The fun thing about not getting certified to teach right away is that I get to explore and experience classes just for the fun of it.
This week I went to a new location, had a new teacher, tried a new type (flow yoga - is it Ashtanga yoga? Not sure but will find out one day) and used a new prop. It is the new prop that I want to explore. An eye pillow.
I've seen these bean bag looking eye pillows hanging around studios I have attended but never had I inquired about them or used them before. Isn't it funny how we get into a set mode and stay there. My yoga equipment = One sticky mat, one cozy blanket, and two foam blocks and occasionally a strap. This is all I need for my practice - and not to be confused with the wooden blocks! Now I didn't have a choice, really with the eye pillow. The teacher handed me a Kleenex and eye pillow at the end of class so I just HAD to try it!
I placed the Kleenex over my eyes and then placed the pillow on top. The weight of the pillow was the most obvious sensation. It is not a normal occurrence to have something with this sort of weight over the eyes. The second sensation was that it was sort of cooling over the eyes. As I relaxed into savasana, this added prop was beginning to add a new dimension to my relaxation.
Eye pillows are yoga props that are small bags filled with flax seed or Golden linseed. Some pillows also have the essential oil, lavender, infused into them. They are primarily used during restorative poses such as corpse pose (savasana) and have been purported to help with migraine and headache pain as well.
I went a googling and found some other interesting tidbits about eye pillows.
1. The eye pillow shapes the contours of the face, blocks out light and calms the active muscles around the eyes.
2. In balancing poses, an eye pillow on top of the head helps keep head and body steady and in proper alignment. The weight of the pillow provides a slight resistance to extend into (better then balancing a textbook on your head!)
3. When lying down, placing an eye pillow on a particular part of the body helps bring awareness and breath to that area.
4. Easily transportable, eye pillows are perfect for the office (brief break from the visual overload of computer screens) and for travel (when flying or using in a hotel room when sleeping).
5. It aids in the initiation of meditation.
Pretty handy little prop! And I think it is so handy, I am in the process of making my own! Here is the instructions to do it yourself.
I'm a crafty gal but don't sew very often so I'll keep you posted how it goes!
Other useful website links to check out about yoga eye pillows:
Week 4: Lion Pose
I'm a Leo. Born in August of 1980. Do I ever roar like a lion? I think my husband would say "yes" particularly when it comes to things I'm passionate about but on the general day I don't think I have too much bark.
Well, in my practice this week, I roared...or at least tried to. Lion pose (Simhasana) is a unique pose that also includes both sound effects and scary facial expressions. You'll know it if you've done it before because it is one you won't forget. Initially scrunching your face (eyes, nose, mouth, forehead creases) and then releasing the tension with wide eyes and wide open mouth - tongue sticking out! - the roar is let loose.
What's with this, in my opinion, obscure pose? It's kinda bold and loud but there must be some benefit to this pose. I remember back in my university level yoga class (yes - I have it on my transcripts!) and all of the students (including me) were too shy to make much noise when we were directed to perform it. Now with an infant I make noises day in and day out so there was no problem with me trying out this pose fully! Hear me roar!
So my task this week was that I just had to look into the details of this pose more closely. Here's what I found:
Lion pose is classified as a basic kneeling jaw stretch. Well, of course it's a jaw stretch. Sometimes I forget all the muscles the body actually has since I tend to focus on larger muscle groups both in my workouts personally and with clients. Funny I should say that as in the book Yoga Anatomy it states "[lion pose] stimulates and releases a host of often overlooked muscles". Just what I was saying!
The strong lion roar activates the "three diaphragms" - thoracic, vocal, and pelvic - with particular focus on the platysma muscle that fans the front of the neck. This pose keeps the skin on the front of the neck firm as we age (non-surgical facelift option!)
The Yoga Journal website states that traditional texts indicate that lion pose "destroys disease and facilitates the three major bandhas (Mula, Jalandhara, Uddiyana)." Bandhas? Not sure what they are but more to explore for another day!
Overall, after further investigation, there is more to lion pose than what meets the eye. Keeping ones face and neck limber and stretched can only be a positive thing especially in a world where we can carry much stress in those areas.
Regardless, if you are a Leo or not, in the privacy of your own home or local yoga class, give this pose a try. For an extra kick, try it in front of a mirror!
Photo credit: Medici Lions in Florence, Italy. I took this picture on my honeymoon in 2008. This statue is circa 1600.
Week 3: Poetic Language
"The divine in me greets the divine in you."
