“The role of the yoga teacher: take the hand of the student and lead them back to themselves.”
I just love this quote and idea of being a yoga teacher. I know for myself that the various yoga teachers I’ve had, have really done just that. Given me a space to be with myself and practice for myself to find what truly matters to me.
This was the opening to Workshop #4 of my yoga teacher training. We covered nine asanas that encourage us to work through the GROSS body. Feeling the muscles, joints and connective tissue. This is only one level of yoga practice.
What we dove into next was the SUBLTE body. I know I’ve said it before, I feel quite connected to my body. But really what I am saying is that I am connected to my gross body. The subtle body, not so much. And thus, I fully appreciated the discussion, dare I say lecture, about the subtle body.
How did we reach the subtle body?
Through the Koshas.
This idea and topic was new to me. I can’t say that I have ever heard about the Koshas before. Essentially, the Koshas are translated to “sheath”, meaning that they each fit within the next. I’d like to think of them as a matryoshka doll, also known as a Russian nesting doll, one fitting into the next with the largest being the physical, gross body. The Koshas are interconnected and are each made of increasingly finer grades of energy.
Here is a quick list of the five Koshas:
1. Anamya Kosha
2. Pranamaya Kosha
3. Manomaya Kosha
4. Vijnanamaya Kosha
5. Anandamya Kosha
Now, let me dive a bit deeper into each Kosha. The first being more of the gross and the last more of the subtle body.
- the physical body whereby we obtain energy from food sources. It is the Kosha where the root of suffering comes from.
- the energy body that is made up of 72,000 points or meridians (think acupuncture) which allows prana (or sometimes called Chi) through the body. This Kosha is key to pranayama practice. Since this Kosha is our life force which regulates the unconscious physiological processes such as breathing; if it shuts off then our physical body does not survive.
Sidenote about prana that was discussed at this workshop was that prana is present everywhere, present in the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink, and the sun we absorb. It rides into the body on the air and it is not the air itself.
- the mind body where our thoughts and emotions live. The Samskaras also reside in this Kosha. Meditation and/or using a mantra helps keep this body functioning at its best by decluttering the excessive negative energy that may be bringing us down.
- the intellectual body which encompasses the higher consciousness including conscience and will. The Yamas and Niyamas fall nicely into this Kosha as a reflection of free will and acting with a moral conscious.
- the bliss body is the most subtle and spiritual of the Koshas. Generally, the average person has an underdeveloped connection to this Kosha and it is left to the sages, saints, and genuine mystics who have done the work to connect with this Kosha. Being the thinnest veil, this Kosha is what is standing between our ordinary awareness and our higher Self.
Reflecting on the five Koshas, really helped to reinforce the quote at this beginning of this post. Yoga works not only the gross body but more importantly, the subtle body. And the responsibility of a yoga teacher is to guide students to find the Koshas for themselves, potentially not even labeling them as such.
The final quote from this beautiful workshop is…
“Yoga are not the doer. Yoga will come through you.”
Reference: The Koshas: 5 Layers of Being
Off I go to my third installment of YAA's yoga teacher training this week. It is yet again with a new senior teacher, to me, so I'm ready to not only learn but figure out if this teacher is a possible senior teacher.
The plan was to focus on Surya Namaskar this week. Something I've blogged about before. Yet, this was a chance to gain some new insight into one of the most common yoga sequences there is!
Technically made up of a handful of yoga asanas, Suyra Namaskar has its history in sun worshiping. Hence, the name sun salutations. Believed to begin as chanting to the sun and morphing into movements, Suyra Namaskar was likely one of the earliest forms of yoga.
Some interesting tidbits include:
1. There are many, many sequences that make up Surya Namaskar. The version David McAmmond shared with us over the workshop seemed like a skeleton or bare bones approach. I even inquired about Standing Half Forward Bend (Ardha Uttanasana) part of the series which he didn't include. It seemed to be missing. I always have done a half way lift in my sun salutation. He seemed to think it was just some yoga teacher's iteration of the sequence.
