615.419.3604 hilary@activeyoga.com

Somatic Yoga. Ladybug v. the Beetle

I cleaned out an old desk and found this described in a flyer from a workshop I taught in 2008: Balancing Structure and Freedom The student moving from precise focused alignment to an exploration of the senses will come away with a deeper awareness of asana as the physical expression of yoga philosophy. The student will also be guided to freedom of movement within and without form to create form.   The second part of that workshop presented a study in inductive v. deductive body reasoning which is why an Iyengar student back in the day described my classes as back door yoga. The pose is revealed as the parts come together. You might say, as the parts become organized as a whole.   This is based on my experience of yoga. This is what a yoga teacher offers. It is not regurgitation of something before them.  It is the expression of that information now digested by their unique digestive juices.   My yoga developed during years of dual study in Iyengar and Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement. These practices do not involve opposing subtleties but they are opposing dynamics.  They are taught independently in different worlds of somatics. That informed my teaching at a time few people were studying either. Now I see the online yoga world discovering the benefits of subtle movement .  What felt unique to me is becoming “a thing”. That is a good thing.   But when I wonder what I have left to offer any student that hasn’t been done before, when I become frustrated that I’ve said and done it all, I am...

What Does Karma Have to Do With Your Yoga Practice?

  Karma describes the cycle of action creating a reaction which causes a further action. It is called the wheel of karma because it is a loop. It can indicate a lack of consciousness when the reactions do not reap positive change. In your asana practice it can manifest as non-productive aggression. That aggression results in discomfort. Yet asana is described as a comfortable seat. How do you manage karma in your yoga practice in a yoga class? Mimic the outer form of the posture.  That is the guide and imposition of external force.  That is the action. Then move within that form until it is comfortable. That is the reaction. Extend yourself with your breath into the outer reaches of that form. Adjust again and again until you are comfortable even for two breaths. Hold the space in the pose because you have stability because you can do that now. Be in the pose and don’t push. The breath is all the action you need. Receive and release the breath. Do not force it. If your pose has a positive effect the movement of breath will be pleasing. Recognize the sensation before you feel the need to shift again, because you will, because nothing but death is static.  Notice what ease feels like as the wheel of karma momentarily stops.  ...

Yoga, Hammer and Nail and Threads of Thought

  I’m covering an Iyengar class. As a longtime student of the Iyengar system I am aware of a couple of pitfalls so I take the opportunity as the visiting teacher to offer thoughts and a technique useful in my personal practice.   Tension is not a negative word. Tension creates integrity. Tension is a negative when it is extraneous.   Think of your practice as a carpenter hammering a nail into wood. Once nailed, there is no reason to keep hammering. Step back and appreciate what you’ve created. Consider it.   Give up 20 percent of the effort and notice you are still in the pose. Perhaps you can keep letting go of effort to 50 percent and hold the pose. Think of the form resembling a suspension bridge.   Physical yoga is the application of desire mixed with effort, and then the reflection of that effort’s effect finished with the facility to know when to surrender to what you can and cannot comfortably do. And know that your experience today will likely change the next time. Patience in yoga is not just a virtue but essential....

Are Your Relationships Working? The Body of One is the Body of All.

  Hatha yoga, is the physical experience of relationship.  It is the relationship of bone to bone, bone to breath, breath to muscle, muscle to muscle, fiber to fiber and cell to cell. Stretching doesn’t make muscles longer as much as it makes relationships between fibers and cells become efficient. Stretching wakes us up.   When posture is pleasurable it’s likely we’ve found the right path. It is an indirect path. The map is provided by a teacher but not all vehicles are suited to drive the same way on the same path. We learn by trial and error. Some of it is obvious and some more subtle. The more refined the mind, the more refined the yoga practice which results in greater awareness of the unseen. One thing is for sure. If there is pain, sorrow or anger, the relationship is off. And that bad relationship takes its toll on parts that had no part in creating the problem.   When there is discomfort in a relationship it’s helpful to look at the forces individually. Work unilaterally in the pose as you would look at your own part in an argument. Maybe look and feel how one group as one side is different than the other.  Then take measures to make the best “deal” for each side.   Perhaps you guessed that I’ve got the contentious governing body on my mind. The incoming is trying to make the best deal for one group. Healthcare and tax reform are big topics. The filter of my yoga mind sees we the people and the people of the world as one...

Your Yoga Practice is a Tandem Rowboat Race

The two rowers rowing in ‘tandem‘, need to be well matched and synchronized to make this work. If one pulls too hard or the other not enough, the boat will go off course. You have two of each limb, this many fingers, these toes, matching hips etc. which is why you buy two shoes, two gloves, two legged pants. But they don’t work exactly the same way. They may even look different on close inspection but you don’t notice. It’s like, how long have you had that mole? I don’t know. What mole!   We don’t notice the subtle differences one side to the other because they don’t matter until we are uncomfortable.   The intelligent way to practice yoga when you want to refine your impressions is to work unilaterally.   Divide the body down the spinal line to conquer habit and dullness. Bring your awareness to the skull as well, divided by the bridge of the nose. When you can expand your focus to hold more events at once, you will unite and conquer the same postures that can otherwise be your downfall.   For example, you can spread your collarbones and stop or you can see if one or the other can move again. The one that can move again would not have had the opportunity if you had left it at the first pass. Behind, the shoulder girdle and its muscles will become uneven in effort and tone as well. This will effect the spinal muscles which will effect the pelvis.   The tailbone is an interesting place to consider as well.  You can’t see...