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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...

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 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....

Asana Happens Behind the Scenes: Inquiry and Experience #10

Note: This is for intermediate students   What draws the viewer’s eye to a yoga pose is the surface. The viewer does not observe the work beneath the surface but if the pose is executed with grace it is because the work beneath the surface is done with integrity.   This is balance through opposition. This is bridging the places in between. This is the bandhas. Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon) is an excellent posture to demonstrate this lesson. Assume the posture with your back to the wall and the right foot leading. You will use the wall for support for the back body, including your head. The right foot is a few inches from the wall to accommodate the pelvis. Bend the right knee until it’s over the ankle and then lift the right knee to lift the right hip. Allow the left leg, the back leg, to rise and stop when you feel resistance. Pulse the back leg and up and down a few inches. Stop and observe. With the left leg stuck at the point of resistance, lift up vigorously with the right ankle bone to ignite the lift of the knee and then the hip. The buttocks muscles will respond and begin the rotation of the pelvis. The muscles will move to the bones and pull the skeleton to the mid-line. That is the impetus and support that now allows you to raise the back leg higher. Raise the left leg firmly and note the relation between the two legs. Assume the posture Supta Padangusthasana,(Reclining Hand to Foot Pose) with your back on the floor.  Place...

Empty Footprints and the Bandhas: Inquiry and Experience #9

  Stand in Mountain Pose, Tadasana Feet root to the ground, tail roots to the heels, head rises from the tail, chest rises and arms draw down   Shift to one leg and raise the other foot in the air, knee bent Where does your tongue go? Is it at the roof of the mouth? Is there hardness to the breath? Can you feel the pinch of the pelvic floor and the tightening of the diaphragm? This is the drawing in of the sphincter muscles that correspond to the bandhas Are you gripping?   Stand down   Step forward purposefully as if over your own arch and raise the other foot, knee bent Is the tongue in a different place? Is it at the bottom of the mouth? Is there softness to the breath? Can you feel the light lift of the pelvic floor and the soft expanse of the diaphragm? Is this easier?   When there is too much effort, the trunk clamps down on itself and confines you. When you try to gain space in a posture done with wrong effort, that space may not be good space but compressed space. There will be a lack of prana or grace. When you include space when creating your pose, that space will be good. There will be a sense of prana or good flowing energy and grace. Asana is interpreted as good space. The bandha tone comes naturally when the muscles are directed correctly. This is a combination of sthira and sukkha which is effort and ease. Good space during effort is described by the bandhas. The bandhas...