Wednesday, January 2, 2013

YogaCityNYC SLEUTHED Ariana!

I have been remiss in continuing the LOY sequences. But I have still been teaching - just not according to the Iyengar method. I recently found out that YOGA Sleuth - part of
reviewed my class. My colleagues refer to this as getting "sleuthed." This is exciting for me because I am used to reading reviews of some of my favorite teachers.

Click to read the YogaCityNYC Review!

As to getting back to the blog - I don't know when that will happen. My anatomy studies have steered me away from the Iyengar method for the time being. I no longer feel the compulsion or the passion to do it. The list of poses is daunting and the sequencing does not feel right for where I am right now. I got tired of skipping poses, rearranging the sequence and adding poses to make it safe for me.

At first I was being hard on myself because I did not finish something I set out to do. Slowly I came to realize that this was no longer serving me and it felt like a burden. So it feels like the right time to let it go. At least for now.

In the meantime I have started a new blog about yoga, meditation and wellness which you can check out here.


Sunday, January 8, 2012

"How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body" NY Times Article

A recent article in the NY Times entitled "How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body" is churning up some good conversation in the yoga community these days. The topic is striking some nerves, but it is healthy to have the debate out in the open.

Yoga is not a cure-all. Yoga does NOT exercise every muscle in the body. I was stunned when I first learned this. Many yoga masters have claimed that it does (even Mr. Iyengar in Light on Yoga) and as teachers we are taught this and accept it. This is a misunderstanding.  Certain muscles get over-developed (e.g. triceps) and others get overstretched (e.g. hamstrings). If yoga is your only form of exercise then you can create musculo-skeletal imbalances in the body which over time can lead to injuries.

I heard from a teacher of mine that in some sports clubs there are certain stretches that are banned for personal trainers (because they are deemed too risky) but yoga teachers can teach them because they have less restrictions. In general, I feel that the standards are quite low for who can qualify as a yoga teacher. Some certifications claim that you can be certified in a weekend.

I feel like I can never learn enough and it is precisely why I took it upon myself to take an in depth 108-hour anatomy course. Even after taking it I still don't think it's enough, but it gave me knowledge that is essential for any movement professional. I don't think yoga teachers should be exempt from this level of understanding. Why are they anyway?

I am taking a Zenyasa Yoga certification that does promote musculo-skeletal balance. Jason Brown who created this method felt that after studying anatomy and western exercise science that yoga was not enough to foster strength and flexibility throughout the body. So he includes other exercises such as pulling exercises for the arms in order to strengthen the biceps, rear delts and rhomboids (which are hard to strengthen in yoga). He also includes a warm up for every class so your muscles are warm before you start strengthening them. And you strengthen before you stretch. This is something that I have felt is missing in my Iyengar classes as of late. There is no warm up and you start stretching to the max right away. Ouch! I have come close to injuring myself many times this way.

But then there is also the responsibility of the student - to do what feels appropriate for their bodies and not be forced into any pose by a teacher or get caught up in the obsession of "getting" a pose for the sake of satisfying their ego (while sacrificing stability in their joints).

I could go on and it is a topic that requires more attention than I am giving it here. What do you think?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Iyengar Course 2 Week 43 (Ariana)

I was going to post this a while back. My grandfather, Sam Caplowe, passed away on December 23rd. He was my last living grandparent from my immediate family. Coincidentally I had been talking about him a lot the week before he died. I recently found a photo of us during my awkward phase (we all had one, right?). My papa (that's what I called him) has him arm around me and he looks proud to be with me. I joke about how he loved me despite my awkwardness, but it meant the world to me.

I learned a lot from him.  I suppose my fascination with the mind-body connection has a lot to do with his influence. He taught me how important it is to remain physically active as long as you can. He did as long as he could. He also taught me the importance of wearing comfortable shoes that don't squish the toes and cause bunions. He was a podiatrist. To this day I only buy shoes that are good for my feet and when I lift and spread my toes in Tadasana I think of him.

Here was my post:

Still consolidating all the poses from weeks 31-40.

I am reminding myself that Iyengar wrote this at a young age, in prime physical condition, and he had hours upon hours to practice. The practice was and still is his life.

Winter is here and my joints and muscles are stiff once again. I moved a lot slower than usual. Even after some sun salutes I did not feel warmed up so I eased off on some of the poses - especially some of the revolved poses like Parvrtta Parsvakonasana (Revolved Side Angle).

My left lateral hamstring is very tight - this has been the case in Parvrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle) lately. So I stayed in the pose longer on that side. Seemed to help.

