To Prop or not to Prop

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Hi so watch the really short video, by a damn good teacher and then read my take on it and then leave me a comment……

https://www.facebook.com/taylorhuntayc/videos

Ok, so for the most part I like this guy. He’s an awesome yoga teacher, in that he actually teaches not just shouts out poses and expects the student to do them……But…. then he does this video and now I’m disappointed……

Jeezzee….I thought we were past this….the yoga shaming……the ‘oh, do you have to use a prop? Well it’s too bad you can’t do real yoga, bless your heart’  crap……(So I added the “bless your heart” but I live in the south) .

I get where he’s coming from and for the most part I agree, the postures are not the practice, they are one part and only one part of a rich, complex spiritual practice. But no single style of practice (western practice anyway) has done more to exclude most people than Ashtanga. Maybe not deliberately, but by only showing only the fancy postures (thank you Instagram & every yoga magazine…ever…) like crane and forearm balances…the jump back, pike into a handstand and float through to titibasana stuff, you know the yoga fluff. That kind of power practice has disenfranchised a lot of people. You rarely see an Ashtanga yogi in Instagram, just doing pranayama……

And the average person sees that and of course they think they can’t do it. And so they never….ever… get on a mat. They don’t try because they aren’t shown the years of work someone did to get ‘there’. (wherever the hell ‘there’ is )

Please know and understand I started my practice many years ago with Ashtanga and I deeply respect Pattabhi Jois and all he did to bring yoga out of the shadows. But as I grew as a teacher and as a student I knew that some (most) students, myself included, needed a different practice and so I was drawn to Iyengar yoga by its precision, by its application and use of props thereby allowing all to practice…..everyone. Iyengar didn’t use props because he wanted perfection in the pose; he used props to give everyone a means by which to practice. Without blocks, blankets, chair and other props most people would never be able to practice yoga….to live yoga.

And I do understand what he’s saying, that maybe using props can take away your learning something from the pose, from taking the pose deeper, that it takes away from you exploring the practice of yoga asana. And I personally don’t use a lot of props but I also don’t do 3rd series, hell I don’t do most of 2nd series anymore. But when I do I use props they don’t limit my practice…If my practice is limited (and it does get that way sometimes) then it’s ME that is the problem not the blocks, blankets or wall. My practice is eclectic, very eclectic. Somedays it’s Iyengar, and I work on specific poses and the alignment and other days it’s very Ashtanga, lots of Sun Salutations and movement. Most days, if I’m being honest it’s a mix, a blend of both. I think, those styles play very well together. And why shouldn’t they, they have the same ancestry. Krishnamacharya. Both Jois and Iyengar studied under the great yoga master Krishnamacharya.

Most people come to Ashtanga in their 20’s or 30’s and their bodies can adapt to the changes quickly, more quickly than say someone who begins practicing yoga in their 50’s. So what’s a middle aged person with no upper body strength or no core understanding let alone strength, supposed to do? Suffer? Push through the pain of the practice and hope they don’t get hurt in the process? Come on!?

He’s also saying that if you do use props that your practice isn’t meditative. Tell that to everyone whose yoga practice includes restorative yoga, a practice that heavily relies on props, and is deeply meditative. And if the practice is just meditative then why do the postures at all. You could just sit in sukhasana and breath. That’s yoga, that’s meditation.

What he is stating is that he assumes that everyone  using props are doing so because they want to somehow deepen just the physical aspects of the pose. To open hips (to use his example). Nothing could be farther from the truth. Props just help to bring the pose to where you are, in that moment. And if you do want to deepen the pose, so what?

Props help you get into a pose and help you get the pose into the body, so that you can be strong, steady and stress free while practicing. Ahem, Patanjali states in the yoga sutra 2.46 that yoga asana should be sthira sukham asanam – that asana should be Steady and Comfortable.

Yes of course yoga is an internal practice. No one is saying it’s not. But does NOT using props make you more spiritual? More enlightened?…. Yea, I didn’t think so.

