the image on top is "Welcome Home Sweet Sugar" by Kelsey Brooks

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Natasha Rizopoulis

Thanks to Down Under, I am lucky enough to be able to study with Natasha Rizopoulis. Natasha is a true teacher's teacher: I was honored to be practicing with Jane Cargill, a wonderfully compassionate instructor and truth seeker in the Boston area, right next to me. (Jane introduced me to Love Without Conditions, which has since become one of my favorite books).

What I love about Natasha's class is its unapologetic, authentic and organic commitment to both intensity and alignment. That's my favorite kind of practice, and the kind that seeds lasting change within me. Natasha is incredibly personal and constantly in the process of interacting with and adjusting her students. That lends a sense of creation in the moment to the class, that the class is coming in and out of the interaction, and the framework of alignment is occurring as observances are made in class.

Some points of class today (and what I can remember from a few weeks ago):

-In bhujangasana (cobra), make sure that your wrist is slightly above your elbow, this will give you the leverage to pull your elbows back and open your heart.
-In all poses where you interlace your hands behind your back: don't pull your hands down, this may have the negative effect of jutting your shoulders forward. Instead, pull the hands back.

now tuck the tailbone. engage the core, lower ribs in....

-In crescent lunge, press the heel of the front foot into the ground to engage the core and tuck the tailbone.

It makes me think about how paradoxical yoga is. I used to think of it as mildly amusing: you move quickly in order to relax the mind, you accept things in order to change them, the list goes on. But it really hits hard when it comes to alignment. You straighten your back leg and your lower ribs jut out, you pull them back in, then open your shoulders, that makes you stick out your tailbone, so roll it back down.

A constant process of noticing, correcting, overcompensating, correcting, noticing....

sounds like life : /


Monday, March 28, 2011

Pretty Things Are Like Yoga

Thank you, NASA.

Justine's @ 5:30

Points to heart opening:

1. Tuck the tailbone....bend from the middle back
2. Use the core....engage the core through abdominal exercises, then tighten the core to pull the pelvis forward, tailbone down, and lengthen the lower back.
3. Pull the shoulders back....notice how there is a paradoxical opposition between tucking your tailbone and your shoulders jutting forward. Now, pull your tailbone back.
4. Rotate the inner tights towards each other, this spreads the sacrum.

We then moved into warrior 1 and reverse warrior, before moving into this fantastic partnered backbending series. One partner held the other's ankles (thumbs on the inside), as she or he moved into bridge or wheel.

It felt like someone cracked open a safe in my chest. Love.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


We just had a self-defense class at Lululemon! It makes me miss martial arts. I pulled out an old bag of my belts...I forgot that I made it all the way to black stripe. I had so many belts, I started using them as straps. Is that a creative use of belt, or slightly disrespectful? Being a yoga prop is a high honor. Maybe I'll ask.

I sent my mom to Down Under Yoga today to be my scout- I couldn't make to Patricia Walden's Yoga for Menopause Workshop.

My mom reports: many back bends, she even did back bends on the chair!
A lot of yoga teachers,
a great atmosphere,
calm and collected, not-preaching, charismatic,
Patricia had a few helpers,
It was all about stretching yourself out,

and she brought me back a sheet.

By the end of this week, I commit to:

1. Finishing Justine's Anxiety Class workshop post.
2. Writing a post about Jo Flaherty ( I LOVED her class!!)
3. Writing a post about BLACK SWAN in Austin, a stylish, fresh and insightful yoga co-op in Austin. Austin is amazing.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Essential Tremor

Before I continue, it's important to mention that I have express permission to discuss the following topic, and that I would never, under any circumstances, share details of any client I work with unless I have the full go-ahead from the client. The reason I'm sharing this is in hopes that someone with some insight might read it.

So the client in question has Essential Tremor in his right hand. His name is Ryan, and he had a stroke when he was 8, and has not had conscious control of his right hand ever since. His right hand shakes uncontrollably, the fingers curl up and clench, and the more he tries to relax it, the more it shakes. All the people Ryan has worked with before have attempted to establish conscious control of the hand through directions (open, close, feel this moving, etc). I think yoga might be a powerful tool to work with the unconsciousness and bring about a general state of relaxation. Like all New Englanders, Ryan likes to ski and go on extremely competitive runs.

So, my first instinct was that he would love vinyasa. So I started with that. His body was so tight, however, that moving in and out of the vinyasa poses caused more anxiety and worry to creep across his face. We did some longer poses, Iyengar style. He liked those better. I immediately moved in "Relax and Renew" mode.

I've had about 8 sessions with Ryan so far. The first was okay, the second excellent, the third unsatisfying, the fourth magnificent, the fifth all right, and after that I stopped judging, I swear.

