Friday, May 29, 2009


We had another fun practice at Breath and Body Yoga last night. We worked our standing poses mostly in flow with some breaks for some explanations and arm balances and then made a stunning foray into the backbends. Lots of urdhva danurasana and then dwi pada viparita dandasana and then eka pada raja kapotasana. So many people on the room reached their toes in eka pada rajakapotasana so that was exciting to be part of.

One thing that was really great was how many people, when they were headed into that pose with my help, said to me, "How do I do that with my arm...I just can't figure out the arm bones back here." And it was great because it gave me an opportunity to explain why we are so obsessed with that action in all the basic poses. Really, not much harm is going to come to the average yoga practitioner if they do Vira One without their arms plugged in. (people with rotator cuff injuries, now that is a different story, but I digress.) Really, you can get by with just raising your arms overhead with great unconscious glee in so many poses. But if, instead, we use those basic poses to train ourselves in the actions of optimal alignment, then when we need the actions in an advanced poses - where we cannot get the pose without the alignment or we cannot do the pose without injury without the alignment principle in place- then we are ahead of the game because we have the muscle memory and awareness already developed. (Wow, long run on sentence.) One of the things that makes an advanced pose an advanced pose is that it takes more skill to do the basic actions in an advanced pose. But in general it is not like advanced poses have an additional set of principles. They really don't. Advanced Yoga is just doing the basic actions in harder configurations.

Think about the eka pada rajakapotasana backbend, for instance. It is really not so different from Vira One, or anjaneyasana. But you add a deep hip opener to the front leg and bigger quad stretch to the back leg. These demands will pull the pelvis more anteriorly and off to the side as well. This in turn puts a greater load on the lumbar spine. So if you do not know who to use your legs draw in and lift up already, if you are unfamiliar with how to access your pelvic loop already, it is going to be harder to get that done with so many forces working against you just in the more advanced form. And that is just the basics of the foundation. Now we have to consider how to keep the crunch out of the lower back and how to open the shoulder and get the upper back to move in asn the arm bone moves back and so forth. So if you cannot do kidney loop or shoulder principles in Vira One, chances are its going to be pretty obscure to you as you explore eka pada raja kapotasana. So this is why the basics really count.

Again, I am not saying that every time I raise my arms I do some meticulous thing with them. I do not practice that way. Sometimes , I just raise my arms. (What a notion!) Because really, the endless weird undulations that overtake the average Anusara Yoga practitioner can be a bit much even for me sometimes! Sometimes, we should just do the pose. But don't be confused here- I am NOT making a case for one way over and above the other. Absolutely not, although obviously we will all have our preferences and primary ways we engage the practice.

For me, it is never one or the other. It is always one and the others. I am interested in developing access to a myriad of ways or practice that work. So I practice and teach in flow sometimes. It's more like a dance on those days. Other days, I work and teach slowly, methodically and it is more like barre exercises. Sometimes I am really into the strict adherence to the form, like classical ballet. But I love, love, love crazy modern-dance-type interpretations and variations. So we can work from the head. We can work from the heart. And always we work through the body.

At this point in my practice life I am interested in more options, not less. I am interested in opening the box, not keeping it rigid, defined and self-righteously limited. I am interested in moving beyond "what I like", "what I am used to" and/or "what I was told" and entering into an exploration that is wise, mindful, curious and courageous. And as a teacher, I want to teach those people who are interested in that. If you only want to do barre work, you will be unhappy around me in this phase. If you only want to do interpretive dance, you too will be frustrated. Interested in a full range of exploration and expression, let's go!

Here we are looking at eka hasta bhujasana and transitioning to eka pada koundinyasana.

Emma, our lovely visitor from Berkely Kula, going for it in the backbends.

Sibia lending Ellen a helping hand.
Romy and Jesse.

Catherine heping Terra.

Emma getting ready.... getting set...
gone! That is the exciting news here. Not only do we look for our toes in eka pada rakapotasana and get excited about our foot touching our head. But then we grab our ankles and then we bring our foot away from our head and to the floor behind us. WOW-ZA! (And she sings opera! True story.)
So, please keep coming to the practice and if you haven't been coming, please add it into your life because wow, we are going places together. And really, the journey and the company along the way is quite stellar.

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