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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...

Light Peeks Through the Cracks of Our Broken Home

The Inauguration of Joe Biden 2021 Spring air teases the forsythia and bluebirds forward. The white cold light of winter still shines slantingly through my Southern facing windows this early dawn. It will soon shift to the northern side of this house and morning will be less of a call to attention as the days drift on for hours, eventually bleeding into night. On this day that Donald Trump departs he will take despair with him. He will carry the crushing weight of hate away on the country’s helicopter. His departure will unclog the suffocating sludge of contention that has sucked the oxygen from our people. It will feel that way for some of us. Some of us will follow the fumes kicked up by his dust, hoping to stay in his reality star story. Some will choose lies but most will roll over with exhaustion hoping for an unbroken rest now that he’s been replaced by a human being whether it be in defeat of their vote or victory. Will we emerge from the bunker rolls of toilet paper and paper towels to wonder at our prison walls? Will we stare in confusion at the storehouse of swabs, sanitizers, soaps and wipes stuffed into corners? Will we ever look at a communal bowl of food without horror? Will we find the old friends waiting and pick up the pieces as they’d never broken? What do our jobs that were lost mean now? Were we necessary and is there a place for us? What do the jobs we’ve done from home feel like when we take them back to...

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...

We Are the People We Will Become

  We identify ourselves with some certainty. Smart, twitchy, resourceful, stubborn, kind, hard working, easy going, generous, like that. Is that it? Is it absolute? Seeds of change are dormant in all life forms. Both possibilities and pandemic. Stress forces them to mutate. Forces  adaptation. All life forms wired to survive.    Dis-ease threatens and unease arises. We change our habits. But also our behavior. What happens in reaction?   In yoga, once dormant comes to life with deliberate breath and movement. We name it “consciousness”. Knocks on the door and then breaks it down. This knowingness challenges our opinion of truth.   Forget who we were before this terrible tempest. Crisis now an opportunity. For curiosity. Respective human and humaneness magnified. Who are you?   Close your eyes. Repeat “I am” to yourself again and again. I am…….. What shows up? Keep going until nothing else comes up. Until “I am” is all. And...