Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Downward Dog Upward Fog Review

I recently read a delightful novel called Downward Dog Upward Fog, by Meryl Davids Landau. It was such a pleasant and fun read about a young woman who turns to yoga to save her from falling down the spiraling hole of discontent. It was all too easy to identify with the lead character. I think everybody has felt the same way at some point in their life. You seem to have everything going for you, but yet you find yourself unhappy for no good reason. You get easily annoyed by the slightest little things and you just seem to look at everyone and everything with an overly critical eye. Why do we do this? Why can't we just be happy and pleasant more, and unhappy and unpleasant less? Wouldn't the world be a better place? Why does it seem like such an effort for us? It reminds me of a funny t-shirt I saw not too long ago. It said, "Pretending I'm a pleasant person is exhausting." And sometimes it's really true. It seems we have to put on an act and pretend that we like the people around us, or pretend that we are happy when we really aren't. It so sad and it seems like life would be much easier if we just truly were happy.

Well, the lead character in this book turned to yoga to help improve her mood and life. It was so refreshing to read about her initial expereince. You know how it is when you first fall in love with something . . . you feel so excited about it. You look forward to it and appreciate every minute of it. But something happens along the way and you lose your passion for it. Reading the book made me long for that excited feeling just to do a yoga rountine. I tried to think about the last time I truly looked forward to it with that same beginners anticipation. When I was studying for my teaching certificate it felt like a job. Then when I started actually teaching yoga it 'really' started to feel like a job. I lost the spark. I sometimes even lost the desire. Yoga became a physical workout that I felt obligated to do. Lately even my daily meditation has become a chore. How sad. The book made me reflect at what yoga and meditation is supposed to be all about - so much more than the physical act. Shame on me for slipping down that dark hole.

If you find yourself starting to slip, finding herself irritated at people for no good reason, or dreading getting to yoga class maybe it's time for this refreshing read. Grab yourself a copy of the book and remember back to all the reasons why you started to do yoga in the first place. Read it and go back to enjoying the entire experience of it. Take it all in and remember to be thankful for everything you have and do.

Please check out the book on amazon here.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Interview with Jason Brown, Creator of Zenyasa Yoga

Jason Brown has been a student of the contemplative and movement arts for over 30 years, and a student of yoga since 1996. In 2007, he created Zenyasa Yoga as a way to synthesize interests in Zen Buddhism, vinyasa yoga, and exercise science.

Q: Why do yoga teachers need to learn so much anatomy? How does it help their teaching?
A strong understanding of musculo-skeletal anatomy, injury awareness and kinesiology can help yoga teachers in a million different ways. We routinely ask students to take their joints to the edge of their range of motion, and sometimes toward more extreme ranges of motion. Many yoga postures can put tremendous stress on the shoulders, wrists, knees and intervertebral disc joints. So first and foremost, a strong foundation in anatomy can give teachers the knowledge required to help keep their students safe and prevent injury. But also, teachers with a strong understanding of anatomy can also “see” their students more clearly, as if with x-ray eyes, and more quickly identify the causes of misalignment within any given posture -- which muscles might be tight or weak, or just not working, or if there are skeletal issues causing the misalignment. And they can then give more meaningful verbal cues and hands-on assists, as well as potentially recommend specific postures or exercises to the student that could enable them to more effectively evolve in the posture. Understanding anatomy can also help teachers become more skillful and creative in their sequencing, especially when sequencing toward a peak posture. Or work therapeutially with clients who have specific concerns. I could go on and on.

Q: If you could give one piece of advice (about anatomy) to novice yoga teachers, what would it be?
I would tell them not to be intimidated by the study of anatomy. I think a lot of teachers get intimidated by it, perhaps because it seems like such a big subject, or because it seems too left-brained, or because in their own teacher training it came at them so fast that they just got overwhelmed. But they should give it a chance. If they take a course in anatomy that starts with the basics, gives a little bit of information each week, and builds slowly, they'll be fine. Everyone can learn anatomy, and many even come to enjoy learning it. Afterall, when you study anatomy you'll also learn a lot about your own body in the process… it's strengths and limitations, how to progress skillfully in your asana practice, and how to keep yourself healthy and safe.

Q: Based on your experience, what's the most vulnerable part of the body, during a yoga practice?
It’s super hard to pin this down to just one area, because it depends in large part on the person and what kind of practice they’re doing. The top contenders would be the wrists, shoulders, knees, lumbar spine and cervical spine. For vinyasa practitioners, the injuries that I see the most involve the wrists and shoulders.

Q: How many injuries do you think could be prevented with proper anatomy training?
I think that a lot of injuries can be prevented with mindfulness and proper anatomy training. However, it’s always possible that a student could work too aggressively within a posture, despite your advice not to. Or work unskillfully in a posture, despite your anatomically precise alignment instructions. And there is always the risk that someone could fall out of a headstand, or slip on a sweaty yoga mat. But an education in anatomy and injury prevention can go a long way toward reducing the liklihood of injury.

Q: Where can students and teachers find good anatomy training if they don't live in NYC?
Well, firstly I want to say that you don’t have to live in NYC to take the ASFYT course that I offer. The first two parts of the course can be completed via homestudy, and then if you’re able to you could fly to NYC to attend Part III during the one-week intensive that happens in June. Or if you can’t come for part III, you could just do Part I & II. I’ve had students from Sweden, Mexico, Parrot Cay, and all around the country complete the first two parts of the course, and many have come for Part III. You can learn more about the homestudy course on the website, as well as read testimonials from previous homestudy students.

Another alternative would be to see if there are other yoga or Pilates studios offering an anatomy training nearby. You could also check out your local community college, or do what I did and enroll in a massage school (which usually has a pretty strong anatomy component). There are also some great anatomy articles on Yoga Journal. My favorites are by Roger Cole, Judith Lasiter and Julie Gudemestad.


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Thursday, September 01, 2011

September 2011 Desktop Calendar

In an effort to spread a little wisdom from Sadhguru, my favorite mystic, here's an inspirational calendar. If you would like to make this graphic your computer desktop just click on the image above to bring up a bigger graphic in a new window. Once the bigger graphic appears, just right-click on it and "save as desktop."