Skipped the alternate breath exercise at end due to congestion. My body was ready for a meditation. My body was still. But my mind was ready to do other things. What a contradiction and not what I would expect. How can the body be ready for meditation but not the mind? How could I be aware of this distinction as though they are two distinct entities with minds of their own.  This was a new experience. My mind obeyed for a while and then I was off to other things. 

Most of the sequences end with pranayama or breathing techniques. However, hardly (if any) Iyengar classes include pranayama or meditation. I think there is a misconception that they are not of concern to Mr. Iyengar whereas I get an impression that they are more important than the asanas. The asanas prepare the body for this breath work. The breath work then prepares the body/mind for concentration and meditation. Meditation then prepares the mind for pure being awareness or the ecstatic state.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Iyengar Course 2 Week 42 (Ariana)

Still consolidating all of the poses - especially those left out in Course 1.

I am not exactly sure what this even means. I have been consolidating the poses from weeks 31-40. I hope he did not mean to consolidate the poses from Course 1 and 2.

I took the dog for a walk before I did the sequence and felt warmed up so did not feel the need for sun salutes this time. But did stretch out with some cat/cows and a long downward facing dog. Then right into headstand and shoulderstand. Did some variations  - not many. Then Jatara Parivartanasana (loving this lately), Supta Padangustasana and all the Navasanas. Skipped Ustrasana - wanted to save the back bends for the end. Then Virasana and Supta Virasana. In retrospect, would have preferred to do those after all the standing poses around when I did the rest of the seated postures. But ok, not so bad to stretch out my quads before doing the standing poses.

Then on to standing poses. Did them quickly in rapid succession one after the other. I was not pleased with myself. But for some reason I felt like I was "done" with the poses quickly. This is not how I usually practice. I like to be curious in each pose and explore a little. I don't think of poses as having an end to them and that's not how I teach them.

Then onto seated poses starting with my favorites Janu-Sirsana and Parvritta Janu-Sirsana. But it had been a while since I did these. I forgot to bend one knee as I stretched over the other leg. So redid them. It was an interesting mistake - I felt the difference it makes to have one leg bent. It felt like it helped to anchor the hip down as I folded over the other leg. I moved through the rest. Skipping my usuals and and doing half lotus instead of full. My left thigh is able to externally rotate more in my hip socket these days. Not sure why.

Then the back bending. Salabhasana, Dhanurasana, Parsva Dhanurasana, Urdhva Dhanurasana.

Savasana began with a rapid heartbeat from Dhanurasana. Briefly contemplated winding down with something else to ease into savasana. But then just enjoyed watching my heartbeat eventually slow down and slide into savasana.

And finally a few minutes of Nadi Sodhana Pranayama which means purification of the nerves according to Iyengar. He also says that blood receives a larger supply of oxygen with this breath exercise. I have been listening to Georg Feuerstein's The Lost Teachings of Yoga as part of my 500-hour Zenyasa teacher training I am doing now.  In the 9th chapter he mentions that there are thousands of nadis (or channels of energy) but only 3 are important: the central channel, and the two side channels which travel in helical fashion up the central channel. The 2 side nadis start at the base of the spine and travel up to the 3rd eye. They also are connected to the left and right nostrils which are related to the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. He also says that when the nadis are purified the chakras are activated.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Iyengar Course 2 Week 41 (Ariana)

For weeks 41-44 the instructions are:

"Consolidate all the positions concentrating on the asanas which were left out in Course 1."

I was really excited to move on to week 41 until I saw this. I assumed it meant to combine all the poses from weeks 31-40. That amounts to roughly 98. I didn't have time for all those poses nor did I want to do all of them. I had to make decisions. I was free to make my own sequence loosely based on weeks 31-40. This was daunting and I came close to deciding to skip weeks 41-44 and move right into 45 with a prescribed sequence. I am happy that I held fast and gave it a shot.

First I needed to warm up so I did some A and B Sun Salutations. Actually first I spent 20 minutes deciding what music to listen to - which ended being more of a distraction as I practiced.  

Then I continued with abdominal strengthening and expanded on the Jatara Parivartanasana/Navasana/Ardha Navasana section. I added Urdhva Prasarita Padasana (basically leg lifts) to strengthen the rectus abdominis. Jatara Parivartansasana strengthens the oblique abdominal muscles. Then more rectus abdominis strengthening with Navasana and Ardha Navasana. Sometimes I think abdominal strengthening is a great way to start a class. It makes a lot of sense to strengthen the core before start moving and stretching the spine. In retrospect I should have added Kapalabati breath to strengthen transverse abdominals as well.

Then I felt ready for headstand and shoulderstand. I am still working on stabilizing my headstand away from the wall. It was good today. Then I added down dog and handstand to release the neck.  I did some variations while in shoulderstand.