2. Bringing of the hands together at the heart in namaste is like bringing together the sun and the moon. The two energies needing to be balanced.
3. Sun represents the energy of the day, right hand, front of the body and the male energy.
4. Moon represents the energy of the night, left hand, back of body and the female energy.
Within the Sun Salutations, we took a laser focus to Tadasana, likely because it is the starting and finishing pose of the sequence. Although a possible side tangent, we chatted about how to find the same body position no matter what position a body is in space. Other words, how can Tadasana be found in supine position, seated position and its traditional sense, standing position?
After our asana practice, we dove into some philosophy. This workshop focused on the Kleshas. Again, this was new to me.
The Kleshas are the obstacles we find in life and the attachments we hold on to. Life is ever evolving and changing and the Kleshas are our attachment to status quo. For example, if we have the desire to recreate something pleasant that has occurred; it can be suffering to oneself as we can’t recreate the pleasant situation as it was. David hinted at the involvement of ego but also ignorance and aversion.
Post workshop research, I was able to find a great article in Yoga Journal talking about the Kleshas. Noting that the Kleshas are the afflictions of spiritual ignorance that can block your progress. There are five Kleshas outlined in the Yoga Sutras (around 2.2) and they are listed below:
The inability to see things for what they are; this causes you to mistake transient, ego-related matters for permanent, soul-related ones.
The tendency to over identify with your ego; this keeps you from connecting with your soul.
The flame of desire that causes addiction to pleasure; this discourages you from leaving your comfort zone for more evolved territory.
The aversion to pain; this creates a quicksand-like cycle of misery and self-hatred that sucks you under and suffocates your will to evolve.
Abhinivesha (will to live)
The fear of death or a clinging to life; this dilutes your focus and interferes with your ability to experience the spiritual freedom that is the goal of yoga.
On the surface, yoga looks like a physical practice. But when diving deep into the philosophy, there is so much detail! On self-reflection, it is amazing how each of the five Kleshas are relatable and have occurred in my life.
Hooray for yoga philosophy and spiritual insight!
The Cause of Suffering: The Kleshas
I am super grateful for the chance to attend a workshop this weekend with Marcia Langenberg. So lucky because she only had four of us and we got to really focus on a couple interrelated topics. Topics I have a very superficial understanding of so you can imagine how interested and keen I was to learn.
The workshop was named simply Pranayama. But I'll tell you it was much more than that. We dove deep into what the breath is able to do within a yoga practice.
Relaxation - check.
Settling of the mind - check.
Changing ones habitual behaviors - what?!
I would have never thought that this was what concentrated breathing could do for me. Of course I recognize the power of the mind body connection with yoga practice but it had never occurred to me how pranayama would also influence the mind. Makes complete sense but I had never put two and two together. We dove into the topic of Samskara. A word I recognize in written form but honestly can’t say I knew what it meant.
Samskara are those ideas, thoughts and habits that we all carry. Yoga philosophy believes that we are all born with certain samskaras. Samskaras can be both positive (like good dental care) and negative (like poor self talk). Depending on the samskara, it can either keep you in a rut or move you forward in life by limiting suffering. By breaking down the sanskrit word, SAM means accumulation and SKARA means to act. Everyone builds and grows certain behaviours which dictates how we ultimately live.
This drawing demonstrates that both positive and negative samskaras exist and will always exist. It is with yoga that the quantity of each is influenced (i.e., yoga can help weaken the patterns of the negative samskaras).
Talk about a new way to self-reflect!
What are my not-so-great samskaras?
Good thing that I asked because we discussed all the “triggers” we can use to help identify our samskaras. Potentially not a comprehensive list, this is what we came up with: Body + Breath (physical self), Mind (mental, our rational thinking it out self; psychological, emotional), and Spiritual. Needless to say, they are multiple arenas where I could find some negative samskaras. But let me give you a context for the week leading up to the workshop and what I was feeling just before diving into my own samskara…
I can’t lie. It’s been a more challenging week. First and foremost, my grief encompassed me. Although, not ready to think about the anniversary of my grandma’s death, I breezed through the day back in February that she past. However, her birthday, March 14, was much more of an emotional day for me. I even anticipated it a week in advance. It is surprising how grief can come back like an ocean wave. I had been “in check” for the last six months yet, the month of March is much more difficult than I ever expected.