One of the things I love about yoga is the poetic language. It's not like yoga teachers are using words other than English (okay - maybe when they are using the Sanskrit name for a pose) but it is how they are using words. It is the flow, the sounds, and the feeling they are able to invoke. It is amazing!
Striving to be a teacher one day, it dawned on me that I too will need to be able to do this in a class. Now what I currently do, as an exercise physiologist and group fitness leader, is different in a sense as I typically use my voice and word choices to invoke intensity, effort, and energy. Whereas in yoga, it's different. Maybe peaceful is the way to describe it?
It also just dawned on me that cueing in yoga requires more thought...or at least it seems like that to me now. The cues are not only about alignment and proper position (which I love! Yay biomechanics!) but it is also about the breath - inhale and exhale at the right movements - and highlighting the inherent benefit of doing the pose a certain way at the time of actually doing the pose. Again, it's different and not something I provide when describing a resistance training exercise to a client. I suppose that is more mechanical and direct.
For example, in Triangle pose (Utthita Trikonasana), we stand with one foot forward and the other at a 45 degree angle behind (alignment cue), inhale to fill out the pose with arms lifted at the sides to shoulder height, exhale and fill out the pose while lowering the body and placing front arm on the ground (breath cue). Remembering to lengthen the side body to allow space in the ribs and thus, assist with proper breath (benefit cue) Yikes! That is a lot to say about what I would think is a simple body movement. But it all needs to be there!
By the way, I love Triangle pose!
So note to self, being a great yoga teacher requires good communication skills, a relatively large vocabulary of descriptive words and the ability to convey a feeling that the pose should invoke.
I've got my work cut out for me!
Week 2: Postnatal Yoga
Photo credit: aktivioslo
It a somewhat sad week for my yoga practice. It is my last week with my eight month old, Liam, in our registered postnatal yoga class. We've been attending since he was eight weeks old and have transitioned through the sleepy classes (I loved savasana [corpse pose] during these early classes) to sitting up and having his own practice to the busy days of a crawling baby (trying to corral him with bolsters while I try to do poses).
I cannot say enough positive things about postnatal yoga. I attended Lotus Soul Gym but I pretty sure other yoga studios in Edmonton offer these classes. The classes were not only for me but for Liam as well. He practiced "baby yoga", interacted with other babies and had baby massage. I too benefitted in many ways. It was a physical practice but much more so an emotional and mental practice. In the early sleepy classes, the positive words and affirmations were candy for my soul - particularly a new mom's soul. When the feeling of being overwhelmed, fatigued, worried and frustrated, the class was time to decompress.
Another benefit was spending quiet, uninterrupted time with my son. Cuddles and cradles are a part of postnatal yoga. And for that I am so grateful for.
So whats next? Well, family yoga is an option but more realistically is probably solo practice for me. Just need to make sure I schedule it and ensure childcare is in order!
Postscript: I just found out that Recreation Services at the Unversity of Alberta is offering a Parent and Tot Yoga class at the Saville Community Sport Centre. It is a drop-in class and I might try one session to see if mobile Liam will manage this class as we transition our yoga practice together!
Week 1: Namaste.?.
As the start of the school year begins, I always have a sense of yearning towards learning. Being nine years since my "last back to school" I still can't shake the feeling of what September brings. And with that I've decided to continue my love of learning with the pursuit of becoming a yoga teacher.
Well you may say, okay Lisa sign up for one of the many 200 hour courses in Edmonton and be on with it. You have years of anatomy and physiology training so you've a got a head start. Why wait any longer?
I would rather take my time with this learning. At times I feel selfish and say that I want my practice to be my practice, and thus just let me do yoga for yoga's sake. But I know ultimately it is in my practice that I will become a better teacher. So it's my prerogative to take it week by week, class by class, pose by pose.
My more personal blog is self-reflection on my yoga practice in classes (various spots around Edmonton and area), through DVDs at home, with reading magazines and websites and ultimately practicing each week with the help of books (my collection is growing!) Expect some form of posting on a weekly basis.
So with this being my first post, I want to explore the beginning words of practice - Namaste. What does it mean anyway?
Namaste as Wikipedia states it is
"is roughly equivalent to "greetings" or "good day," in English, implicitly with the connotation "to be well". As opposed to shaking hands, kissing or embracing each other in other cultures, Namaste is a non-contact form of respectful greeting and can be used universally while meeting a person of different gender, age or social status"
This is why I love yoga so much. Practice begins with such a positive word. What a great way to express wellness with others and self than to say Namaste.
There will be more Namaste in my future...until then.
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.