Here's a break down of what's worked and hasn't.

Sitting meditation: an excellent way to both start and end class. I've started incorporating some journaling and directed meditation, as well. He loves visualization (imagine white light entering you, and so forth) and I experimented with some meditation prompts to see where the mind goes. I'll talk about that later.

Supta Padangusthasana: (Reclining on the back, one leg up in the air supported by a strap).

Vrikasana (tree pose): Ryan's favorite pose. Everyone loves it when they reach a pose that offers a different viewpoint and a variety of sensations, with confidence and stability. So, they do it more. I love sneaking this one into class to see how happy it makes Ryan.

Tadasana (Mountain): Anusara variation I learned from Jennifer Harvey: bend the elbows, arms by the sides. Huge heart opener (lower ribs in!).

Balasana (Child's pose): Particularly supported. I have yet to meet someone who doesn't love child's pose.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Kundalini Awakening

There's been many times when I've experienced an incredible shift during yoga, a sense of weightlessness, and pure presence. I remember describing it to someone once, many years ago as, because I was suddenly visually aware of so many details, of feeling "everywhere, all at once". Today, during Jacqui Bonwell's chakra cleanse, I felt my eyebrows drawn aside to make room for the pleasant surprise of heat. Heat. Actual heat. Even now I can feel it pulsing, and even higher, into Soma Chakra.

It was an incredible workshop, and I certainly needed it. This past week, I was on a juice clease that had me high as a kite, I felt wonderful and free, and alive. And as it ended, I felt... pretty good, but not as liberated as I had on my cleanse. And slightly disappointed that my sweet tooth didn't go away. Then last night and this morning, after receiving some good news, I started to worry. I can hear Brian Tracy mocking me in my head "... and these are the kind of people that the moment things start going their way, they are on the lookout for something to come and mess it up... and sure enough". The worry mounted. It became more absurd, my channels morphing into perverse, creeping and hideous worms vibrating with memories of things gone awry, troubles unsettled, limitations and doubts.... energy draining. Teaching yoga didn't make it go away, taking yoga turned pointless and How Yoga Works just reminded me of painful truths. I wished I was still in New York so that I could walk over to Martin Navarette, and say, "here's my head, would you take it, wash it out, and bring it back?".

So, I got to Jacqui's class ten minutes late. I actually started driving the wrong way to H.Y.P. this morning. Greg Gumucio used to say that it's the person who arrives last to class that needs it the most, which is a pretty compassionate thought, really. So we started out with a chant I hadn't heard before, which ended in "Shum" and I want to ask about. Jacqui asked us to use the inhale to pinch the kundalini, and the exhale to pull it up the spine, an accessible metaphor.

We started off with the Muladhara, the root chakra. The root chakra is the chakra of fear (ahem), worry (uh oh) regarding security (ohh boy). It has to do with money and family (who isn't insecure about these things?), I suppose once could either balance within to find balance outside, or, Jacqui's take, remain balanced within despite external imbalances. Take your philosophical pick. (PS: this wasn't an Iyengar workshop, no one brought notebooks- I had a piece of pen and paper by my side, for accuracy's sake, with Leigh, my manager at Lululemon, in mind). The bija mantra for the root chakra is LAM.

We moved on to Svadhistana Chakra, this is the chakra of water, love and relationships, fertility (in all aspects), creativity and sensuality. All around awesome chakra, not that I'm biased. This is also the chakra of trauma and guilt (also some of my favorite things!). VAN. Jacqui had us hold horse pose, then slide into pidgeon. Hip openers early on have always made a huge difference in a class, and now I understand why.

Moving on to Manipura- I wrote less here, perhaps because I was holding plank- manipura, fire, digestion, insecurity. Bija, RAM.

Then dear Anahata, love, acceptance and forgiveness. I love this chakra as well. Ok, this isn't about having a favorite chakra, I know! I love all chakras equally. Anahata vibrates with YAM. Jacqui had us in bow, imagine someone we detested, couldn't stand, and then to let that person go. I imagined the front of my heart bleeding a brilliant green across my shirt.

Coming to the throat, this was in the reverse order of the hips. I normally stretch the throat either in a short sequence at the beginning of class, or perhaps in fish pose at the end. The throat is the center for self-expression, and how much addiction, and illness, is related to the throat, asked Jacqui. It's true, most pills are swallowed, liquor is drunk, and I for one stuff food down my glut when attempting to quelch my thoughts. HAM.

Between the eyebrows, and this is when that heat began to spread, the third eye, OM, Jacqui said. At the end of class, I couldn't move- moving was an absolutely absurd action. Damn propriety, I would have stayed there forever.