The physical symptoms of grief. Or what I think is the cause of my physical discomforts this month. Ya, I’m busy and yes, my body likes to react to force me to slow down. But this time was different. My GI system basically stopped working. Drink lots of water, eat fibre rich diet, exercise, get enough sleep…all done. Yet, the nausea of constipation was almost unbearable. My head went into a tales spin trying to figure it all out. Was it a problem with my pelvic floor injury? I finally realized that my emotions we on high alert as the grief rolled in.
So sitting in this workshop, I was ‘bunged up’ so to speak and only just making the connection to my emotional state and the state of my GI system. When asked what one of my samskaras was, I fought back tears and only said it was much more emotional than I thought.
However, it was probably the best example of my rut. Not the grief part, but HOW I chose to deal with life’s stresses. Keeping it all in. Not expressing my true emotions to myself and in some cases, if appropriate, to others.
Cue the mind blowing explosions!
We didn’t explore my samsara example any further. Recognizing that none of the other women in the room are psychologists, we just let it lay.
But for me, it was clear what was going on.
Not something I can solve in one pranayama practice but something to further explore with my new found knowledge of samskaras and using the breath to work through them.
Since the workshop was only four hours, we wrapped up with more useful concepts around pranayama. We even used the hand counting technique I learned in my workshop with Rosemary Jeanes Antze. I realized that a pranayama home practice would be super beneficial for me. Not just as a future yoga teacher but JUST FOR ME. Maybe a little gift to myself. Because as we learned in the workshop, “Give it up” - let the pranayama do the work! And I can’t argue with that!
Two helpful videos I found on Samskara are also listed below.
Another excellent session with senior teacher, Paula Carnegie Fehr, from Red Deer this weekend. Focusing on all things anatomy and yoga.
This workshop’s primary focus was on the skeletal and muscular systems. The handy skeleton was working overtime as we all poked and prodded, twisted and turned, and moved the bones every which way to see how yoga asanas would work. I have been loving the use of the words stability and mobility. It amazes me that the knowledge I already have is coming alive in a yoga scenario. What parts of the body allow for stability? And what parts of the body allow for mobility? It is easy to make these reflections outside of a lab and on the floor of a yoga studio.
The skeletal system is HUGE for yoga. Yes, you’d think the muscles are paramount, but with this weekend’s practice it has become more clear to the intricacies of alignment via the skeleton. Dare I say, the skeletal system is what makes yoga asanas happen.
Here are some of my light bulb moments from my yoga anatomy work…
I’d always recognized the importance of foundation. I’ve been working on mine for years. However, I believe there is always something to be learned on how we are placed on our mat. Two specific areas of the skeletal system that, let’s be honest, don’t always get my attention - the hands and feet - are so intimately linked to a good foundation.
We played with multiple ways the feet hold us up in space, from a standing to a lying position. Initially, we worked on the foot placement during a forward fold. I can fully admit that the practice of tadasana at my last workshop shook me a bit. My partners watched as my left foot supinated and literally my left big toe didn’t even touch the floor. Exciting insight! I took this to my tadasana today to only watch how things change with the feet facing outward, inward or in neutral position by rotating the thigh at the hip. On self reflection, I soon realized that if I want length through my sacralillio (SI) joint, I am better to position my my thighs slighted rotated outward (laterally) or in a neutral position. The length across my back was so welcomed.
How did I know?
We palpated the SI joint with our thumbs (thumbs up anyone?) and felt as the joint moved and flatted between the two ilium bones.
The second way the feet played into my foundation today was in table top position (Bharmanasana). I had been conscious in the past about pressing the “shoelace” side of my foot down into the floor but never took the time to feel what actually was happening. Looks can be deceiving. What looked easy was tremendous effort into my hips. I had no idea that by pushing my feet down, it helped activate my hip abductors and it too helped to lengthen through the SI joint.