Look if using a prop allows you to practice yoga without struggling (Sukha) and gives you a sense of steadiness in the pose (Stirha) then use those tools. A block is a tool, just like the breath, bandhas and dristi are tools.

And come on, all asana practice should be meditative, whether it be Astanga, Iyengar, Kundalini or any other yoga practice, it should be meditative and there should be a strong focus on the breath work as well.  And lets not forget there are 7 other limbs of yoga we should be studying along with Asana.

I have seen how yoga can transform someone’s life and I have lived that transformation as well. Just remember that whatever you practice, it’s your practice. Use props….don’t use props….I do not care. It’s about your choice, but don’t let someone’s idea of yoga, their dogma, take that choice from you. As long as you are on your mat, as long as you are giving all you have to your time on the mat and as long as you are always exploring why you’re on the mat, exploring the breath and the intention, that’s what I care about. Because then you can begin to take yoga off the mat…..and taking yoga off the mat and into your life, well, that’s where the big changes can happen.

Yoga is a practice of exploring who we are, where we are going and how we choose to get there. It is a practice of the breath, the heart, the mind, the body and ultimately the spirit.

Use whatever tools you need to strengthen your body, relax your mind and enrich your spirit so that you can transform your life.

Om Shanti

 

Cheryl

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Swinging on a pendulum

So the question is Does God actually have a hand in the direction life goes? Not just the life or death stuff but the everyday stuff, or is everything in life a flip of the coin, chance?

This seems to be how people view life, as only one or the other. Either God has a hand in everything single thing going on in every single life or that everything is happenstance.

Either way you have no control over your life…..If you believe that a power higher than yourself makes all the decisions, bends you, twists you, challenges you, denies you, gives and takes, well then some outside force is controlling your life. Or perhaps you believe that everything in your life is a game of chance, a roll of the dice, there again, you’ve given your power away.

Here’s the problem with living your life at those edges, it’s too easy. It’s easy to say “Well God will take care of that” and so you sit back and wait……do nothing.  It’s also easy to say “Well that was just bad luck, maybe it will get better with time” and so you wait, for the next roll of the dice…..and you do nothing.

When the fact is Life happens on a sliding scale….with a pendulum like motion. Life is fluid; always changing and we have to understand that we have control over all of our circumstances. But when we begin to view the pendulum like motion that life is, we realize that we have choices and that we can step up and make the changes in our lives that will benefits us and ultimately give us control over our own lives.

Make no mistake I believe in a power higher than myself, God, and I believe that power does contribute to my life in many forms. But I believe that we are given the power to choose and that what you believe influences your decisions and prayer and meditation have the power to changes us. I have the power of choice.

But I also believe in chance, sometimes it’s just bad luck; that guy pulls out in front of you causing a crash…a blown out tire…getting fired….a divorce. It’s how we respond to that roll of the dice that matters. How do we deal with life when life has spiraled out of our control?

Life happens on a spectrum, an ever swinging pendulum and sometimes God takes over completely, but never for long and sometimes the happenstance of life forces us to make a different choice.

Always living at one edge of the pendulum, at the far ends of the spectrum, diminishes your life, keeps it small. Remember that life happens all along the spectrum and that it takes a lot of courage to grab hold and swing with that pendulum. Life happens all along the spectrum and it’s not the end points or the length that’s important but that you keep swinging.

Om Shanti

Cheryl

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Are Private Clients needy?

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I have a private client that was attending an event downtown recently and she was seated at a table with a local yoga teacher. During their conversation my client mentioned she did yoga but had a private teacher. The person she was talking to said she did not take private clients because private clients were ‘just too needy’……. Hummmm well my knee jerk reaction is “what a jerk!” but that’s not very Yogi like is it. So I thought about it for a minute and I know that each of us has our talents and the gifts we were born with. And I’ guessing that her gift is something other than working with private clients. It does take a specific skill set to be successful at working one on one.

