Posts Tagged ‘on hatha yoga’
Desk Jockey Spine Straightening, 1
A friend, John, asked me over the weekend what to do about the pain in his low back. This happens often, because so many people have back pain. John’s problems come from years of sitting slouched in school and work chairs. And all the other chairs. Different from Angela’s back, John’s back is seized up and tight in his quadratus lumborum, which is extremely common for guys.
Following are literally the A, B, and C of the problem, and the two things John can do — five minutes a day! — to alleviate or remove the pain in his back.
A: The low back and butt have become one. The above-mentioned quadratus muscles become weak and tight, and as they are the hamstrings of the back, they tighten all the way to the backs of the knees. Think of how you look sitting in a chair (better yet, feel it).
B: The low belly and inner groins are dropping away from the spine. Everyone who owns a chair deals with this. The belly organs need to lift away from the pelvis via the abdominals and better action in the thigh bones: We need to stand through the pelvis, on the legs. What we do today is collapse into the pelvis and on to — almost all of us.
C. The outer hips/thighs grip to try and bring the belly and groins back in. This area is also to a degree an extension of the low back and butt. However, the body is very intelligent as it seeks to solve its own problems before it tries to get your attention. In this case, the outer hips/thighs are gripping in an attempt to make the abdominals engage so that the belly and groins move back into the body.
All desk jockeys need to do #1 and #2 to lengthen their spine and feel better in their back and posture overall. Five minutes a day, with conscious breathing, and a regular class with a well-educated yoga teacher is all it takes.
- Uttanasana with Block and Chair
- Down Dog (Adho Mukha Savasana) with block
- Pigeon Pose
- Upavista Konasana
- Badha Konasana
- Janu Sirsasana
- **Progress in shoulder girdle.
- Felt lift of shoulder girdle from top of diaphragm. More breath and space, space in 3rd eye also
- Supta Virasana
- Headstand (Sirsasana)
- Shoulderstand (Sarvangasana)
boundless teacher mission
so the teachers and i just finished co-authoring this, the boundless yoga teacher mission.
i asked all of them to write me a manifesto on what their teaching style and interests were, and what they were really intending to do in a yoga classroom. i collated everyone’s overlapping and/or potent ideas, and then we all edited together.
we are a multi-disciplinary yoga studio, and we want to be clear in 2009 about the tremendous value that every class brings to you.
i’ve just finished reading the last of boundless’s 2007-8 boundless teacher training papers, which is a requirement for graduation. omg love them! i asked the trainees first to take one page to define yoga — to put this vast word into a few paragraphs that would then serve a their thesis for the paper. here’s what one trainee wrote on p. 1:
in the modern western world, the understanding of what yoga is and how it is practiced in the mainstream has been reduced to one limb — asana. facilitated by the reductionist principles of western medicine and the fitness movement, with its focus on the physical well-being of the body separate from the emotional, mental, and spiritual body, asana has been extracted from a whole and has come to represent what was intended to be a multidimensional philosophy.
this student goes on to pose the following questions for her paper:
How does this extraction of asana and reduction of yoga affect the efficacy of the practice in stilling the modifications of the mind? What are the benefits and the possible harm induced by only practicing asana? What happens if you practice yoga with selfish or misguided intent? Do you create karma for yourself as you would if you gave to charity based on self interest? does the simple act of aligning the body and increasing your awareness and concentration make you more open to learning and seeing the world through clearer eyes? By allowing the body to function at a healthier leavel, do the mind and the heart function at a healthier level? What can a modern mainstream yogi achieve by knowing only a small part of a holistic system intended to offer a path for the balanced and healthy physical, physiological, emotional, and spiritual existence?
clearly a lot!
i think everyone is well served touching their own tailbone once in a while. for sure they should check out that bad boy during yoga class.
though this might not be the case for others, i find my own tailbone (coccyx, actually, and check out the groovy diagram on wikipedia) to be thinner and, well, bonier, somehow, than i always imagine it to be.
this is the base of your spine, the thing that holds you up so well. it’s amazing to think that the tailbone is where it all goes down.
i started this post several weeks ago when i noticed that the amount i was being thanked for adjusting students in class went up.
i didn’t know what to say about it at first, but i’ve decided now that it’s surprising. i want all yoga students to expect to be adjusted, or at least be guided, with as much precision as possible through the poses they do in my class. when i adjust someone’s pose verbally or physically, i consider that part of my job, part of what i’m paid to do.
so, you’re welcome, but sheesh! it’s what you deserve!
