615.419.3604 hilary@activeyoga.com

Live in the Moment? How?

You are human and you think about the future. The future is a mystery that is scary. We are wired for danger. We are born for stress. It’s how we survived as a species. Now it seems to be killing some of us.   People tell you to live in the moment. What does that mean? Of course you live in the moment. The moment is the life. You also consider the next moment. That way you have food. And a roof. Or at least a raincoat. You learned about that because of the past.   There is so much to consider in a microwave  life where every moment presents an opportunity to slide into sloth.  I mean, you don’t consider consequences but live in the moment.  A pint of ice cream and a bag of chips seemed like a good idea in that moment. So did the next drink or the trip home with a stranger. There is that too but is that what the new age pundits are recommending? Before you beat yourself up for succumbing to what seems the less enlightened version of be here now,  consider that there is no such thing as the present because you are a compound of past present and future happening all at once always. You can’t live in just one of those things because they are not separate. What you can do is manage your reactions by observing them. Managing your reactions may result in better choices. It’s all about observation and ironically desire to be free of desire or a victim of your past.   You are frustrated...

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 “Move Energy” Mean in Your Yoga Class?

Energy is shrouded in mystery because we can’t see it. What we see and feel as the materialization of energy can be confusing as well.  Yoga is sometimes described as a method to manage energy. That refers to the energy of thought and intention. The means to that is physical energy because physical gives bodily sensation to something intangible. In yoga we create the sensation of energy by giving it weight. We contract muscles to create force. We synchronize the restriction and release of the muscles in coordination with the breath.  The first weight is made by the windpipe.  The breath becomes sensational and intimate as you orchestrate the narrowing of the windpipe to hear breath and feel it in a pleasing way.   There are also muscle groups that act as sphincters or round muscles. The constriction of those sphincters is sometimes referred to as bandhas.   Bandhas turn on as we create force along the spine, pelvis and shoulders by engaging the muscles of the limbs, buttocks and belly with precision to ignite our posture. The effort of the muscles will have varying effects on our spine depending on the pose. We are not just moving muscles and bones but corralling energy to become form.   Asana is the intensification of awareness. When that awareness dissipates we can escalate the movement of energy by tweaking the posture. We are moving energy. A finished posture is the eye of the storm. Force formed a shape to contain the quiet. Then energy no longer needed weight. You became the sum of that energy for the moment until something shifted...

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....

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...

“Yoga in America”

My chapter published in the book of the same name titled Yoga in America in 2006 reprinted here for students of yoga     A support group                                                                      The joy of community and the awareness of one’s singular peculiarities The first solitary foray into the wilderness The awakening of a budding teen The first trip to a foreign land The promise of peace A step toward the truth The struggle to be creative and the fight to be competitive The running of the bulls What your friend did to lose weight The sweetness of Satchidananda and the sternness of Iyengar Competitive, corporate, and consumer driven Clothes, gear, and music A traveling circus of superstars The video on the television set of the Kansas farm wife. The workout of the suburban housewife and the Hollywood star An option on the fitness menu at The Golden Door Spa A small class at the community center Offered in rehab and at the local church The silence of meditation and the hip hop on the Dee jay’s playlist Recognized as” Hot” Forever considered cool A rapt audience The innocence of the unsophisticated offering obeisance to the cloth The condemned tenement on New York’s lower East side transformed into a multi-million dollar Mecca An ingredient tossed into aerobics and strength training classes An escape from stress A chance to improve Where East meets West Used to be patchouli and now it’s nag champa Disguised by different titles Confused with enlightenment A step toward enlightenment The memory of the first kiss and the practice of the last breath An open marriage with secret resentments Where groovy...