But I think it’s her perception of private clients as being needy that I took the most exception too. It is way off base……They aren’t needy but they are in need. They need the specialized training that a private yoga teacher has. If you had a heart problem you wouldn’t go to a General Practice Doctor you’d go to a Cardiologist. If you need help with your teeth you see a dentist. If you are training for an Iron Man event you don’t go to your local gym and hire just any Trainer you hire someone who specializes in coaching athletes.

And the people who go to a dentist, cardiologist or hire a coach aren’t considered needy. But they do have a need.

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And just as not all yoga teachers are gifted as private teachers, private yoga isn’t for every student. Most of you will never have that ‘need’. But don’t assume that because someone is hiring a private yoga teacher that they are needy and just want a lot of attention. All of my clients have very specific needs, such as pain reduction, mobility issues, illness or injury recovery to getting ready for a marathon or Iron Man (and many others). But whatever your reason it should be looked at as part of your self-care regime. Just like getting a massage, seeing a chiropractor or having your teeth cleaned it’s all part of what you do to keep yourself health and well.

You keep doing what you need to do to be healthy and well!

 

Om Shanti

Cheryl

Sweet Psoas

When I am teaching I often refer to the psoas in my classes and I have written about it many times as well and its a fascinating subject, far more interesting than most muscles. And in class recently someone asked me to explain why its important. But its such a big subject that talking about in class just takes too much time and I wonder if she was just trying to get out of doing the extra core work I had planned…..

Ok so what is the psoas? Well its two muscles actually, one on either side of the body emerging from the thoracic spine, T-12 to be exact and running down into the abdominal cavity and pelvis. It also attaches to each of the 5 lumbar vertebrae and it attaches to the lesser trochanter, the thigh bone. It shares the tendon attachment at the thigh with the iliacus muscle and so they work together and usually when we refer to the psoas in yoga we are actually referring to the iliopsoas complex. Take a look at the picture…. You can see where the psoas starts on the thoracic vertebrae just below the last rib…..follow it down, you can see the attachments on each of the lumbar vertebrae and where it flows down into the pelvis and where it finally attaches (along with the iliacus) to the inside of the thigh bone.Iliopsoas

 

Ok now you know where it is, lets talk about what it does. It is most often referred to as a hip flexor, hip flexors are muscles in the front of the hip that act to lift the knee and bring the thigh towards the belly. But the psoas is actually more of a pendulum allowing the leg to swing free during the act of walking. So when the psoas is supple and expressive then there is a freedom in your walking, running and other movements. The psoas muscles are deeply affected by our movement patterns or lack of them. If you sit for long periods of time they shorten, tighten and dry out, losing their suppleness. They can pull the pelvis out of balance, strain the back muscles and result in back pain and sciatica. But a weakened, constricted and unresponsive psoas can also influence your digestion, affect the kidneys and adrenal glands which can then compromise the immune system. When the psoas is short, dry and constricted it can affect many things in the pelvis it can compress nerves and limit space in the pelvis.

The psoas isn’t just a muscle of movement it is also a deeply emotional muscle, it is affected by fear, love, anger, shame and trauma along with many others. It is also the muscle that moves through all three lower chakras, so it is deeply affected by chakra imbalances.

We tend to think of muscles (when we think of them at all) as two dimensional ‘things’. They contract, they expand, we can strengthen them or we can stretch them. That’s pretty much the extent of how we think of muscles. And if we were talking about your biceps I’d probably agree, but some muscles like the iliopsoas behave or act differently oh they contract and expand but they also ‘fire’ or ‘freeze’ and you can’t strengthen a muscle that is constantly firing and you can’t stretch one that’s frozen. That’s why when we talk about the deep muscles of the abdomen we often say to ‘release’ or lengthen them. These muscles need to be resilient and supple, they should be strong too but with a strength that is more of a tensile strength. We get this from rehabilitating our movement patterns and by liberating our breathing patterns. This is why yoga is so beneficial to those suffering from back pain. We aren’t just making your back muscles ‘bigger’ or ‘stronger’ yoga is changing the movement patterns that tightened up, dried out and created constriction in the deep core muscles.