My SI joint loves me!
Now talk about the neglected and well worked part of the skeletal system! How often do I work to take care of my hands? Dare I say never.
The work we did was extremely valuable as I think it can be said that the hands are crucial to asana foundation but never really considered.
At least not in my body!
Yes, I’ve thought about pressing my “finger prints” into the mat from time to time but always struggled with getting my thumb down (thumbs up again!). We tried a basic flat hand approach to placement, which to be honest, was quite uncomfortable. Then Paula suggested tenting our hands slightly and slowly placing only the outside edges of our hands on the floor. Soon I realized that in fact, this was something I never considered. By doing so, the middle of the hand stays ever so slightly lifted off the ground. The lift protects the flexed wrist but provides a super stable foundation.
Clearly, not me.
Now to the thumb. I asked Paula about my thumb. I was demonstrating something fairly different with my hand than my fellow yogis. Since she was aware of my anatomy knowledge, she simply said, contract your thenar (thumb) muscle. And like magic, my body did what I asked and my thumb flattened (mostly) to the floor.
Awareness and intention are powerful things!
All in all, the thumbs showed up multiple times during practice so I would be remiss if I didn’t give them an additional shout out.
After our lunch break, Paula led us through a meditation with mudras. What showed up? A thumbs up. We placed our hands in a thumbs up position and sat with our hands on our thighs. One fellow teacher wanna-be even reflected that the position just felt good and that things were “all good”. We proceeded to supinate our hands so that the thumbs faced outwards. This opened the chest and I thought it was a time to dump out what I don’t need. To follow, we pronated our hands and the thumbs landed inwards where I felt a charge of energy. This energy flowed between my thumbs…can’t explain that one!
The “thumbs up” mudras, similar to shiva linga is known for energy charging. Maybe there is something to the energy I felt through the two thumbs! But more like merudanda mudra, a mudra focusing on breath.Much more to learn about the mudras!
All in all, I’d give this workshop a thumbs up, literally,
Off to my second YAA teacher training workshop of the year!
I have been thoroughly enjoying my experiences with many different yoga teachers from Edmonton and area. This weekend also was a chance to meet another senior teacher whom I seem to know by name but don’t know in person. Funny enough, I clearly didn’t know who the teacher was because I began setting up beside her! Not sure if you’ve ever experienced a yoga class where you set up facing one way to only set up a completely different way with another teacher. This is essentially what happened...
I had assumed we’d continue facing south in the community hall space so I positioned myself behind others. What I didn’t know was that Beth, the senior teacher, was also in the process of positioning her mat - in front of the group! Needless to say, I felt a bit silly; yet, she wanted all of the wanna-be teachers in a circle anyway. So, lucky me, I got to sit beside the facilitator and absorb her yoga knowledge.
I love the variety that each teacher brings to each workshop. It is almost one of the reasons for excitement as I walk through the doors. What will we talk about and practice today?
We dove straight into practice with a focus on verses from the Bhagavad Gita. Something that I am not totally aware of, let alone have read. So I just absorbed what Beth read from the verses. What she was quoting was chapter 14 versus 1-20. This portion of the sacred text is highlighting the Gunas, the three strands of nature. Not something I am familiar with in the least.
Let me explain…or at least my understanding thus far.
The Gunas are believed to be the main forces of life. There are three Gunas - Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. Each have their own specific attributes that one can relate to in life. What makes this interesting to me, is that there are only three. I would have thought that there are many more ways to look at the nature of our lives. But nonetheless, within this philosophy, these three must encompass all parts of being human.
Sattva, in simple terms, means joy. The energy is radiant with purity, calmness and light. Whereas, Rajas, is more focused on action and attainment. I took it as more driven and “full of restless energy”. Maybe a good analogy is the Energizer Bunny who keeps going and going and going. The third and final guna, is Tamas. Tamas is linked with being fixed or immobile. It can be dull, lethargic and unmotivated. I almost think Tamas could be defined by depression and apathy.
