Do you have a hit list?
As I explore yoga, I unearth so many things I want to discover, learn about, and of course try!
Here is my current hit list of DVDs I'd like to try. Mostly because they are all so different.
Jackie Middleton, a freelance writer, tweaked my interest with this version of yoga. We discussed it while exploring celebrity fitness trends for her article here. Yogalosophy is a combination of yoga and philosophy.
2. Kundalini Yoga
I haven't formally tried this type of yoga but Kundalini yoga seemed to be an interesting approach. More dynamic and rhythmic, the DVD, Kundalini Yoga for Beginners and Beyond, would be a perfect way to start.
3. Shiva Rae
I've tried a couple of Shiva Rae's DVDs and never been disappointed. This DVD is definitely on my hit list!
As always, I find more and more, challenge myself differently both physically and mentally. I'm enjoying this yoga aspiring teacher ride and all I get to learn.
Still a student, but one day a teacher.
Now, honestly, I'm usually up to trying something at least once but my expectations can sometimes get in the way of enjoying an experience.
It's one thing to learn all the physical poses in yoga, how they are "performed" and their Sanskrit name but there is a whole other side of yoga - the philosophy of practice.
Over the last couple weeks, I've come across the word "tapas" in my reading and while participating in various yoga DVDs. It stopped me in my tracks because I thought "tapas" meant food, appetizers to be exact. What does that have to do with yoga?
Well, like many words, there are multiple meanings and definitions for one single word. So in fact it can be used on a restaurant menu but also in the context of yoga philosophy.
I had to know more...
And in drops Patanjali again as Tapas is found in his writings. It is under his second limb of the eight limbed yoga system otherwise known as the Niyamas, or suggested observances. Tapas is referred to as austerity.
Okay, so sounds like non-indulgence. I've found others write about tapas as discipline or the means of doing the work. The word "tapas" in Sanskrit means "heat" and has been referred to the "fire within".
So how does this all fit?
Judith Hanson Lasater wrote it well on her website:
"This is the spirit of tapas: the willingness to follow through with difficult decisions while maintaining compassion for all the effects that those decisions might have for self and others. Tapas is ultimately measured in the consistent willingness to begin practice again and again, over and over again to bring awareness to this very moment. Ultimately nothing is more difficult than consistency. "
My many weeks of working on downward facing dog may be an example of tapas for me. In Yoga as Medicine book, Timothy McCall writes that downward facing dog is a good pose to build tapas.
Also, for me, pigeon pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana) this week and quite frankly, every time I practice this pose, it takes not only physical energy but mental toughness to get through holding the static hip stretch.
But others argue that it isn't about being pushed in a pose that works on tapas.
Regardless, the presence of this word popping up over and over the last while fits into others areas of my life. It has me thinking that I've been building tapas as a parent and as an individual wanting to contribute in this world.
Lots of single parenting lately due to circumstance beyond our control and what.I.hope.will.have.huge.impact-type project (not yet revealed!) that has been taking up a place (and space) in my mind and heart for a while. Both have pushed me and being consistent in vision and awareness has been key.
As with anything that is worth it, being consistent and enjoying the process (even when it sucks - ya pigeon pose, I'm talking to you!) is essential.
So, bring it on! How are you building tapas?
With all the sun salutations and downward facing dogs I've been doing lately, the four limbed staff pose (Chaturanga Dandasana) has also been showing up in my practice. Is this the yoga push-up?
In my early days of practice, I recall not understanding how to do this pose. From a plank position, I would flop, for a lack of a better term, onto my stomach and flow into the next part of sun salutation, typically cobra pose (Bhujangasana). I had little control and maybe didn't really get that it was its' own distinctive pose.
Now, "chataranga", as I enjoy saying cause it sounds cool, is one if my favorite parts of sun salutations. The arm supported pose is similar to a push-up in position and action when lowering but typically the upward push with the arms is notably different. The hips slightly drop, the back arches and depending on your next pose the legs can be flat on the floor in cobra or elevated in upward facing dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana). However, I've been in classes when the instructor cues moving up and down in this pose which is very much a triceps focused push-up.
Here is a short and sweet explanation by Lululemon (you might need to watch it twice!):
I also liked these thorough videos here and here demonstrating the precautions needed to avoid wrist irritation and injury. As well, this video discusses the importance to de-emphasize the role of the pectoral muscles with the focus on serratus anterior and the rhomboid muscles to stabilize the shoulder girdle.
Yoga Journal always has a good explanation with variations and progressions. Since it requires a lot of strength to do the complete pose, variations such as bent knees on the mat or completely lowering your body to the mat before proceeding provide excellent options that an aspiring teacher needs to know!
Chaturanga! I just had to say it one more time! :)
Last week I wrote about whether or not I'm doing my downward facing dog correctly. I'm a stickler for doing things right so I explored online references to answer my question. I found some answers but wasn't satisfied with having all the answers (do we ever have all the answers?!?)
This week I dove into downward facing dog in greater detail and looked to my books for some more answers. And I found some additional insights!
Erich Schiffmann has been in the shadows of my practice for many years. One of my go to resources is his book, Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness. It was in this book that I found a well detailed description of downward facing dog.
My biggest take away from his book was the placement of the hands. Starting in extended child's pose, mark where your hands are and don't move them. Move back into hands and knees position and then move into downward facing dog. It is like magic that the hands are in the "right" position not only for downward facing dog but also for plank.
The part that had been tricking me was my hands were directly under my shoulders in hands and knees position. This hand position didn't allow for a "long dog" and it definitely didn't work for plank. Now my only catch is that if I don't start with extended child's pose (e.g., like in some sun salutations sequences), I will need to remember to place my hands further forward. But what a great lesson especially when I want to be able to teach someone else yoga one day!
The second book I explored for answers was Anatomy of Hatha Yoga by H.D. Coulter. I really need to buy this book because I've had the library's copy on loan multiple times this year. With my anatomy background, this book speaks to me!
The book details the actual angle of hip flexion (from anatomical position), which I think was what I was looking for not necessarily how far apart are the hands and feet. Based on proper "long dog" position with the feet on the ground, the hips should be flexed at 90-120 degrees at the joint. If the feet don't touch the ground such as in "short dog" the hips will be flexed at 45-60 degrees at the joint. This is where a mirror can be very helpful to watch the angle. Good insight into positioning.
Another common complaint of mine with my downward facing dogs is my heels are off the ground (darn, tight calves!) and knees bent. However, there is an anatomical purpose for taking this position. Having the heels flexed (as close to 45 degrees as possible) and the knees bent allows the lumbar spine to release. The two muscles that flex the knee (calves and hamstrings) are no longer stretching at the knee and thus allow the sit bones to press further back. Reduced leg tension and aaahhh - what a wonderful stretch!
Okay - this downward facing dog pose is mighty complex. I truly think I've just scratched the surface. It is a full body pose and thus, needs many posts to explore all aspects of the pose.
More dogs to come,
Aspiring Yoga Teacher
I've practiced yoga since I was a pre-teen and have always found it to keep me centered. I will be a teacher one day and this is my journey to discover teaching and practice.