In yoga it is the combination of breathing, that frees up tension and the subtle movements, that release constriction, that help create a supple and resilient psoas.

The easiest pose to do that helps release tension in the iliopsoas is Constructive Rest Pose; if you take my classes you see this a lot, whether in a gentle class, restorative class or a power class. CRS uses gravity to release deep muscle tension.

Lay on your back with the knees bent and have your feet and knees as wide as your hip sockets. Let the back be neutral neither lifting or pressing down the lumbar spine. Use no force. Let your breathing be easy, soft and relaxed. You can also try taking the feet a little wider than the hips and let the knees fall in towards each other. If you are in an active phase of back pain you can elevate the feet that can help keep the pelvis neutral.

Laying in CRP not only relaxes the physical body but also can activate the relaxation response and calm the central nervous system and that alone does a lot to ease back pain.

Try out CRP and let me know how you feel.

One of my favorite authors is a Somatic educator named Liz Koch she has been studying the psoas for more than 30 years her book “The Psoas Book” was groundbreaking in that it took a very complex subject and presented in a way that was easily digestible and it began my exploration of the workings of the iliopsoas more than 20 years ago. It is a wonderful and informative book that I highly recommend. Check it out!

 

Oh Shanti

C

 

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What is Reiki Healing?

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Reiki is a spiritual healing art with its roots in Japanese origin. Reiki like yoga is not affiliated with any particular religion or religious practice.

It’s not massage; it’s not based on any particular belief or suggestion. It is a subtle and effective form of energy work.

Reiki is the life energy that flows through all living things. Reiki Practitioners understand that everyone has the ability to connect with their own healing energy and use it to strengthen the energy within them.

A Reiki session can help ease tension and stress and builds an environment within the body that can assist and facilitate healing on all levels – physical, mental, and emotional. A session is pleasant and relaxing and is often utilized for one’s personal wellness.

Reiki is a great tool for stress reduction and relaxation. While Reiki is not a cure for a disease or illness it may assist the body in creating an environment to facilitate healing. Reiki is a great tool to use as a complement to traditional medicine and is practiced in many hospitals and medical care settings.

A session is usually 45 – 60 minutes long, we take time before and after the Reiki session to discuss the session and to answer any questions you may have. For the actual session, you will lay comfortably on a massage table on with your shoes remove but still fully clothed. Loose, comfortable clothing is suggested.

A recipient of Reiki might feel a warming sensation or a tingling during the session or nothing at all but sheer relaxation. The session should be very pleasant, relaxing and invigorating.

During a Reiki treatment, you will feel calm and relaxed; you’ll breathe more easily and your heart rate will slow down. This is the state where the wisdom of your body takes over.  After the session, you will feel rested and energised.

Whether you are in need of some general relaxation; or are coping with an illness, injury or chronic pain , Reiki treatments can offer a great sense of comfort and relief.  Reiki treatments are a complement to any other traditional or alternative therapy.

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By helping you to deeply relax, Reiki treatments simply enhance your body’s healing abilities; allowing your body to cope and heal more effectively. A few of Reiki’s benefits are:

  • increases energy
  • provides deep relaxation
  • reduces stress symptoms
  • calms the mind
  • promotes the body’s ability to participate in the healing process

To explore the benefits of Reiki for yourself contact me, I have a few session times available throughout the week.

Om Shanti

C

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Often times we don’t see it coming. The big event or the one little word that starts us on that roller coaster ride that shakes us, bounces us around and with twists and turns it brings us back to the beginning. It seems that we are trapped  on that merry-go-round of emotions for most of our lives.