To pull these three Gunas together, my mind wants to put them on a continuum whereby Tamas is on the far left, Rajas on the far right and Sattva is in the middle. Although I have no evidence that this is the case, it make sense to me that falling too far into busyness takes you away from Sattva. Conversely, being listless can take you too far into the Tamas end of the spectrum. In the interpretation of the Bhagavad Gita it is explained that being one with Sattva, you must be absent of Tamas and Rajas. It only makes sense that being one and not the other is true. But maybe it isn’t an all or nothing thing or what I might think is a “good” Guna versus a not so good Guna.
So you might be wondering how this worked in a yoga practice? How do you bring in the concepts of the Bhagavad Gita into a class setting?
Beth did a wonderful job of setting the ‘how-to’ scene. First she had us sitting in a crossed-legged position (Siddhasana). We were directed to focus on the sits bones and to centre ourselves over the two bones (ischial tuberosities to be exact!) From there, we were directed to shift to the right sits bone then to the left. The emphasis was to feel the support of each bone while the body was positioned off centre. After moving sideways, we then moved forward and backwardly coming to the front of the sits bones and on the back of the sits bones. And then once again to a centred position on the sits bones.
This direct and purposeful movement helped us settle into our seated position. Following this movement, Beth verbally described the Gunas by reading the Bhagavad Gita, The New Translation by Stephen Mitchell. She asked us to reflect on ourselves. Specifically, she asked about two scenarios. The first was how we were feeling when we arrived that morning versus how we felt in that moment of yoga.
That was easy for me!
My life is Rajas all over the place. So when I arrived, it was definitely Rajas. But as we settled into practice, I surely had moved into Sattva.
My life is a constant go. From the moment I wake to the moment I put my head down on my pillow, I’m off with a purpose. At times my head is swirling with things to do, people I need to call, items I need to put away, big life things like fantasizing about getting my children’s photos albums up to date. Constant!
But to be honest, I do take one small moment in the morning for one thing. Time to say the Lord’s Prayer before I do anything else (like move out of bed) in the morning. I’m not super religious but very much spiritual. I honour that with gratitude every morning I wake.
Needless to say, this chapter of the Bhagavad Gita hit home. With further exploration and thought (and some small group work), I realized that when Rajas gets too busy, I fall hard and fast into Tamas. And even on a weekly basis, I can go-go-go until I give myself the break on Sunday whereby I don’t want to do a thing!
On the whole, this teacher training workshop hammered home how important yoga is for me. It is the time for Sattva. Now don’t get me wrong, there are other times Sattva does occur in my life, but most times it is Rajas.
Good? Bad? Otherwise?
My understanding though is that all three Gunas are key to life. Not necessarily having Sattva all the time is feasible nor good. At least that gives me pause.
Rockin’ Rajas, tolerate Tamas and smile into Sattva,
Oh - and one other interesting piece from this workshop. An off hand comment about my legs from Beth. Having over toned thighs represents anger. I just thought it meant I rode my bike a lot. Something to ponder…
It has begun!
My formal yoga teacher training has started. The first of 16 modules over the next two years was this past weekend. What a whirlwind of information and excitement to begin. From mudras to chants to highlighting the first yoga asanas. Yes - there are three fundamental seated asanas. Who knew?!
Now I do!
Where to begin? What to say?
Here is a Coles notes summary of my take always:
1. Chanting. Say what? Yes, chanting. This was very new to me. It hasn't been part of my regular practice but I am aware and have listened to Krishna Das in the past. Incorporating sound in practice, beyond the a teachers' voice, was a soothing and calming part of practice. Almost felt like church, but not really. We started the workshop with the Teacher-Student Chant/Mantra, which was so lovely. It heightened the senses and really settled the mind. Totally new to me, as I said, but lucky that another teacher-to-be asked to go over it in more detail. We practiced together multiple times.... Needless to say, I will need more time with this!
2. History. I've been craving an explanation of history for a while now. Now this was no University level history class but it did fill in some of the gaps in my mind. Interestingly enough, yoga has Aryan roots from the Indus Valley Civilization. It didn't reach India until later (I had always thought that is where yoga began!) The modern practice of yoga comes from the Himalayas and has been passed down from sages to aspiring teachers.
