Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog)

Last weekend Mary Obendorfer came in to teach a weekend workshop at the Yoga Center.  It was just great, and I got extra benefit from having Mary stay at my house.  She is enormously generous with her time and knowledge, as well as being a delightful person.

On the first day of the teacher training Mary used me as a demo stemming from a question Kim asked about extending forward vs. pushing back in Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog).  Mary asked me to go into Adho Mukha Virasana (downward facing hero).  I always need a blanket between my heels and hips, and I always feel I need to push my hands into the mat to get my hips to go back.

Adho Mukha Virasana (downward facing hero)

Mary had me put my hands up on blocks and put a blanket under my forehead. Then she said something to the teachers like “Mary [me] won’t ever progress in this pose if she keeps doing it the way she always has.” Yikes!  I was shocked, distressed, and elated.  Shocked, because I’m always trying to work hard to loosen things up and never realized I wasn’t taking the right path.  Distressed, because how many other poses am I as stuck in? And elated because the implication is that some of my physical barriers can actually change!

Later, Mary showed me some other things to do with my bugaboo poses, notably Upavistha Konasana (seated wide angle).  I’ll write about those variations later.  The cool thing was that now I can work on making progress in ways I was unaware of.

Upavista Konasana (seated wide angle)

As a teaching moment, this was also illuminating.  If a student has been doing the same pose over and over again and getting nowhere, it would be a good idea to look at other variations.  It’s tricky – you have to give a variation enough time to have an effect without getting stuck in it.

general blather

Pranayama Book Club second meeting

Jill and I met yesterday at Mirth for PBC.  We talked a little about the inquiries that go up to p. 24.  I think the time estimate for the last one, How Do I Breathe, where you’re considering all the aspects of the breath, was a bit low.  It’s a good exercise, because it forced me to put feelings into words and to consider things I hadn’t before, like origin of the breath and quality of the breath.

I’ve been either sitting or lying in the Effortless Rest position, but I’m going to experiment with some of the alternatives.  My sister’s cat has been staying with us, which has made the prone position difficult.  It’s pretty startling to have a cat jump on your chest during pranayama. Today I did the seated in a chair version.

I started a notebook to keep track of my observations as we go through the book.  In the back, I’m keeping a list of reasons to do Pranayama.  My first reason:

  • My father died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), commonly known as emphysema. His years-long struggle to breathe is a powerful incentive to keep my lungs strong.

The next chunk of the book we’ll do for next time is through p. 46.  We decided that instead of every other week we would meet the second and fourth Sunday mornings of each month.  That way we don’t have to wonder about dates, and it will make it easier for others to join us.

Yes! Join us! The book is The Breathing Book, by Donna Farhi. We meet at 8:45 am, 2nd & 4th Sundays of the month, at Mirth, 8th & N.H., Lawrence, KS.

breath, Pranayama Book Club

Pranayama Book Club undaunted

I didn’t think I’d be disappointed if nobody came to PBC last Sunday, but I was.  It’s so helpful to have someone else to work with when you’re trying to be disciplined. However, Jill will be there next time, and maybe Judy, and maybe some others, and so I am not discouraged.

If you were thinking of coming, please do.  I think this group will remain open forever, and anyone who wants to show up at any time is welcome.  No need to feel oppressed by commitment.  And if you can’t make it but want to follow along in the book, please do that too.  I plan to keep notes in this blog.

So I sat at Mirth, drank coffee and ate a muffin and reviewed the first couple of chapters of The Breathing Book (Donna Farhi). It’s been ages since I first read this book, and I never did all the exercises in it.  (The author calls them inquiries, and I will too, henceforth.)

What I’d like to do, and hope others will do too, is do the inquiries up to p. 24.  The one that begins on p. 24 says it takes 15 minutes, but it looks longer to me.  I want to take this project slowly and thoughtfully, and not bite off more than I will chew.

Next meeting will be at 8:45, Sunday, January 30, at Mirth (8th & New Hampshire).

mulling things over

Workout resolutions

A friend of mine was talking today about how she was beating herself up for not working out as regularly as she had intended.  But then she said that it had been pointed out to her that humans for most of the life of humankind have never really worked out deliberately.  We’re hunter-gatherers, fundamentally, so we reached and stretched and ran and lifted as a matter of our survival.  And we appreciated opportunities to sit around and store up fat for lean times.

This perspective puts our wishes to establish a practice in a new light.  Establishing a practice is HARD and not necessarily natural.

I just have to think about this for a while, because on the one hand it could suggest that I don’t need to establish a practice.  On the other hand, we aren’t hunter-gatherers any more.  Establishing a practice is still hugely beneficial. And I love yoga.  I just need to be nice to myself about it.

breath, kindness

Obstacles: Snow, dogs, sciatica, chest cold

Usually I get up and go for a walk before the dogs are up.  Then I come back, take them outside, and then feed them and practice pranayama. It snowed, so I couldn’t go for my walk. It’s not possible to get up and sneak down to my practice space without waking the dogs.  Buster won’t go outside without a human, which means getting fully dressed, with boots, coat, mittens, hat, etc.  Then after the dogs have been out, they, or at least Sadie, must eat. Then Buster finds it necessary to accompany me to the mat.  “Off the mat.  Off the mat!” He’s doesn’t know that command.