I then referred to the sequence for seated or supine postures such as Supta Padangustasana, Ustrasana, Virasana, Supta Virasana (I really need to more of this one), Janusirsana, Upavista Konasana, Half lotus, Ardha Baddha Paschimottanasana, Marichyasana 1 and 3, Ardha Matsyendrasana, Salabhasana, Dhanurasana, Urdhva Dhanurasana and supine twists. Funny how I resisted finishing with this pose many times and now I have come to prefer it because it stretches the abs and releases the compression in the abdomen after all the forward bends. That is why it is always best to keep an open

As Thich Nhat Hanh says:

"We should never be absolutely certain of our knowledge. We need to be ready to give it up at a moment's notice for a higher truth. This is called non-attachment to views and it is one of the most important elements of our practice."

I am sure he is referring to more profound aspects of our knowledge, but I feel it applies here too.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Iyengar Course 2 Week 40 (Ariana)

This is the last time for this sequence. I listened to Healing Ragas 2 - Raga Charukeshi and Raga Kirwani. This music turned the practice into a grounding and meditative process. I think the music helped me turn off my brain and be present in my body. I moved with stillness. I kept coming back to Tadasana or Prasarita Padotanasana in some cases as a symmetrical and balanced starting point. A reset posture. Before I moved into any pose I started with an awareness of the ground and what parts of my body were pressing into to it for stability. Then I would kind of meditate on that feeling for a breath or two. I was in no hurry and moved slowly into and out of each posture. I went inward and feel very centered as a result.

Milestones - my daughter started kindergarten. We have been so focused on getting her off to a good start and now we are easing (sometimes not so easy) into a routine.

Perspicacious - my favorite word lately. It means possessing mental acuity or sharpness. My grandmother taught me to spell this word when I was in elementary school. I remember sitting on an orange swivel chair at a round table in her kitchen while she cooked at the stove. We went over the spelling again and again and again. I remember how good I felt when I finally got it right. I still remember the rhythm at which we practiced the spelling. This vivid memory came back to me after my grandmother passed away this September. She died on Labor Day. I am blessed to have had such an inspiring grandmother and to have so many sweet memories of her.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Iyengar Course 2 Week 39 (Ariana)

I have been thinking about these sequences more than I have been doing them. Originally I attempted to do one sequence every week. As the sequences get longer it has become harder to stick to that intention.

I am still at the sequence for weeks 36-40 which start with a ton of headstand and shoulderstand variations. I flipped things around and did the inversions last.

Before I did the poses I studied the sequence and broke it down into four sections:

1. Spend a lot of time upside down in headstand and shoulderstand reversing effects of gravity and assisting in the return of blood-flow to the heart. Many of the variations require a lot of core strength while stretching the backs of the legs and inner thighs. This is a lot of time spent compressing the cervical spine.

2. Stand. Bring the blood back to the legs. Strengthen and stretch the legs and hips and some oblique abdominal work with standing twists.

3. Sit. fold forward stretching the back of the body, compressing the abdominal organs, flexing and rotating the spinal joints.

4. Backbend. Extend the spine and decompress the organs, stretching the abdominal wall. The backbends at the end finally make sense. Make space in the abdomen after all that compression in the forward bends. I only realized this after I took a class with Carrie Owerko and after a lot of intense core strengthening exercises we did Urdhva Danurasana (upward facing bow/full wheel) to stretch the abdominal muscles.

I realized Iyengar's Matsyasana/Fish Pose (Top Image from Light on Yoga) is not as I learned it. The version that I have learned over the years seems to be what Iyengar calls Uttanapadasana (Bottom image).

5. Breathe. Nadi Sodhana Pranayama and Suryabhedana Pranayama

I didn't use any blocks today - not even for Parvritta Trikonasana or Parvritta Parsvakonasana. Surprisingly I had no problem getting my arm outside of the front thigh and getting my fingers to the floor. This is usually very challenging for me. Maybe the stability of the back heel pressing into the wall helped. This time I started with a straight arm up overhead and then reached diagonally past the front knee as I came forward into the pose. Usually I first hook my elbow outside of the knee and then coerce my way into the pose -pressing my elbow against my thigh and revolving my chest more and more.

Padahastasana: I was putting more weight into the ball of the left foot. So I made attempts to even myself out there.

I did most of the poses at the wall for feedback. The most surprising thing was how I turned my torso slightly with my hands in reverse namaskar. I started with my back to the wall and felt my right arm and shoulderblade touching the wall but not my left. So I evened myself out before I took a step forward with one leg and folded over into the pose.