stress is not gone
yesterday at the end of a private session with a new female client, the woman turned to me from her very first savasana (corpse pose) and said,
so, like, is this not your favorite pose? i mean, are you like the most relaxed person ever? and don’t you do this pose all the time?
i told her yes, savasana is in fact one of my favorite poses, but i don’t do it all the time, and in fact, i said,
when i’m feeling stressed out i’m actually really bad at this pose and sometimes go so far as to avoid it at the end of my practice.
this confused her. she questioned me more on how i could *not* be so totally unstressed as a result of doing yoga.
i told her that it’s not that i”m never stressed anymore–life continues to be life, and to have its natural ebbs and flows. rather, i find myself able to relax more quickly, more precisely, and more deeply.
the greatest advantage of yoga in this context, i told her, is that you begin to witness the coming stress like an arriving storm. just as you put on a raincoat, or get an umbrella, or even stay inside until the storm blows over, you observe yourself in a stressed-out state and access the breath, or do a lengthening pose here and a strengthening pose there.
using these yogic tools helps you move away from the stress response in a way that is difficult to do otherwise.
most important, practice is not at all about doing the poses *better*. it is instead about witnessing the effects the poses have on you more and more clearly.
yoga is one of the world’s main transformative practices of the body and mind.
the body is simple. the mind, on the other hand, has many elements, but its main purpose is to establish pattern as early as possible in order to ensure survival. for example, if every day you forgot how to eat, speak, or sleep, your life would be destructively inefficient.
too much of a good thing, however, is bad. that’s why the first, most potent, and most lasting pattern that nearly all yoga practitioners create for themselves is:
i can’t do that.
I would love all yoga students to check that statement out when they notice it emerging in the mind. the underlying context, the mind’s real statement is:
this is a new thing i’m confronted with, and i don’t understand it. therefore, i am going to stop right here and revert to the pattern of thinking i already know, which creates less immediate stress on me.
(it’s kind of like being in college, when in the freshman eating hall you sit with your dorm mates, class mates, or friends from home. it’s scary to go eat with someone totally new–omg the potential gross digestion from all that stress of talking to someone you’ve never met before!)
the real essence of any yoga class–by definition of it being called a yoga class–is the attempt to evolve, whether that’s through “relaxation,” “working hard,” or “playing your edge.” however the mind defines these terms, these terms are by definition always changing.
give in, push back
yogis invented poses to keep the mind occupied on its way to establishing a “seat,” or the seated poses of meditation. many practitioners find that once they’ve been doing yoga a while, certain poses begin to look and feel like each other, to have a similar resonance (in the breath, emotions, or mind). this is the harmony found in a regular yoga practice.
what we also find when starting yoga asana is the there is just as much need to give in as there is to push back. when, for example, you are straining in a seated forward fold, it’s probably a good idea to give in to your resistance to the fact that you are where you are. when, on the other hand, you are feeing fatigued in a standing pose and just want to give up, in most cases it’s a good idea to push right back at the desire to stop.
this, the practice of hatha yoga: it is to define something and immediately consider the role of its opposite in your mind. this consideration can only be manifested through the bodily experience (not least because you are in a pose at that time!). as it is, we find that we are always on the razor’s edge of experience, standing gracefully and steadily on the line of our own consciousness.
the in of sane
i want to clarify the term hatha yoga. According to Wikipedia and other sources i’ve studied, hatha yoga is not as old as yoga “proper;” hatha yoga showed up in the 15th century, because a guy named Swami Swatmarama wanted to give practitioners (sadhakas) a clearer path to the “heights of raja yoga.” raja yoga is, simply, the yoga that emerges through behavior observances, body/breath practices, and several stages of meditation.
this brings me to something Einstein said:
insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
the issue with today’s hatha yoga, especially the part influenced by vinyasa yoga (a more modern version of hatha characterized by repetitive, faster-paced movements linked to the breath), is that it can be too rote.
hatha yoga, like yoga itself, is a living, breathing, ever-changing reflection of the mind that studies it. we can call this mind “your” mind, “my” mind, or even the “collective” mind. whatever the definition of mind, it’s important to know that expecting the same result from your yoga class (i always feel so good after class! my hamstrings are always so strethed!), is missing the point of “ha” (sun) and “ta” (moon), hatha.
practice, of course, is always and only up to the practitioner. and the breath, which underlies the practice no matter what its form, is never, ever the same. back to einstein’s statement, we could, then, conclude the breath is the sanest thing around.