The chest cold would necessitate sitting upright for pranayama, or at least with chest raised.  Sitting isn’t so great with sciatica, so I supported my chest with a bolster.  I just couldn’t last 20 minutes.

Wow, what a whiny post!  I think I will congratulate myself on some Ujjayi breathing and Savasana for 12 minutes.  Good job, Mary!


The book for Pranayama Book Club

We’re going to read The Breathing Book, by Donna Farhi. The Lawrence Public Library has one copy. I’ve read this book a couple of times, but not for a long time, and not since I got more serious about pranayama.

I will try to document how this goes for anyone who is interested but can’t make it.

Also, I’m trying to think of a more interesting name.  Breath Club?  Suggestions welcome.

Wondering what this is about? Look two posts back.

8:45 am, Jan. 16, Mirth Cafe at 8th & New Hampshire. I’ll be there.  You?

mulling things over, self-talk

Getting established

It’s the nub of the whole project.  We love yoga, love it, love it, love it. And yet we can’t get a practice going.

A friend of mine works at a trauma center where (among other things) they are doing research on yoga and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The value of yoga to people with PTSD is clear.  Now the difficulty is getting people to do it. Somehow the home practice wasn’t being established in most of the students.  The people running the study tried upping the number of classes per week (each class is called a dose), but that had minimal impact on whether students practiced at home.

Going to class once or twice a week is a very good thing, but it’s not an internal practice.  And a serious practice is internal, or at least it is for me.

I’ve been taking classes almost without a break for 11 years, and for perhaps 8 or 9  of those years I’ve had some sort of home practice.  Yet it still feels precarious.  One little break in the routine—out of town company, or the flu, or an early morning doctor’s appointment—and I can slide right off the mat for a weeks.

I think I need to do some research on habitual behavior. I brush and floss my teeth without fail, cook and keep my kitchen clean daily, do the sudoku puzzle in the paper every morning.  How can I make my yoga practice as solid?


Pranayama book club

Ummmmm, ok, I’m taking the plunge.  I’ve been thinking lately about starting a pranayama book club.  If I put this up here, that means I’m doing it.  (Not that I don’t already have plenty to do.)

I own four pranayama books and have read 2 1/2 of them.  I have a pranayama practice that I’ve started and stopped and started several times. I’d like to get more reading done and get more inspiration for my pranayama practice.  (That pun was unintentional.)

Here’s the plan, tentatively.  We meet at Mirth at 8:45 on alternate Sunday mornings.  We read one of the books, slowly, doing the exercises or suggestions or practices specified in the book. We just get together to talk about our progress, not to do pranayama together.

The timing of the group would mean that people who like to go to the 10:00 class at the Yoga Center could do so.  Also, maybe in the spring I would teach a pranayama class on the opposite weeks.

Any takers?  I’m going to start on Jan 16. If nobody shows up I’ll just read and drink my coffee and go home.

The books are:

  • The Yoga of Breath, by Richard Rosen
  • Light on Pranayama, by B. K. S. Iyengar
  • The Breathing Book, by Donna Farhi
  • Pranayama Beyond the Fundamentals: An In-Depth Guide to Yogic Breathing, by Richard Rosen

I haven’t decided which one to start with, so I’m taking suggestions.  Leave a comment or send me a message.

Update: Jill and I decided on The Breathing Book, by Donna Farhi.

general blather

Various things

My friend Jill noted that I’ve had this blog going for three years. And yeah, that’s great except that I haven’t posted anything in 6 months.

So let’s see. Many things have happened. I taught a home practice class, and then taught Practice for Study and restorative. I haven’t had many students, but at this point that’s OK with me.

I took Restorative Teacher Training in October from Judith Lasater. It was really great, and I look forward to taking the advanced training. I did the certification project and should hear back within the next month if I am certified.

For the project we were instructed to write up three case studies of restorative yoga teaching. We were to give a private lesson to three different people, and teach them three of the poses we’d learned in the training, taking photographs as we did the lesson. I wound up teaching seven people for purposes of the case studies. At first I thought I had to have perfect photographs, but then I realized my teacher would probably prefer to see that I had learned something rather than that I could take good pics.

The repetition was a good way to drill the principles of restorative yoga into my brain. In one of the cases, I used only the props we cobbled together in my student’s house, because I wanted there to be as few barriers as possible to her starting a daily practice. She has a much more debilitating case of Lyme disease than mine, and I think the rest to her nervous system provided by a restorative practice will be hugely beneficial.

This brings me to a thorny problem, one I’ve addressed before and one I’m still not sure how to solve. How in the world do we get people to establish a practice? I have plenty more to say about it, but I’m going to wait till my next post.