To put in a sequential order for me, it goes from Vedic era to pre-classical to Classical to Modern (post 1893). Asana practice has only been over the past couple of hundred years!
3. Major Texts. One of the major texts of yoga is Hatha Yoga Pradipika. In this text, only 84 poses existed. Of those, three are seated poses. We covered Siddhasana (accomplished pose; sage pose), Simhasana (lion pose) and Badda Konasana (bound angle pose; cobblers pose). Funny enough, Simhasana was the one asana I volunteered to teach. Not many participants had done it before and since I had, I felt confident that I could explain it. It went well as my first try at teaching. I concentrated hard to keep my words succinct and calm, which is a bit different from teaching exercise classes. A great chance to try it!
4. We covered another handful or so of poses, mudras and pranayama. Much more than I can add into one blog post. But very important information to absorb and reflect back on (so much so that I purchased three books off Amazon the next day!)
My intention and hope is to continue to blog my highlights from all and every training I will be doing over the next couple years. Nothing like stopping and reflecting and writing about ones learning.
Anything I may get wrong, or you know about, PLEASE comment below!
I know I say this often but it is so true...so much more to learn!
A anticipated practice this week that unexpectedly tipped me over. It was long in duration and welcomed many yoga props.
Recently focusing on staff pose (dandasana), I thoroughly enjoyed doing it again this week with Do Yoga With Me, in Align, Stabilize and Stretch video. But...with a twist…or shall I say tip...
I was cued to flip the pose to the back, or into a supine position. My legs and heels floating in the air (and not on the ground), soles of my feet parallel to the ceiling. Nothing like turning a yoga pose on its head! How did I accomplish staff pose with my body totally out of space from the traditional upright position?
A glorious strap!
I can’t got on about how much yoga props are so helpful!!!
By placing the strap around the balls of my feet and holding on to the ends with my hands, it allowed the strap to work its magic! The tension of holding the strap against my feet and weight of the arms provided the pull down required to the ground (thank you gravity too!) The pressure of the strap aided in the lengthening of the leg and thus the lengthening of the hamstrings.
Not only did my hamstrings love it but my low back sure did too. I can see doing a supine staff pose with those individuals who have low back pain. Essentially the back tension is removed as the back rests on the floor. Not something I am bothered with in the upright position but I clearly found it took the low back out of the equation. So much so that I felt I could lengthen through the entire spine while it rested on the ground.
I truly took away power from the position and space of the supine staff pose!
Now, I would have loved to proceeded with trying the seated version to see the impact on my hamstrings but not this time around.
What we did do, however, was move into standing poses which covered the hamstrings, iliotibial band, and adductors. Slightly different that the traditional sequence, it was interesting for the body to adjust to standing after working through the lying pose. I wonder if the supine work helped me stand better. I can habour a guess that it did!
This practice provided many other juicy poses and props which I will need to save to write about for another day! I will most definitely be returning to this practice (soon)!
Nothing better than tipping yoga poses over and making my brain work over time by figuring out the slight variations of each,
What is better than starting a practice that is called I Celebrate! Doesn’t that just want to make you jump on the mat as fast as possible!
It sure did for me this week!
Let me back up…
Honestly, I make my Tuesday morning practices quite soothing and relaxing. I’m not super alert in the beginning but slowly move into practice. This week was different.
Why you might ask?
Well, this past Tuesday was a Tuesday I was looking forward to for a long time. Let’s just say since July when I learned I was named to Avenue Edmonton’s Top 40 Under 40 list. I wasn’t able to tell anyone (except my husband) and had been dropping white lies to my parents (to make sure they would come to the event).
This morning I was charged and ready to start the day!
So, hence, why not start the day in celebration!? It is not everyday someone gives you an award recognizing you are making an impact in your community!
Thank you to Adriene, for providing the perfect jumping point to my exciting day!
