The not so perfect yoga pose

Every week on social media I post a picture of me in a yoga pose and let my friends and followers know what my yoga theme is for the week.

Every week I have a theme in my classes. The theme is a focus of the class. It’s a full well-rounded practice with a point.

Sometimes I teach a type of pose (standing poses, twists, etc.) or a part of the body (neck, feet, hips, etc.) or it could be something I have noticed in my students’ bodies (recently I noticed a lot of hyperextension in elbows during Adho Mukha Svanasana [Downward Facing Dog]) or something in my own body (tight side body muscles) or what’s going on in the outside world: time change, changing of seasons, super moon, etc.

I teach the same sequence for a week. It’s also the sequence I practice at home on my own mat.

A recent theme was the neck, which was brought back by popular demand and will be coming back again soon.

The pictured yoga pose I used was Garudasana (Eagle Pose), one of my least favorite balance poses.

A friend on Facebook said he was liking the picture “’cause … Continue reading

The whole body benefits from Downward Facing Dog

At some point in my yoga practice I assumed I had mastered Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog).

The great thing about yoga is that we keep practicing and learning and deepening.

When my teacher Richard starting working with me on my Downward Facing Dog in December 2013 he helped me to stop pushing too deep into the pose in an unhealthy way in my upper body. He also helped me to feel more length in my spine.

Richard took the middle photo of me after some adjustments were made in class one evening. The pose started to feel differently in my body.

The bottom photo shows me pushing too far in my arms, pressing my chest toward the floor and my head is hanging. My back is rounded and not as long as it could be.

The top photo I have a long spine, length and space in my back.

I’ve been teaching yoga a little more than a year now. I tell my students that I want them to have a nice long Dog.

It is not necessary to get your heels to the mat, especially if it means you shorten your Dog to get your heels on the mat.

In … Continue reading

Using strap for Chatarunga Dhandasana

One of the things I learned while in my yoga teacher training was to learn to “steal good.” And I do this pretty regularly.

As a teacher myself I take things my teachers do and make them my own. It’s a great way to learn to teach and to share awesome things I learn along the way with my students.

Near the end of my teaching stint at Alameda Athletic Club I asked my students and GFG! readers what their favorite and least favorite yoga poses were.

With that information I created a sequence for my second to last week teaching favorite poses and my last week of teaching least favorite poses.

One of my students told me that Chatarunga Dhandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose) was one of her least favorite poses.

This is a pose where many people hurt themselves. It’s a difficult pose and many people don’t and can’t do it correctly, myself included.

From an article on the Yoga Journal website,  the writer mentioned being at a meeting with other yoga teachers and “almost all of us had a Chaturanga injury to relate: elbow tendonitis or strained muscles in the upper arm, shoulder, or chest. … Since then, … Continue reading

Learning over the weekend

Over this past weekend I attended two 5-hour yoga workshops.

There were supposed to be three, but unfortunately the Friday Fibromyalgia yoga workshop was canceled.

I attended the two workshops at Piedmont Yoga Studio.

Piedmont explains a little about the workshops: Adaptive yoga is the tailoring of the practice to people who are not “sick” but have physical limitations. This 2-day workshop explains the benefits of yoga in helping with issues such as pain, mobility and emotional states.

Saturday was on yoga and Parkinson’s with one of my favorite yoga teachers and people, Vickie.

Vickie has been teaching people with Parkinson’s for many years and has learned so much along that journey.

During my yoga teacher training we were required to observe and assist 25 hours of classes with any of the teachers who were part of the program.

I observed some of Vickie’s Parkinson’s classes. It was fascinating and I always felt happy while there. And I learned so much. There are so many ways to do Surya Namaskars (Sun Salutations).

And the best thing I learned was that yoga is accessible to everyone, no matter your limitations.

Something I really like that Vickie says is to teach to the … Continue reading

Being a gym yoga teacher sub

At the end of October I will be taking over yoga classes at a gym in Alameda where the regular teacher will be going on maternity leave.

She recently went on vacation, which gave me an opportunity to be the yoga sub for four classes at Alameda Athletic Club.

I taught a Thursday evening, a Sunday late morning, a Tuesday evening and another Thursday evening while the regular teacher was on vacation.

My first class I felt a little unprepared for things that were out of my control. But I reminded myself to breathe and it would be OK. I felt the class went well and the students were responsive.

Sunday late morning I had about 10 students. I had time to chat with a few of them before class and after class as well.

Two students who were there for my first class came back on Sunday. My Sunday students were very receptive and complimented me. Many told me that they really enjoyed the class. Some told me they planned to tell the front desk and general manager about me.

