February 2011 – Maui Musings


ch ch ch changes
2nd series – back to the old ways . . . in our led second series classes we will be cuing the “old” vinyasa counts–the way Nancy learned them from Pattabhi Jois instead of the new way they are being taught in Mysore now.
It is important to me to stay connected to the lineage, to stay connected to a larger pool of energy that is greater than us 🙂 and Nancy is my connection to that lineage so it is important to me to follow her methods of teaching.
Remember the real purpose of the vinyasa counts is to align you with your breath, it is the vinyasa that makes the moving and breathing synchronization the heart of our practice. The “magic” is not in whether you ‘jump your feet apart and exhale your hands to the floor’ OR ‘jump your feet apart and inhale reach up, exhale your hands to the floor’ . . . the magic is in you coming to your mat every day, and following your breath.
And some good news for those of you ready to learn second series, it has now become easier; instead of doing full primary into second, you can do half primary then begin learning second. This will be a little easier for those of you who are in the “householder” phase of your life, working and/or raising children.

Other Notes:
If you are moving too slow in your practice you are letting your mind get too involved. Vinyasas are quick but counts in the poses are slow–so you are not wasting time getting into the poses but spending your time in the poses where it is most beneficial.
Sometimes we get a bit too involved with our tight and achy areas and fidget with them too much in the practice. This only feeds the belief that you are tight and achy . . . Instead put more attention into your breathing–and moving with your breath, than fidgeting and aligning your postures.
I understand initially you will have to put some attention into the physicality of the practice–to learn the postures, but a/er some time in the practice your body will remember the poses, our muscles have their own memory, termed muscle memory, and your body will remember where to go so you can put your thinking mind on your breathing. When you focus more on your breath instead of where you are in the posture you take the grunt work out of the practice, and you will have your best practices–just try it. And in doing so you will put more yoga into your yoga 🙂

Same thing if you zone out–you are not necessarily in the yoga state you think you are, when you are zoned out you are not aware in your practice and therefore not connecting with your breathing and moving synchronicity.
Instead you want to “space in” or “zone in” and pay attention, unite your breath and movement.

A nice alternative to zoning into your body, and how subtle movements and alignments affect us, try a Feldenkrais class. Feldenkrais is a method where a teacher guides you through simple careful movements where you pay close attention to what you are feeling and what is going on in your body. This method teaches you how to align and move your body with the least amount of stress and the most ease. You will learn how to “hang” your weight on your skeleton not using muscular tension where you do not need it–but to engage the proper muscles to execute your movements when you do need to move.

Nancy added some Feldenkrais classes at her studios, Tuesdays a/er class a Feldenkrais teacher would come to teach us the Feldenkrais method. One of the sessions focused on the pelvic movements, we imagined a clock dial on the bottom of our pelvis and worked with rotating our pelvis to 12:00, to 6:00, then from 12:00 to 3:00, 12:00 to 9:00, 6:00 to 3:00, 6:00 to 9:00, clockwise, and counter clockwise — all while lying or sitting in the baddha konasana position. This pelvis work can help you connect to the subtle alignments of your pelvis–helping you to correctly align your spine and reduce back pain. These movements are especially important for men who seem to have a harder time refining pelvis movements.

Another tip I liked with the feldenkrais is how we started, we would lay flat on the floor on rest pose, then pay attention to how our body aligned in rest pose;

  • are your heel bones pressing into the floor in a similar way?
  • how about your hip bones
  • your ribs
  • your shoulders
  • any area where the floor feels particularly hard?

This is nice to do prior to your practice and again when you lie down for rest pose at the end of class. Prior to your practice it will help you to realize where you are holding tension, and a/er your practice you will notice how the floor seems “so/er” and how some of the areas that were tight before practice have released.

I am not used to taking led classes! Even though there are only two led classes each week at Nancy’s studio (all the other classes are mysore), I still found myself struggling with some of the counts in the poses (especially the led second series!). What I did to take the struggle out of my practice was to start to play with my breath while holding the poses. Here are some of the ways I worked with my breath;

  • Attach your inhale to your mula bandha–each inhale connects you to your inner li/ of mula bandha
  • Attach your exhale to your uddiyana bandha–each exhale connects you to the li/ of your abdomen moving under your rib cage.

Playing with the breath in Paschimattanasana:

  • in Paschimattanasana A breathe from the base of your spine to your crown
  • in Paschimattanasana B breathe from your crown to the base of your spine
  • in Paschimattanasana C inhale base to crown, exhale crown to base

Now breathe:

  • from base of your spine upward
  • from crown to your base
  • into your hamstrings
  • into your low back
  • into your hips
  • behind your heart
  • into any areas of pain

Use your breath to calm your mind and energize your body.

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