These moments or events can cause us to doubt ourselves, to create drama on the inside that doesn’t exist anywhere else. And most of the time its a big fat nothing that causes that shift in our perception, that brings up the old manifestations of negative self-worth. Some rigid idea that we aren’t good enough that we don’t matter as much as someone else. That our dreams are foolish or insignificant. And then we turn that nonsense outward, flinging poo at other people.

Don’t we know who we are. Don’t we know are significance, our value. When we practice Yoga & live by the basic principles yoga can teach us to respond in a manner that is compassionate, that requires Love to dampen that fire of doubt.

The practice of Ahimsa is a kind of self-love that is a cool rain on a sticky August day, it calms and soothes and then we can embrace our dreams and with love and peace we can ignore the outside triggers and we can surrender these old patterns of behavior to the universe, and allow things to happen as they should. No resistance, no misunderstanding.  You learn to recognize that other people are not the ones who doubt, who question, who don’t understand those thoughts are within us. With a consistent yoga practise we become flexible enough to move out-of-the-way of  the slings and arrows of someone else’s discontent, of our own discontent and then we begin to understand our divinity

Quotes About Moving On 0173-175 (Spiritual Quotes) (1).

Om Shanti

C

Settling in for the changes to come

 

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Well here we are, 1 full month into 2016 how is it going for you? The New Year can bring so many different emotions. For me it’s always a season of change, some new challenge is always waiting for me after Jan 1. Last year at this time I was deep into writing again, something I hadn’t done in a very long time. I couldn’t seem to stop. It was tough to try to get the stories perfect or the articles exactly the way I wanted. It was a challenge, but I loved it.

I have a friend who is the opposite; this time of the year is more about quiet contemplation. About time spent reading or searching for answers to deep questions he asks only himself. But he enjoys this time to rejuvenate because he knows when warmer weather comes his life will be busy. And I know another sweet soul who struggles with the long dark days in the form of seasonal depression. She is a sun worshiper and cant wait for the days to get warm so she can spend more time in the sunshine.

So what is this time of the year like for you? So you feel energized? Do you take this time to cocoon or do you count the days till spring?

Most of you know what my challenge has been this year. The big changes all have to do with The Chattanooga Yoga Centre. I’m so busy trying to figure out the schedule and book new clients and …and…. and… I haven’t had time to write like I want to. So the big challenge is time management. I have hired a new accountant so that will free up some of the burdensome paperwork. And I hope to hire someone to take on the challenge of marketing and doing other paperwork. It a big hairy glorious mess! And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So let me know what the New Year has brought for you. Reach out through the blog comments, or come to a Yoga class or workshop or schedule a Reiki session to help you find clarity and focus.

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti

C

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Happy New Year

 

20160103_171315Let’s talk a moment about your New Year’s Resolution. Do you have one or two? Have you given up the idea of declaring a resolution because buy March or April you’ve given up or even forgotten what it was in the first place. Trust me I feel ya! Setting that resolution and then keeping it so we can make lasting change in our life can be challenging. Let’s see if we can make it a little easier. First let’s change it from a ‘resolution’ to an ‘intention’. Setting an intention encourages us to look a little deeper into the reason for change. So how do you set an intention?

By asking yourself why…. a lot.

Grab a pencil and some paper and write down your intention.

Let’s say your intention is to quit smoking or lose weight (the two most common ‘resolutions’) or maybe it’s to spend more time with your family or save more money, whatever your intention is now ask yourself ‘Why’. (write it down)…. Now ask yourself ‘Why do I want to ____________(fill in the blank).

