615.419.3604 hilary@activeyoga.com

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...

Your Yoga is Like Monday Morning Quarterbacking

The expression Monday morning quarterback refers to assessing how things should have been done after the fact. You know what was best after things went south by a wrong direction.   I learned the hard way that a physical practice could be disastrous down the road.  I learned at least a dozen times in a dozen ways with a dozen parts of myself.   As I observe the group of beginning yoga students before me, I consider the path I will send them on. I know that much of what I say will be lost to many of them no matter what I say. Still, there is something I can tell them of taking care of themselves in a group experience.   This class is an elective and should be treated that way. No tests. No grades. No pressure. You do not know how you will respond to a particular movement until you have done it. That is fundamental and ironic. Therefore, you should proceed thoughtfully even though you have no thoughts that pertain to this except mine as you follow my directions. You will trust me more than yourselves. Until I’m vetted do not do that. In fact, don’t ever do that. My directions are specific for the sake of form but not specific to you. I don’t know you. You will have to meet yourselves. The way to start is to breathe intentionally and follow the thread of breath with your movement. No breath, no movement. No faking. As you figure out the best way to organize your poses, you will notice that this is not absolute....

Asana Happens Behind the Scenes: Inquiry and Experience #10

Note: This is for intermediate students   What draws the viewer’s eye to a yoga pose is the surface. The viewer does not observe the work beneath the surface but if the pose is executed with grace it is because the work beneath the surface is done with integrity.   This is balance through opposition. This is bridging the places in between. This is the bandhas. Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon) is an excellent posture to demonstrate this lesson. Assume the posture with your back to the wall and the right foot leading. You will use the wall for support for the back body, including your head. The right foot is a few inches from the wall to accommodate the pelvis. Bend the right knee until it’s over the ankle and then lift the right knee to lift the right hip. Allow the left leg, the back leg, to rise and stop when you feel resistance. Pulse the back leg and up and down a few inches. Stop and observe. With the left leg stuck at the point of resistance, lift up vigorously with the right ankle bone to ignite the lift of the knee and then the hip. The buttocks muscles will respond and begin the rotation of the pelvis. The muscles will move to the bones and pull the skeleton to the mid-line. That is the impetus and support that now allows you to raise the back leg higher. Raise the left leg firmly and note the relation between the two legs. Assume the posture Supta Padangusthasana,(Reclining Hand to Foot Pose) with your back on the floor.  Place...

Excellent Article on Plantar Fasciitis and Yoga for Your Barefoot Feet from Me

Below and also here is a link to an excellent article on plantar fasciitis.  I’ve given you yoga postures to help with strength and flexibility to assist you. For strength: Tadasana or Mountain Pose Standing with feet slightly apart lift all ten toes to feel the arches rise. Press into the base of the toes. Look at them. Are the little toes coming up as well? Put toes down and maintain the lift of the arches. Lift the arches of the inner knees, the inner groins and lift the inner arches of the hip bones. Pick up the skin of the legs and feet. Pick up  the abdomen. To increase awareness, raise your arms, firm the muscle to the bone and pick up the skin of the chest. Soften so there is action without strain. Feel and hold the memory with steady breaths.   For flexibility: Vjrasana or Hero Pose and Modifications Kneel on blanket with knees together. Press calves back and sit on heels. Re-position by lifting hips and holding heels together to sit back again with sit bones behind heels which will press the heels forward. If the ankles can stretch more, put a rolled blanket under toes and sit again. If the ankles are tender and need support, put a rolled blanket under the ankles and sit again. If the knees are stiff have another rolled blanket behind the knees or a folded blanket under the buttocks between the feet. Binding the ankles with a strap is the final stretch for the inner ankles but not necessary. You just need manageable sensation. To stretch the outer...

Empty Footprints and the Bandhas: Inquiry and Experience #9

  Stand in Mountain Pose, Tadasana Feet root to the ground, tail roots to the heels, head rises from the tail, chest rises and arms draw down   Shift to one leg and raise the other foot in the air, knee bent Where does your tongue go? Is it at the roof of the mouth? Is there hardness to the breath? Can you feel the pinch of the pelvic floor and the tightening of the diaphragm? This is the drawing in of the sphincter muscles that correspond to the bandhas Are you gripping?   Stand down   Step forward purposefully as if over your own arch and raise the other foot, knee bent Is the tongue in a different place? Is it at the bottom of the mouth? Is there softness to the breath? Can you feel the light lift of the pelvic floor and the soft expanse of the diaphragm? Is this easier?   When there is too much effort, the trunk clamps down on itself and confines you. When you try to gain space in a posture done with wrong effort, that space may not be good space but compressed space. There will be a lack of prana or grace. When you include space when creating your pose, that space will be good. There will be a sense of prana or good flowing energy and grace. Asana is interpreted as good space. The bandha tone comes naturally when the muscles are directed correctly. This is a combination of sthira and sukkha which is effort and ease. Good space during effort is described by the bandhas. The bandhas...

Naked Yoga

  Students of yoga benefit from a teacher’s eyes upon them. Teachers don’t usually see their students naked (just skate over that statement please) and seasoned teachers don’t need to but you can learn volumes observing your naked body in front of a mirror.   Before I knew I my hip had become arthritic and before I had herniated a disc doing a backbend with a secretly too stuck hip and before I had torn the rotator cuff opposite the stuck hip pulling vines, I watched my body shift and ignored it. I wasn’t in pain. My image was just less symmetrical. When did that happen? I chose to ignore it as I am a steadfast practitioner of denial.   A massage therapist noted my ribs shifted right and hips shifted left. A chiropractor’s x-ray revealed a compromised sacrum but it didn’t feel like much until I just misused myself up. Pain forced me to take action.   Naked in front of the mirror I stood in Tadasana. My front line veered right. The inseam of my right inner thigh rose several inches longer than the left. My right hip was higher, my right waist shorter. My right foot turned out and dropped in the interior arch. My right collar bone was shorter.   Tree pose, Extended Angle, Warrior I and II shined light. I added a rearview mirror to see my lumbar spine snake right before it disappeared in Ardha Uttanasana. (Half forward fold.) I was turned and twisted.   I stood at ease to view the habits of my form and reintegrated my structure from the ground...