Sunday, December 5, 2010

You Can Do It: Dragonfly Pose, Part II

I don't yet have a video from my friend Diane, so I thought I would give this alternative way into dragonfly via video. It was early in the morning and I was a bit wobbly - and I admit that I didn't fully warm up, but it does the trick! :D

Put the teapot on, give the pose a try from this direction, and when you're finished, have a cuppa and leave a comment! Was this version easier than the one on the floor? harder?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

You Can Do It: Crow Pose

My new online friend Kiwineil asked for a quick tutorial on crow, since he's a Bikram practitioner and they don't normally do crow in the sequence. Might as well add to his outside-of-Bikram repertoire!

My new online friend Al has a great little article about crow pose too. His posture is a little "heavy" in the images, and crows are about being light, so here is how I like to get people into it.

For me, this is a basics pose. I teach it in all of my classes, unless people have serious injuries that would prevent them from doing it. But most people can do it, if they follow these instructions! :D

Also, notice that I fell down. It's no big deal. You just go back up. I could give excuses like "it was early" and "Hawk distracted me" or whatever. But the fact is, sometimes you just fall down.

How did it go? Did you get into crow? If you are primal, then have some green tea with coconut cream. If you are not primal, then have some green tea and a biscuit to celebrate your awesomeness!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Teacher Training Is Here!

Over the past eight years, I've been training teachers in an ad hoc, apprenticeship manner. Those who have studied with me are phenomenal teachers, and I'm super-proud of them. But the program was cumbersome and difficult for me to follow and maintain. So I sought a way to continue with the personal connection that this model brings, but also make it a bit easier for me - and for students - to access and receive training in a more systematic way.

In 2009, a number of my students approached me to get training so they could continue to teach each other. They knew I was moving to NZ, and they wanted to continue in "our style" that had developed over our many years together. I created a loose program wherein they could learn how to teach - even though many of them were not looking to teach yoga in any professional way. They just wanted to be able to be together. And, they are still together - every Thursday night, I believe - meeting in each other's homes. I am also super-proud of that continuation! This loose framework also really helped me to explore how people learn and what might be necessary for a more formal program.

When designing my teacher training, I wanted it to
  • maintain the close relationship of the apprenticeship program;
  • create formalized, group opportunities for learning - which are incredibly beneficial as students can can compare notes, discuss issues and bring unique perspectives to the material;
  • provide opportunities for in-depth, self-directed study so the individual's interests can be really developed within the program; and
  • still provide the high-quality education that I want to provide.
I think I've hit on it! I offer four kinds of training now for a variety of interests and needs:

1. Basic Yoga Certification
2. Advanced Yoga Certification
3. Diploma in Yoga
4. Continuing Education

For more information about these programs, check out the PDFs on the Healium website! Just click on Services > Therapeutic Movement > Yoga and look for the purple!

What do you think? How do you think this program description compares to others? If you lived in NZ, would you take this training? When are you moving to NZ, anyway?

Grab some tea, read the files and let's chat!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

For Tim at Salted Herring

We got our website - Healium - designed by a really amazing digital design firm here in Wellington: Salted Herring. Kate and Pep, the owners, employ Tim, who is our designer. We like him. Not only is he a really good designer, he's also a nice, patient guy! That helps when you're a tad techno-challenged!

While we were there for a meeting to learn about Google AdWords, etc., Tim pointed out to me that he cannot touch his toes. In fact, with legs straight, he can't really reach past his knees.

I recommended that he sign up for one of our private lesson packages, but he scoffed! Designers you hire these days!

Anyway, I thought I would help Tim - and the Tims of the world - get to a point where, in a year or so, they can touch their toes. (Can you imagine an army of flexible Tims?)

There are a couple of rules, though, before doing this program:

1. Take your time. You never want to "force" a posture. Postures are built on integrity, not flexibility, so you want to work from the place of strength. Follow the directions, don't "pull" into a stretch, and go slow. There's no hurry.

2. Practice every day. That's the best way to do it. I made this program short so you can practice it every day without having to dedicate a ton of time to it. And, in fact, you can practice it in your office. I've seen your office, Tim, and there is plenty of space. I'm sure that Pep, Kate and Connor will not mind. Heck, they might even join you. So, you have no excuses to NOT do this every day.

If you are not in Salted Herring's office, you can still do this routine because it takes up very little space. I bet both James and Alicia could do it in their studio apartment at the same time. And I haven't even seen that studio apartment, that's how little space this takes!

OK, rules finished, what is the routine? It's only two postures!

