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.

general blather

I’m still here

Gosh, it’s been ages since I posted  here.  I HAVE been practicing, some days more than others, but pretty much every day. In our Friday yoga we’ve been doing practice for study with various poses.  Jill and I have done elbow work – would you ever have thought you could focus on something so specific? – from Donald Moyer’s Yoga: Awakening the Inner Body, an amazingly detailed book.  Now I think about my elbows in many poses.

I taught a home practice class in the spring with an excellent group of enthusiastic people.  It’s weird to have a class about not being in class, so to speak.  I think people who are just starting a practice need help with sequences, and then the big thing we all struggle with is motivating ourselves to get onto the mat.  That was a lot of what we addressed in class.

I also have been very good about my pranayama practice.  Sometimes I spend half an  hour, and sometimes only ten minutes.  If I don’t practice every day, I sort of forget  how to do it, or what to do, much more than with my asana practice.  So I shoot for a daily practice, early in the morning before life gets in the way.

So even though I haven’t been posting, I’m doing brain and body yoga. Perhaps this boring post will get me back into THIS habit.

general blather, mulling things over, resources

Brain yoga

Yesterday only Dana came over for our Friday practice.  We had done practice for study last week, where we were both trying to figure out why we can’t get our sitting bones to our heels in Adho Mukha Virasana (downward facing hero). We still weren’t able to do so after the practice, but it was a very enjoyable session. (I’ve written before about practice for study.)

So this week we decided to work on practice for study for Garudasana (eagle).  Neither of us can get our foot wrapped around the standing leg.  I was not feeling well – fighting off a cold and dealing with an upset stomach – so I didn’t want to do anything too strenuous.  As it turned out, we designed a practice for study for Garudasana, using a big pile of yoga and anatomy books, and didn’t DO any of it.  At the end we did Kapotanasana (pigeon), lunge, Supta Virasana (reclining hero), and Savasana (corpse).

Next week we’ll actually do the practice.  But the studying part was really fun, interesting, and satisfying.

Supta Virasana
general blather, mulling things over

Step away from the mirror

The only time I see my reflection when I’m doing yoga is if I happen to be doing standing poses near the TV and see, oh, maybe part of my hips, but my face is not generally pointed to it on purpose.

I’m traveling at the moment, and the only place in the hotel room that works for yoga is the bathroom.  The bedroom rug seems disgusting, even though this is a nice place, and I didn’t bring a mat.  The bathroom mirror is quite large.

This morning I did standing poses and was so distracted by my reflection that I ended up turning around and practicing facing the door and the wall.  In addition to seeing how cockeyed my hips were, I realized my attention was completely external, focused on that woman facing me.  I had none of the internal feedback I normally get.  It was as though I had stepped outside of my body.

My son and husband took years of Tae Kwon Do.  Their dojang had a mirror filling one entire wall.  You could see students, particularly the younger ones, watching themselves throughout their practice, and not practicing very well.  If you can’t see yourself, you have to be inside, paying direct attention rather than secondary attention.


Pranayama patience

Mary O. gave me suggestions for my pranayama practice that I have started implementing.  I usually do five minutes of Savasana, two five minute segments of reclining pranayama (ujjayi or viloma or both) and then five more minutes of Savasana.

Mary suggested that I start practicing seated pranayama. That’s what I’m doing for the second five minutes, sitting on blankets high enough so that my knees are not higher than my hips, with another blanket between my knees and ankles for support, and with my sacrum against the wall.  At this point I’m just observing my breath, not doing a specific type of practice, and I’ll do that for a while.

Everything I learn about pranayama includes lessons in patience.  No rush.  There’s no test at the end, because there’s no end.

I really find it a peaceful and rewarding practice.

general blather

Great workshop with Mary Obendorfer

OK, next year when Mary O. comes to the Yoga Center (April 8-10, 2011), I am going to lobby more heavily for everyone I know to come.  She was here last weekend, and it was an outstanding workshop.

I signed up for the whole thing, including the teacher training.  Mary was very encouraging to me about teaching.  I don’t doubt that I can be a good teacher, and I don’t doubt my ability to keep building on my knowledge of yoga, but I am so stiff that I have worried about being able to demonstrate poses.  Mary gave me ideas for managing this – demonstrating what I CAN do, using another student as a model, etc.

In the class segments of the workshop (as opposed to the teacher training), Mary very skillfully breaks down poses into components and teaches each piece by itself, gradually building to the whole pose.  It’s a technique that will also be useful in my home practice. I’m continuing to try the hard stuff that I think I can’t do, and maybe someday . . .

One other great thing about Mary’s teaching style is that she uses humor to defuse students’ anxiety.  There’s lots of laughing.  I love that.

So if you live here and you’re reading this blog, you can put next year’s workshop in your calendar now, right?

(Incorrect dates edited 3/10/2010)

breath, general blather

Keeping track on your fingers

All righty, this is a very geeky post.

I have read in a couple of places that one way to count while you’re practicing, e.g., six ujjayi breaths followed by normal breaths, is to use your finger joints.

Open your hand and look at the finger joints.  Your fingers have three each, for a total of twelve joints.  Use your thumb to touch the joints and use them as counters.  So on your first breath, put your thumb on the bottom joint of your index finger.  Second breath, thumb on the middle joint of your index finger.  Third breath, thumb on the top joint of your index finger.  And so forth.

Why this is cool: English and Sanskrit and many other languages are in the Indo-European language family.  Evidence has been used from many of these languages to reconstruct proto-Indo-European, a prehistoric language spoken as far back as the 5th milleneum BC.  This language and some of its descendants used a base twelve counting system, instead of our base ten system.  The base twelve system arose from the same knuckle counting I’ve described here.  So this is an ancient way to count on your hands.

(Linguistic trivia:  Ever noticed that the words for the numbers 11 and 12 don’t follow the pattern of the words for the other numbers between 10 and 20?  That pattern is ‘three-ten’ = ‘thirteen’, ‘four-ten’=’fourteen’, etc.  ‘Eleven’ and ‘twelve’ don’t break down into two parts that way.  That’s because they’re remnants of the base twelve system.)

general blather, mulling things over


YoMo is chugging along nicely.  I’ve had some days where my practice has been pretty darn lame, and some where it’s been pretty strong.  That’s normal.  And I’m keeping up reasonably well on the twice-weekly emails.

The big thing I’m learning right now, both from YoMo and from my developing pranayama practice, is patience and kindness to myself.  I know, I’ve said this before.  It just keeps coming around to me.  What I’m doing is practice.  I’m getting much better at not chastising myself  (for hurrying through practice, letting my mind wander, forgetting to do my focus pose, etc.).  Instead, I can be friendly to myself, and notice all the things I’m doing fine with.  I balanced in Virabhadrasana III (warrior III) for more than two seconds!  I’m working on Lolasana (pendant, a pose I have considered outside the range of possibility)! I don’t fall asleep in Savasana (corpse) any more!  And so forth.

Virabhadrasana III