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Down Dog in One Two Three

Downward facing dog is a spinal stretch. Though the posture tones the arms and stretches the back of the legs and though this is a prerequisite to finding the spinal stretch, those limbs are just the path to the destination. The connection to the spine comes from opposition in the arms and legs. The spine has a component in the muscles of the lower gut as well as those that envelope the back. Once you’ve got enough arm strength to hold yourself in plank pose for a minute or more and once you’ve gotten enough space in the hamstrings, the backs of the legs, to lie on your back with straight legs able to go 45 degrees or more, you’re ready. Take plank pose Throw your hips in the air and suck the gut into the spine. Urge your arms forward and keep them there as you Push your thighs backward heels high. Reach your heels away from your toes and downward Imagine the ears to the wrists and the neck will release. Each inhale will touch the tissue of the lower back and the exhales touch the tissue of the lower belly. You are stretching spinal muscles and the guide wire of the spine which originates in the front of the hips and attaches through the lower belly to the spine. Hips Head Heels One Two Three Good...

Yoga Journalist.

I have less than an hour to get through to a group of college students. They are not consistent here at Vanderbilt. There’s no way to deepen a practice when every yoga class has to be an experience for new beginners. A journalist checklist creates a strong foundation for yoga that anyone can relate to. I offer it to them as a way to consider themselves as they take the plunge. Who What Where When Why How Taken out of order this makes most sense. How do I do this, where do I feel this, when do I feel it and how can I change it, what is the process, who am I in this context. If the yoga experience is informative or enlightening, when and why will be answered by the other questions. But every question must be answered for the story to reveal the facts.  ...

Sensory Yoga in Hair Raising Times ~ Namaste

February 2021. Soft hands belie a commitment to hand sanitizers as the Pandemic forges onward. Corona Easter Bunny 2020 by Hilary Those souls whose sensory overload comes quickly in the best of times are quickest to notice the rawness of skin now washed in a constant acid bath of battle. No lotion soothes these scoured parts, those instruments of giving and receiving for too human bodies. The skin the world sees, the skin of the organs, the skin of the breath and even the mind is chafed and chapped and twitchy. We are fragile and too tender for the fight. Being thin skinned takes on a sharp meaning when the thickness of ones skin implies protection. In a world where beauty certainly isn’t only skin deep, at a time when we are forced to the surface hourly in an attempt to come up for news that is the air defining our days, we live on the surface. The yoga teacher urges the student toward the down under. Seek the quiet beneath the surf for answers to your urgent question. Who am I? What’s happening? What is real? One might see living beneath the surface now as denial or detachment or worse, disassociation. Underground is a dirty word aligned with other words like the “dark web”. The underground rises to the surface again and again. It is blind and desperate for a light. It will not be ignored. On the surface it crashed the nation’s Capitol in a murderous rage. On the surface it is a violent virus burning holes in the skin of lungs. But in yoga we encourage...

Broken Yogi 2020

Yoga combats arthritis, scoliosis, osteoporosis, imbalances, muscle weakness, pain and mental suffering. Or it increases it. Everything is the result of how you’re made and how you do things. And then there is how you are guided to manage these things. Organization, meaning how our body organizes itself, is key but we are mostly messy and subject to outside opinions of “cleanliness”. In yoga cleanliness is not described as the opposite of dirty but an inner shine. It is a component of a larger picture of contentment. In the late eighties and nineties many of us yoga enthusiasts were taught to invite discomfort, to force ourselves past normal range of motion, to work till the breath was ragged and then work to control that breath. It was stimulating, emotionally revealing, challenging in the best of ways. It did feel like making diamonds from carbon. Yoga was young in the U.S.. We were young. For many bodies that was fine until time changed those bodies and the practice naturally evolved with aging. For some bodies that was fine until it wasn’t and it was too late to undo the damage. About 25 years ago I began to feel the effects of pushing my body to the limit. In fairness I’d been told by a rheumatologist that my ligaments lacked integrity and yoga was the worst thing my body could do. It would destroy me. I discounted that at a time when movement came so easily and yoga was a dance that satisfied me wholly. I probably should have stuck to my own practice of dance incorporating yoga as that never...

WIRED.

  I always ask them, why did you come to yoga today? Most of them stay silent hoping I’ll ignore them or just do anything, anything other than demand an answer. Today a couple of folks wanted a body mind connection.   You will move your body. You will breathe with intention to inspire that movement. That will connect your body and mind. But your mind is a tricky construct created between you and impressions of the world. It is both your protector and foil. You want to connect to more of yourself than that. But the mind says there is nothing more. This is the work. And the work is intimacy that you were trained to avoid.   We are a network of nerves.   What does that have to do with your yoga practice? You came here expecting to move in familiar ways. You came here expecting me to tell you to breathe as if that was the measure of your endurance or consciousness, as if that done with precision will mean the yoga is working.   We see, hear, taste, smell, touch and think of that which comes in from an outside source. We have another sense of our movement in relation to space. Simultaneously, we have internal senses that measure impressions of the world within. These senses dictate our behavior both consciously and automatically.  We are a matrix of nerves wired to compute 24/7. We are not familiar with all of ourselves because all of ourselves is vast beyond present measurement.   People come to yoga for relief and they try to blow past sensations...

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...