have you read poser?
Boundless offers a yoga book club as part of our monthly membership. This month our yoga book is Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Poses by Claire Dederer. It’s book about how 23 yoga shapes relate to a woman’s life experience, as a mother. It’s been selected as a book of the month on Amazon earlier this year, and it continues to receive very passionate reviews.
It’s interesting to think of yoga shapes as having themes – this is the premise of the book. In my practice, a shape could have one theme one day, and the next day, another theme. I can’t, for example, say all my forward folds have a “relaxing” theme. I have days when folding forward is a humbling introduction to my own tension. Perhaps it is the paradox and the paying attention that is the theme? I like to think that finding the mystery in your poses – the points of change (and even confusion!) in your body, supports the joy of asana. I can’t wait to read Poser, and I’m very excited to offer you our member updates on the blog about book club!
yoga in the a.m.
i wanted to let you know that we have an amazing group of women teaching early morning yoga each week. come in to studio on tuesday, wednesday, or thursday at 6:15 a.m. to check out valerie lanham, leah markowitz, and katie myer’s early morning yoga classes.
a cute message from val: Come out Tuesday morning to join an engaging group for early morning yoga! This is really the best time of the day to practice, a loving way to wake up your body. I began taking the 6:15 am class at Boundless when it began. When the teacher of many years left, I took over the class and have been teaching it for the last three years. People who take the class say things like, “I was much more aware during my day, I had more energy and wow I should do this every morning.” Give it a try, you can even show up in your PJ’s!
and cute message #2 from leah markowitz: The sun is already streaming in your bedroom window, so why not admit that you’re awake, hop out of bed, and do some yoga! Come join the Wednesday morning 6:15 class for an energizing and conscious way to start your day! You’ll stretch, strengthen, and even smile, all the more prepared for whatever else the rest of Wednesday may bring.
katie myer is a wonderful new teacher at studio, and she teaches the thursday morning class – and she says: Join us Thursday mornings for Anusara-Inspired yoga at 6:15am. Anusara yoga is a hatha-based school of yoga that combines a life-affirming philosophy with principles of alignment. Start your day with an uplifting and mindful practice designed to help you play your edge while you honor your body. You will move into your day more centered in your heart and open in your body, able to take on whatever comes your way with grace and purpose. See you on the mat!
um. what’s better than a music festival with outdoor yoga? correct. nothing! that’s why wanderlust is explosively spreading like wildfire all across the nation. please take 2 seconds to learn more about this incredible event. this year has already boasted events in new york, san francisco, pheonix, and dallas to name a few. upcoming fests are scheduled for: vermont, chicago, north lake tahoe, santa monica, and squaw valley.
be there or be square. and when ya coming to dc, wanderlust?
The focus of my practice in yoga right now is finding the balance between softening and striving. As a person who has done well to embody our culture’s values of doing, achieving, and working hard all the time, in my yoga practice (and my life) I have to consciously focus on the not-doing and not-achieving to find balance. Which makes navasana (boat pose) a particular challenge for me. Unlike tadasana or down dog or many other yoga asanas, it’s a serious challenge for me to find softness and full acceptance of my body – exactly as it is – while doing navasana.
Boat pose is a fairly unique posture in yoga because, unlike almost all the others we do regularly, in navasana we can see most of our exterior bodies. In forward folds, back bends, balances, and twists, we’re usually either looking out beyond our bodies, or at the ground, or maybe down at our shins in forward folds. But in navasana, I find myself peering out at my toes, and then inevitably my eyes drift down a little to take inventory of my pose. I look to see how high I’ve brought my legs (compared to yesterday or compared to the student across the room from me or compared to Mr. Iyengar), and how straight they are, and how much I’m trembling. And I try to remind myself that it’s not about accomplishment, but then my legs start really shaking and I wish I were better at this pose.
And navasana really can bring out the achiever in all of us, since our boats can vary so dramatically. Some of us look graceful like the models in the yoga magazines, with bright, tight legs up in the air – I like to imagine these are the fancy yachts of navasana. But for a lot of us, the more appropriate boat for the occasion – for our body on this day – might have our knees bent, our shins parallel to the floor, maybe even our palms wrapped gently around the back of the thighs to help lighten our opening heart and chest. It can feel like a much lower navasana status – like we’re relegated to the rowboat instead of the race boat.
But of course this is where yoga practice comes alive. If I can let go of hierarchy and remember to practice ahimsa – non-harming, including non-harming of my own body – then my yoga practice feels real. This is the gift of navasana. It reminds me that the pose is simply a teacher, and that the true practice is finding both strength and softness deep in my core and in my heart and in my mind, the places my wandering eyes cannot see.
Don’t rock the boat, baby
On Navasana or Boat Pose
Now that I’m pregnant with my second child, I especially miss boat pose. It is a pose of strength, grace, and calm.