Someone else said I was one of the best teachers they have ever had. I’m flattered. They were impressed with … Continue reading

Teaching beginners

Yesterday in yoga teacher training my fellow teacher students and I practiced teaching beginners.

We have all worked with each other and most of us have worked with friends and family.

(Working with each other is great practice. But it is also easier because we are intermediate students and know how the pose is supposed to look, what we are supposed to do and how to modify when necessary.)

But teaching a class of beginner students really gave us the experience and insight to teach a beginner yoga class.

There were 20 of us teachers in training and 11 beginner students.

Each teacher in training taught one pose to the class.

I taught Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog) (pictured above). I had a plan on how to teach the pose and changed how I needed to teach it right before I got up there.

It’s OK to do the pose and teach it to beginners as it is happening. But it’s hard for students to hear you if you are upside down and your head is kinda buried.

So I did my best to teach the pose without actually doing the pose, which is challenging. But I think I … Continue reading

The gift of yoga

I recently wrote a post about being frustrated with yoga. Frustrated with how I had learned things and how the more I learn I am finding more than one way to do something.

That bothered me for a few days and, of course, I wrote about it.

Soon after I started feeling better about my frustrations and discoveries and realized that this is actually a gift and I started to embrace it.

As my friend Nicole so eloquently put it: Isn’t that the gift of yoga – that we get to work through all that junk. (Junk being life, yoga poses, breathing, tough situations, daily activities, work, home life, getting to yoga class on time or at all, etc.)

I recently started practicing yoga with another teacher who is also part of the teacher training program. For years I have known about his reputation as a yoga teacher. I just hadn’t studied with him yet.

Until now.

I am seeing things so differently studying with Richard. It’s amazing.

And don’t get me wrong, my teachers are amazing and awesome and I love yoga so much because of them. But sometimes hearing a different teacher say the same thing in a … Continue reading

My home practice

In my first Saturday yoga teacher training class we focused on home practice and I, of course, wrote about it.

To be a good and effective yoga teacher I must have a regular home practice. Five times a week for about 45 minutes is what is recommended.

I couldn’t commit to that at first so I have started with 20-25 minutes five times a week.

The first week that I committed to a yoga home practice I practiced five times (Monday through Friday) for 20-25 minutes.

The second week I tried a different variety of poses to practice and did it five times (Monday through Friday) for 20-25 minutes.

On the days I work from home I am able to make my practice a little longer. But on the days I have to go into the office I do a shorter practice as I am now getting up on those days at 5 a.m. (30 minutes early) to get my practice in.

I wanted to share with you the first week of practice I did. As the first week went on I adjusted my practice. I ended up holding each pose for six breaths.

And depending on how much … Continue reading

Learning about home practice

We’re not here to serve the (yoga) poses. These poses are here to serve us.

~Vickie Russell Bell in last night’s yoga teacher training class

Yesterday was my first Saturday class with Piedmont Yoga Studio’s Deep Yoga teacher training program. We have class every Thursday night and one Saturday a month.

Yesterday we got to get to know each other and we discussed home practice.

I loved working with others to brainstorm and giving each other advice and suggestions.

For most of us in the group our biggest obstacle with maintaining a regular home practice, which is ideally at least 45 minutes and five times a week, is time.

We talked about priorities in life and the “sacred hour.” What do we want to accomplish in the hour we set aside for our sacred hour?  Vickie said her four things in the sacred hour are writing, asana (yoga poses), meditation and restorative.

Before deciding how much time to spend on each we should ask ourselves: How do I want to feel? How do I get there?

Earlier in the day we talked about standing poses we liked and didn’t like. On Thursday Baxter assigned each … Continue reading

Cleaning my yoga mat

Last year I wrote about cleaning my yoga mat. I had a fairly inexpensive yoga mat and took a chance by throwing it into the washer. It dried rather quickly and seemed like a successful cleaning of the mat.

I now have a Jade Yoga mat, which is rather expensive. And the material is different.

According to the Jade Yoga website you can throw the mat into a front load washer (which we don’t have) or wipe down or soak in the bathtub. It mentions that oils, solvents or harsh abrasives should not be used.

The Yoga Journal website also gives some tips on how to clean a yoga mat.

Last week while I was leaving Namaste I asked the woman working the front desk what she recommended to clean my mat. She told me the studio uses witch hazel and water, 25% and 75%. Spray the mat liberally, but don’t soak. Then rub down with wet hot towel. She said a little tea tree oil could also be added as it is an antibacterial.

I added very little oil to my mixture. I only cleaned one side of my mat in case the oil made … Continue reading