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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....

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....

My Back Door to Yoga Therapist

Yoga was a gift from a friend.  Later I sought meditation to get me through college final exams. I was a rebellious teen becoming sensitized though I didn’t mean to.   Running from a life of certainty I became staff at a Macrobiotic restaurant. The staff was given classes in Macrobiotics by the head chef. You are what you eat. You are who you eat. You are how you eat. Doors of the mind opened. This was the seventies.   Base is everything. As the Macros say, “little yin attracts big yin” which meant that a taste of something is enough to suck you into something bigger. It was not a good thing with yin food (talking sugar etc. here) but it was a great thing with movement.   I danced.  Ballet, Modern and Haitian lead me to the worn wooden floors of dozens of somatic studios. This is how I move, how I look, how I feel. Aerobics, Pilates, Barre, Power Yoga, Feldenkrais, Tai Chi, Breema; the avenues were endless if you were inclined to find them even at the edge of the fitness revolution.   From the weird to the woo- woo, to the sublime, to the scientific I dove in to things that seemed to jump out to find me. In California I embraced color healing, sound healing and acupuncture. I tried colonics, dream therapy, re-birthing and then there was Dora Lee the chiropractor who told me to make a list of all my unresolved relationships. She pressed my spine; asked me who number 10 was as the room filled with the smell of cigarette smoke;...

So You’re Worried About Yoga Injuries? Here’s Some Excellent Advice.

      Inquiry and Experience #6 and #7   There’s a surge of disclosure on yoga injuries due to the quickly growing number of students and their use of social media. Don’t panic. Although you will likely be injured at one time or another doing yoga (including muscle strain as injury), it’s unlikely to have a lasting effect for the majority of you.   On the other hand you might get yourself in trouble if you have a condition that will be ill served by the yoga practice you’ve engaged in. Not every body should do every thing. You may have a health or skeletal, soft tissue or muscular issue that warrants caution. Even those of sound body can be at risk engaging in the wrong practice or becoming overzealous. Innocent people have suffered at the hands of unskilled or thoughtless teachers as well.   Here’s my sincere advice for new and old students:   Stay in Your Own Lane ~ move at your own pace and do the best you can without overreaching. You might research range of motion often referred to as R.O.M. Everyone’s is different but there are normal ranges. Are you practicing for a circus career? Can you be content not putting your foot behind your head like the guy next to you? Take a good look. Do you really want to look like that? No. It’s damn unattractive and you don’t.   Pay Attention ~ this is the fruit of staying interested and the two are co-dependent. Don’t space out or move by rote. Notice everything about sensation. Take your time. Notice everything...