Most of us don’t feel that way when we practice it. Even as a teacher, I feel myself getting tense on the students’ behalf when I instruct, “Straight legs! Lift your chest! Soften the shoulders!” This pose is challenging because it deals directly with the core body that remains so woefully unattended as we sit in chair, cars, couches, and other “slouchy” pieces of furniture. Were we to practice Mountain Pose, Staff Pose and even Half-Standing-Forward Fold, Navasana or Boat Pose would feel more easeful and steady as asanas, or poses, are meant to feel.
And yet, we love to hate this pose (or vice versa) because it *is* so challenging and makes us sore the next day. We learn from it that we need to strengthen our core and loosen up our groins, because both take a beating when we practice this pose with rigidity and fierceness, rather than focus, steadiness, and grace.
Think of how you feel when you’re sitting in a boat in calm waters. It’s so relaxing! This is literally the steadiness that your muscular body wants to offer your breath and nervous system in Boat Pose. So keep trying this pose, this one that we all love in June anyway as it’s so close to bathing suit season! Even a little bit of work in it pays off — just like a nice trip to the lake does!
work trade at boundless!
boundless is looking for students who are interested in various styles of work trade with the studio, in exchange for yoga classes. please email firstname.lastname@example.org for details!
light on the ground
in an age where independence is as fashionable as fashion itself, it is downright uncool to ‘dis autonomy. as i see it, even the most community-conscious of us in dc still happily value our (very important) sense of self-agency. the ability to make choices for your self, to steer your own ship through this sea of life is to be sure a smiled-upon art. expecially in a city such as this.
it isn’t easy then to convince a roomful of bodies that they, too, require support. Admitting your body needs support is what you do in say, an A.A. meeting – not during your weekly workout, right? where you go to build strength and flexibility and balance and to center — to be a better YOU, (the independent, unique and self-supporting you.) Right? (smiling)
still. it is a matter of fact that we all require a (specific) degree of support from the earth. it is pure physics. you cannot stand without gravity and ground. this week i challenge you to stand with this awareness. that every cell in your body is supported by the earth. perhaps you will move in a new way.
lighter? on the ground
petal by petal
We teach alignment in yoga asanas not out of fear that we’re doing something wrong in a pose, but rather to find the truest form of the body, a body in line with the universe, a body that becomes one with it. Looking only for misalignments is easy. We only think it’s hard in the beginning because every time we find something “wrong,” we judge ourselves: “it’s bad that I’m so tight.” “I’m not flexible enough to do this.” “I’ll never be that good at that pose.” “Slow-moving yoga is boring.” We think in yoga we have to work hard – to focus on our hamstrings in standing-forward bend, tight backs in twists, floppy arms in handstand – in order to get it right.
But it’s all “right.” It’s alright. Misalignment is simply a form of resistance, a mind/body stubbornness that shunts our spirits deeper into a body (just a shape, after all) of conditioned reactions to stress, self-protection, even ambition. We think we have to “hold it together,” when we have no choice than to do the opposite: we must unfold, piece by piece, until we are so wide open it hurts like blinding light, at which point we become the life force, the prana, that we invite in every time we inhale.
in his poem “somewhere i have never traveled,” E.E. cummings writes:
though i have closed myself as fingers
you always open petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skillfully, mysteriously) her first rose
While we think the real difficulty is re-aligning (or, for most of us, un-misaligning), it’s relaxing into the flow that is hard – because it’s scary to let go of control, the very control that developed a body so out of step with the bigger picture in the first place.
When you do yoga, really do it, you’re stepping into this bigger picture, getting your toes wet at the edge of the ocean (realizing that your toe, 90% water, isn’t much different from the ocean at all). By getting your toes wet you’re stepping into your own understanding of the universe, which, indeed, functions only with you in it.
Structure is a very special beast. It can provide comfort at its best, and make you feel like you are confined to the time out corner at its worst. I’m currently questioning the amount of structure that I bring into my own practice and wonder if others have struggled with the same issue in their practice. I am finally acknowledging the fact that in a one bedroom apartment with a hyper-active dog and a work schedule that seems to get updated every 36 hours, my practice is going to have to adapt in length and style.
I was trained to move through at least and hour of practice on my mat, starting with warm ups, including strenuous asanas and ending with savasana and seated meditation. These days, I am finding that my practice must incorporate more square footage than my sticky mat and more moments than one long sequence. The edge of the kitchen counter allows me to do a great version of L-Dog at the sink to relieve my back while doing dishes. The walk to the park with my dog is a moving meditation. My pranayama happens in full repose as the first part of waking up in the morning and the last part of laying down before sleep. When I do roll out the mat, I am spending more time with my props, isolating certain muscles and learning how to “feel” poses so that I can teach them all the better to my students. In short, my practice has become more integrated with my daily activities. I miss the feeling of a regular daily practice, no question, but I also discover some great insights in these intermittent moments.
For now, structure is an elusive beast.