Let’s use giving up smoking as an example. Your answer to Why might be ‘ I know it’s bad for me’. Ok good start, now dig a little deeper, ‘Why is it bad for you?’ Your answer might be… It’s bad for my health, it costs too much money and it makes my hair smell like an ashtray (Had a BF many years ago who told me kissing someone who smoked was like kissing an ashtray, I like kissing… A Lot. So I quit smoking, but I digress)….Now dig deeper…..Ask yourself ‘In what way is it bad for my health?’ …. You get the picture, you keep asking why, and you keep writing them down, usually the answers are the negatives about the behavior you want to change. But now turn the questions around a bit, dig deeper but in a different direction. Ask yourself about the positives, the good things that can come from making a change…How will quitting benefit my life? And write down all the good that can come from making the change.. ‘I will breath better, I will smell better, I’ll save money I’ll have more energy. I will be healthier.’ You can do this with any change you want to make. Remind yourself about the rewards for stepping out on faith.

Another thing you can do is to frame your intention in the here and now. “In this moment I am healthy”. “I am living a smoke free life”. And remind yourself often of your intention. In yoga we call this a Sankalpa, I have written about Sankalpas before. Having a Sankalpa can be a powerful concept.

Here are some other things to keep in mind that will help making change easier .

* Hang out with the right people. Do your best to avoid the places and people that may tempt you, keep good company; in yoga it’s called Satsanga. Spend time with others that are making the same changes as you. There is a reason that groups like AA have such a great success., they are like-minded people coming together to support each other.

* Cultivate what’s good for you. Instead of putting all the focus on what negative thing in your life you’re trying to change, remember the good things you’re doing and cultivate those habits and attitudes.

*Begin a gratitude practice and if you already have one take it one step further and write down the things you are grateful for. Daily! Everyday write down 5 things you are thankful for.

*Meditate. Sit quietly, let the mind be still, give yourself those quiet moments to de-stress, to calm and quiet the mind, the body and the spirit. When we are stressed, when the body, mind and spirit are filled with anxiety then those old habits are often the things we turn to. Like comfort food they calm us but only for a moment and in the long run they cause more turbulence. Taking time every day for meditation gives us clarity and peace.

* Be joyful! Know that you are making your life better not only for you for those around you.

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Change is hard. But when you learn the different techniques you can use then change is not only easier but joyful as well.

Om Shanti!

Cheryl

BTW My intention is to blog more. How am I doing so far:)

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Restorative insites

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In an active asana class (Vinyasa, Flow or Ashtanga) we are learning and practicing the art of ‘doing’. Doing the pose, doing the breathing, doing the movements…. But with restorative yoga we are cultivating the art of ‘being’; Being in the pose, being with the breath, being patient, being focused, relaxed and aware.

Yoga as a whole is the art and science of being. Being human, being well, being Love, being you…..the art of restorative yoga allows us to more deeply cultivate that sense of ‘being’.

Judith Lasater refers to Restorative Yoga as ‘Active Relaxation’… that sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it. But if we aren’t actively involved in the process of learning to relax, if we are just going through the motions, then the body doesn’t respond in the way we want it to, it doesn’t actually relax. You might fall asleep during a restorative class, which is ok when you are first learning the process, but sleep is passive relaxation. We want to be able to turn on the relaxation response when we need to; we want the body to know when to relax and when to flee and then how to relax again.

When you’re doing a restorative yoga practice give consideration to gravity. Observe the gentle pull of it, the way it softly tugs at you, take time to notice it.

Throughout our daily lives we fight with gravity, we have work to stay upright, to walk, to move, just staying upright is a constant battle between us and gravity. And as we age if we think of gravity at all we think of it as the enemy. But gravity has a purpose; it holds us close to the earth….. Connected….. Tethered…. Gravity keeps us tethered to the Earth. And restorative yoga takes advantage of the tether, of that connection. Restorative yoga gives us a chance to use gravity, to work with gravity.

Now, go back to observing how the body responds to the pull that is gravity and then give up the fight, surrender to that gentle pull, honor it, it’s what keeps us from floating off into space, gravity is what grounds us.

Think of ‘being’ grounded the next time you are ‘doing’ restorative yoga and explore the tugs and pulls of gravity

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Om Shanti

Cheryl