You know how I said that postures are worked from a point of integrity? That means, essentially, strength. To develop flexibility, you actually have to develop strength.

When hamstrings are tight, it's because they are stronger than quadriceps (that's the muscle on the front of the thigh). So, to help the hamstrings become more flexible, we have to strengthen the quadriceps.

So, we'll start with utkatasana, fierce pose:

And then we'll modify it to help create back strength too, to strengthen the quads:

Here are the basics of utkatasana:

1. Feet absolutely together. Not close to each other, not near by, but together as in touching.

2. Bend your knees deeply like you are sitting in a chair, stick your butt out. No one is going to do anything to you if you do that. So just do it. It's important for the modification.

3. Create a flat back. As this posture is modified to create a flat back - which strengthens lower back and core muscles - you align your torso along your thighs, bring your hands to your hips, lift your elbows toward the ceiling, look forward, draw your chest forward and your shoulders down your back.

That's modified utkatasana with a flat back. It's good for you. Once you get into it, just sink in and take a few breaths. When you inhale, think about making your back flatter. When you exhale, sink into your thighs.

So, that's the first posture. It focuses on integrity. The second posture is to help bring about flexibility in the hamstrings. It's a forward bend: uttanasana. It actually translates to "intense pose" - but we are going to do it with intention rather than intensity. This way, we slowly open the hamstrings to the right flexibility.

Of course, seeing as Tim can't yet touch his knees with legs straight, we are going to modify it!

Here are the basics are uttanasana:

1. From your modified utkatasana, bring your hands to the floor by your feet, or grab your heels. Keep your knees bent as much as you need to.

What is important here is keeping the chest and thighs together. This properly aligns your back and hips, so that the hamstrings can slowly open and release.

2. While you inhale, just feel your belly draw your torso away from your legs a bit, and when you exhale, draw your torso closer to your legs.

If you want, you can also just start to straighten the legs a little bit - but only if you can keep your chest and thighs together.

3. Shift your weight toward your toes a bit, keeping your heels on the floor.

Now, this is a pretty cool little series, because it will help you get more flexible and it takes up no time and space, but also for one other awesome reason: you can do it in a lot of different ways.

1. Long holds. You can hold both postures for 5 to 10 breaths each.

2. Flowing. You can inhale into your utkatasana, then exhale into your uttanasana.

3. Combined with long holds. You can hold the one posture for three breaths, then transition to the other posture for three breaths, and do this several times.

4. A pyramid scheme. You can hold the one posture for six breaths, then the other for six breaths; then three, and then inhale/exhale between the two postures three or six times, and then go back to three breaths, then six!

How cool is that? In no time at all your hamstrings and lower back will feel great, and you'll be stronger and more flexible! And all of your office mates will laud you for creating such an amazing opportunity to tease you - erm, I mean, to join in!

So, do you love these poses? Has a pyramid scheme worked for you?

Get some tea, and tell me what you think!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

You Can Do It: Dragonfly Pose

My friend and student Fran asked me how to do dragonfly pose. Check out the video:

It's essentially a twist and an arm balance combined, and it uses more belly and leg strength than arm strength. It's really just a matter of leveraging these strengths. So, if you can do utkatasana (fierce pose), a spinal twist, and bakasana (crow pose), then you can do this. It's just a different way of using the strengths of these postures!

So, can you do it? Do you have a different way of getting into this pose? Do you have a pose that you just can't figure out?

Get some tea, let's discuss!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Origin Story

Sherpa and I on the way to Lake Ferry!
My adventures in New Zealand began in 2007. I spent six weeks teaching in Nelson, then my friend Diane drove Ryan and me from Wellington to Auckland over the remaining two weeks. This is how Diane became known as "Sherpa." It's a spiritual name, you know.

Meditation labyrinth at Wharariki Beach.
Diane and I hung out a lot during my eight weeks in New Zealand. She helped me cope with some serious stuff, and I hope that perhaps I helped her too. But most of all, we loved to hang out and drink tea and talk about yoga! This happened so often that it was given a name: lazy tea!

When I returned home to the US, I tried to get lazy tea going with friends and students in the area. It didn't work. Everyone was super busy - even me! I suppose you can't just impose "island time" on the US. So, it never really clicked.

Nothing fancy - reheated green tea!
Then, three years after that first trip, we moved to NZ - purchasing a holistic health center. I get emails from students in the US asking me questions about this or that pose. My friends from NZ, who now live all over the world, will pop onto Facebook and we'll have a chat about some yoga topic.

It reminded me of lazy tea! It's not exactly the same, of course. But, at least we have can tea while we read and write blogs. :-)