615.419.3604 hilary@activeyoga.com

Rest the Meat: Experience in Yoga

  I love cooking shows even when they cook meat.  Cooks have a description called resting the meat which stays with me because I’m horrified by the image of eating blood. You let the cooked meat sit before cutting into it so the juices rest back to the flesh. I don’t mind being horrified as much as I enjoy the delights of seasoning, menus and presentation.   I recalled the latest cooking demo as I lead a group of students into a rest between poses one day. I marked a vigorous floor sequence and lay on the floor with them to visualize their rest. I pictured one meat image and then another. I recalled the description falling off the bone to describe tender meat and then the phrase “rest the meat”.   I asked forgiveness for sharing those images but getting real, we are flesh and bone and so…..It was not hard to feel the blood settle in resting flesh that had been squeezed and stretched. With time the bones were liberated toward the floor.   Shocking images wake us up. It’s a bit excessive to relate a subtle inquiry to the body of a butchered and cooked animal but it worked. Hope this works for...

Pranayama by Michael Stone

Yoga teacher Michael Stone has a gift for conveying imagery through words with a tenderness that is unique. I am putting his newsletter on Pranayama here because it is everything I could say in words I had not thought of. He is remarkable. Check him out. The link is first and I’ve copied his copy below. All credit to Michael Stone.   https://michaelstoneteaching.com/pranayama-1-practices/?utm_source=Michael+Stone+Newsletter&utm_campaign=5f19a8a3fe-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_06_05&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_6b6fe36477-5f19a8a3fe-122510405         Pranayama 1: Practices   Pattabhi Jois said that pranayama practice was like plugging yourself in to a 12,000 volt outlet. Some confuse the endorphin rush of extended inhales and exhales with what should really be going on: ease and pleasure. The best part about chanting is not chanting. The afterglow, the clean taste in the palette when it’s finished. Ujayyi Pranayama Pranayama means the energy of prana. We’re ayaming (unrestraining) the prana. Ujayyi means victorious, and up. We’re stretching the threads of the breath to release the prana. The inhale and exhale are conditioned by samskaras – your scars of gender, culture, Stephen Harper, childhood, the Keystone XL Pipeline proposal. All this can be found in your breath. Doing pranayama means becoming a connoisseur of the breath. Inside the breath there are gravestones, habits, flows of the past, nervous system indicators/regulators, immune system indicators/regulators. We practice to comb through all the layers of the prana. Inhaling and exhaling through the nose tones the glottis. Try to produce just enough tone in the vocal diaphragm so you can hear an aspirant breath, but so your neighbour can’t hear it. It’s like when you’re whispering – then you are also toning the vocal diaphragm....

In Yoga Two is One Alone

  Unintentionally there is a disservice in yoga classes. After a student does a pose on one side, that side becomes a standard for the second. I tell my students that expecting one limb to behave like the one on the other side is like telling your kid he should have gotten an A because his brother got one.   Students are taught as if there is a correct way to do a pose but the way offered is that of a factory made doll. We start with the picture of absolute symmetry because it is neutral but in fact that is only a baseline as we are all built differently. Even the relationship of bone lengths differ person to person. And then most of us have experienced injuries that changed relationships again.   Students notice that one side performs or behaves differently than the other. The awareness is less a problem than the work ethic of expecting the other side to be equivalent. When you are on the second arm or leg or the second side of a pose, treat it as if it is not the second but the first. You are still using the same guidelines, going in the same direction. But once differences have been established, by clearing the confusion of comparison your first second side will have a chance to shine.   You are cultivating awareness with discernment which is both sophisticated and subtle.  It takes patience. This is something that comes with experience. Keep going. The journey is often tedious and even boring at times but the rewards come and they are great....

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...