be in yoga. A happy marriage of physical discipline and mental surrender! With your body more aligned to move fresh oxygen through your muscles and organs, your mind is refreshed to continue processing and organizing. On the whole, you are better prepared to ride the wave of experience that takes place once you roll up your mat and leave the studio!

There is a deep value to beginning your journey on the yogic path at the physical level. As my fellow teacher said during our recent conversation, "It's like swimming in the the shallow end of the pool," ...This physical practice can bring us to very deep, very weird places. Luckily, we need not worry about drowning! On the yogic path there are many, many lifeguards.

Be well,

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Mantra Monday: I know nothing

I am preparing for my first substitute teaching experience at Black Dog Yoga (April 10 @ 9am, April 12 @ 7am, April 14 @ 7am) for a "Basics" class.

In order to prepare, I've taken the class with the regular teacher a couple of times and am pleased to find that most of the students have a semi-frequent practice, so this won't exactly be yoga-101. Still, I am reminded to return to the pillars of yoga, what it means to be a beginner, and to really reconnect to the basics.

* Cue the breath often and in clear but distinct ways
* Work from the ground up
* Warm the body well before any dynamic movement sequence
* Say just enough and nothing more
* Speak from the heart
* Be without judgment and expectation
* Notice the good first

'The beginner's mind' is another yogic philosophy that shares some heritage with Buddhist thought. The idea is to enter a situation without expectation, assumption or judgment; to simply be in the experience as it is happening and to actively participate in this way.

While the students I am teaching soon may not all be beginners, I am! (At least in terms of subbing.) Until Sunday, I will be working with this mantra in order to focus some attention on the reality that while I may have learned so much from my practice and training, I must be ever ready and open to receive new lessons from my experience on the mat and in my practice.

I know nothing
I know nothing
I know nothing