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...

One Day at Middle School

They come from disparate worlds. They are many colors and many income bracketed families. It takes a no time to see how many struggle or don’t even bother to pay attention. Some of them come every week but every week there are newcomers as well. Yoga is simply a means to focus attention and hold attention I tell them. To do that, we use our bodies. I ask them not to talk to each other during class unless it is a necessity. The class is short I tell them. This will let us make the most of our time. This will help us pay attention. I ask them to follow me in a wide squat. I drop one shoulder and then another. We are squatting. We are twisting I tell them. And we are breathing. We will lose our attention toward the squatting and twisting and we will find our breath to bring us back to our movement. We will be in charge of that movement. We will practice this and we will eventually do it in our own way and in our own time but we will keep moving unless we need to rest. We will be good to ourselves and the people in our room because that will make things easier for us. We will move in rhythm with the breath, I say as they continue to follow me. I raise my arms overhead in mountain. Breathe in and as we bend forward with bent knees I ask them to breathe out. A little boy named Marcel who hugs me before class has stopped and is swinging...