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...

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....

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...

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....

“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...

“Nature” by Goethe

  He says it so well that on this rare and lovely white frozen weekend I give you a guest to the yoga lab; the great writer, Goethe. Remember my friends that we are nature too.   Nature!      We are encompassed and enveloped by her, powerless to emerge and powerless to penetrate deeper.    Unbidden and unwarned she takes us up in the round of her dance and sweeps us along, until exhausted we fall from her arms.      She has placed me her: she will lead me hence-    I confide myself to her.    She may do with me what she will: she will not despise her work.    I speak not of her. No, what is true and what is false, she herself has spoken all.    All the fault is hers; hers is all the glory……Goethe   Hope you yogis are enjoying the full moon snow that ushers in a new year. Happy 2016 again and again.  ...