July 2013 – Notes from Nancy Gilgoff Workshop

July 2013


This year a group of us from our studio went to see Nancy in Montclair, NJ.  We rented a big house near the studio so we could all stay together 🙂  We had a wonderful time — not only at the workshop but cooking together, eating together, and just hanging out with yogi friends. 

I asked for notes from everyone who went as it is nice to have several pairs of ears listening — each of us tend to take notes on what we each need the most, so combining notes helps us remember more of what Nancy said.  Not all of us are note takers though . . . so these notes are from Mary Jane, Karen, Maegan, and myself  . . .  Special thanks to them for sharing and taking the time to type up their notes.

Have a core teacher, take other workshops and learn but stick with your core teacher and how they practice.


Don’t be afraid of 2nd . . . BE MORE AFRAID OF ONLY DOING PRIMARY FOR MANY YEARS . . .
2nd is hardest emotionally . . .

Make your yoga something that brings you joy and peace . . . getting up at 3am to practice may not healthy if you are not getting enough sleep . . . we need sleep.

As you get more proficient with your practice it should be done in one hour as it takes you less time to get into the postures.  If it is taking longer than one hour you are spending to much time fidgeting getting into postures.

There is no vinyasa count for fidgeting or fixing your mat = get into the pose as best you can and breathe

Practice should be an hour long, maybe a little longer for those of us that do not jump through and such.


The end of suffering is being happy where your body is in the postures – Kapotasana for example, thinking you have to get your heels = suffering . . .

Suffering is trying to make your posture look like everyone else’s

Acceptance in asana brings acceptance in life which breeds happiness

Don’t close your eyes during practice – you loose focus too easily


Get on your mat daily, even if for only 15 minutes

Breathe evenly but quicker, if the pose is hard

Jumping back shoots energy through your entire body.  The only people who should NOT jump back are pregnant women and people with back problems.

Tap into the lineage – the knowledge is already there!

Teach the way you were taught.

All practice leads to the same place

Asana notes:
If you hold your body correctly the bandhas come easier.

Drishti — open eyes only, used for mind control


  • lead with sternum
  • hips should be level with shoulder
  • head should be level with shoulder

Jump backs

  • necessary and should be doing
  • jarring release blockages – moves stuck energy
  • opens ida/pingala
  • head will remain up and back if you let it

Outer edge of back foot in lunge positions – If hip is high then ground outer edge.  If working properly though in Virabhadrasana lunge is deep and hip is low (it opens groin making lotus easier), then roll to instep.

Fingers to big toe effects brain.  (According to nadis/meridians the kahu nadi or liver meridian ends (or starts!) in the big toe and goes all the way up to the brain.)

If you have neck pain, In Virabhadrasana and Utkatasana clasp hands and internally rotate as you take your arms overhead.


  • lead with sternum
  • forehead to knee, then extend chin
  • rounded back OK
  • elbows off ground

Janu Sirsasana A = Maha Mudra – men lift up genitals and put heel in perineum.  Woman put heel in either R or L groin (Men center, women to the sides)
    (When Nancy first learned in the 70s KPJ put her R heel in R groin — when she
    got older KPJ put her  R heel in L groin)


  • key is in bending the elbow
  • reach out with chin


  • arms should be straight out – not pointed backwards (better for clavicle (collar bone)

Kurmasana is good for clavicle, if your hands are low and feet wide you do not get the alignment benefits to the clavicle.  Best to keep hands at shoulder level and legs no wider than your mat.

Baddha Konasana

  • go down with forehead then slide out chin
  • External rotation of femur is good for knees. 

Guy Donhaye stands on people in lotus and baddha konasana to externally rotate their thighs, this is good for knee issues.

The finger position on the feet when opening them for baddha konasana presses on the pressure points for lungs and solar plexus — pressing your elbows down onto your thighs while in baddha konasana puts pressure on the liver channel

You Don’t have to have straight feet in drop backs.


  • when coming out and going to matsyasana, head should remain on floor as legs go down

Headstand – should be able to slide piece of paper under head

Nancy and David did not learn back bending or shoulderstand and closing inversions until the END OF INTERMEDIATE.

Nancy and David learned all of primary and second in 2 months on their first trip to Mysore.  At the end of their 3rd month in Mysore KPJ taught them pranayama.

Mysore Practice

  • take only Sanskrit list of asanas if needed

On Practicing 6 days per week:

  • not all days have to be full practice
  • minimum – surya namaskar and closing lotus
  • ok to do fewer vinyasa until strong enough
  • alternate primary and  secondary during week
  • no rest between poses-keep the heat
  • even breath 1:1 ratio
  • no practice if fever

In General Practice:

  • no praying, except in drop backs, kapotasana, parsvottanasana
  • Repetition of practice gets you there
  • never too old to start
  • pain moves around
  • pops are good- releases physical & emotional pains
  • cold water or ice is good for neck
  • takes compassion to put people into positions

Shaking (muscles during some of the poses) = channel(s) blocked . . . not just muscle fibers quivering in the trade off . . . nancy says if shaking work the jumps, bandhas, etc to help move the blockage.

Nauli shreds the lining of the uterus = birth control asana . . .

Kundalini primary channels

  • Sushumna – central channel
  • Pingala – right channel
  • Ida – left channel

Use:  coconut oil in summer, sesame oil in winter — Castor oil once per month in all seasons:
Rub in lots of oil from head to toe – wait 10 minutes

  • eyelids
  • forehead
  • head/hair
  • upper lip
  • full body

Wash off
Oil again, not quite as heavy – leave on 30 minutes
Wash off or leave on.
At end of hot shower, turn to water to cold – good for skin
Can grind up mung beans to use to wash castor oil out of your hair . . .

On Menstruation:  As Nancy was telling her story about Amma and why ladies holiday is  really a holiday . . .  she added that the three days off of life (as is traditional in India — no cooking, no children, just rest, read, and hang out with other ladies 🙂  is not only enjoyed by women . . . BUT IT WAS THE WOMEN WHO DECIDED IT!  Not the men.   She told Nancy to hush up when she was complaining . . .

For Pains:
castor oil packs

  • microwave wool or un-dyed flannel soaked in oil
  • apply and wrap with plastic wrap over night (If you don’t have a microwave you can put a hot water bottle over the wrap).
  • 3 day on – 3 day off

A nice little note about me Mary Jane had in her notes 🙂
Bobbi keeps to Nancy’s philosophy and instruction model remarkably close and it comforts me to know that she is teaching us as she was taught, just as Pattabhi Jois told Nancy to teach.

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