The great thing about the practice was how Adriene was able to weave in such powerful, celebratory poses. Two come to mind…
Nothing like a proud pigeon to start the day. What I loved about the version we did this week was the option to flex the rear knee and clasp the foot with the corresponding hand (One-Legged King Pigeon Pose [Eka Pada Rajakapotasana]). A mighty hip opener, I was able to sink into the pose (with the help of a foam block for support). I actually surprised myself how nimble I was in getting into the pose. My hip flexors got a nice stretch not just a massive (read: painful) pull!
Wide legged seated forward fold (Upavistha Konasana).
Another dignified pose of celebration. What isn’t better than bowing forward in humility when celebrating success. The wide legged seated forward fold does have some personal challenges for me but it truly symbolized being humble during a day of recognition. This pose too had variation from the original, which Adriene called turtle pose. With a quick search, I found Tortoise pose (Kurmasana).
Essentially, Adriene cued to place the palms of the hands under the calves while extending the knees and lifting the heels off the ground. Almost like a bind, this was a electrified pose that seemed to be an intense eccentric stretch for the adductors. I can say with certainty that I’ve never done this pose before!
Two poses, lots of energy and vigour to start the day.
Nothing like a little self-care on a day that I knew would be busy and end with my (sore) feet in flashy heels!
Yoga, again, has been beside me during the ups (and downs) of life. It afforded time for some inner work before the day began and help lay the platform and mindset of humble celebration!
P.S. Here is Avenue Magazine's article on me!
Don’t you love when you have a light bulb moment or one deep with realization?!
I’ve run through Warrior I and II (Virabhadrasana I and II) sequences for years. My common complaint is the major difference in how my hips feel in each pose. Warrior I tends to feel like such a forced effort getting the hips squared and parallel to the front of the mat. I’ve shorten my split stance and still find it challenging. In warrior II, the hips are of no concern. Even to the point where the pose is super comfy and I bask in holding it.
Well, for starters, I am not convinced that my pelvis is in alignment. It hasn’t been for some time. And “forcing” it into warrior I position is a clear indication that something is off.
Yet, in this week’s practice, I finally realized what ELSE is going on!
My quads turn on fire in warrior I. Sometimes it feels like I’ve been in the pose for only 10 seconds when I have to extend my knee to give my quadriceps a break. My first thought is that my quads are overrun from the cycling I do (at least three rides/week for 45-60 minutes each session).
But when I ran through the sequence this week, with beginner’s eyes, I realized something else.
I’m loading up my quadriceps by focusing on my front leg only and not allowing the back leg to take on any of the work. I hazard a guess that if I was to take a picture of myself in the pose or watch in a mirror, I might even have my torso more forward over my front leg.
With a super kinesthetic awareness cue, Adriene had me actually tap my adductors of the back thigh to ensure they were engaged. It was almost like I’d awaken the missing link. Not only did the adductors engage but my glute of the same leg did too.
Whoa! What symmetry a balanced warrior I feels like!
Working as a sleuth this week, I appreciated Adriene’s beginner practice where I could slow down and focus on the fundamentals. In the description it even says, "This practice is also great for yoga teachers or aspiring yoga teachers!”.
Clearly a shout out to me! ;)
This month is my “take the leap” month. I’ve started working on the paperwork for the Yoga Association of Alberta’s 300 hour Hatha Teacher Training. I’m keen to start in January 2017 with the first module. I can’t lie, I’ve got some irrational fears like who will I find to be my mentor (you need a senior teacher to take you on), will I be able to do all the modules in order (let’s face it, I like order) and will the expectations be too much (can I still stick with my home practice for now??? Getting to a class is such a challenge). BUT it is time I get started…formally at least!
And with that being said, this week’s practice was a great reminder to all the poses I need to know. I’m pretty confident that I’ve covered all the asanas listed in the Teacher Training package. Yet, it is a great reminder to go back to the basics, like warrior I and II this week.
I am getting excited to finally put my 218 weeks of blogging to the test! I am certain it will be a journey of growth and learning as well as a chance to really get some much needed eyes on my hips! Home practice just doesn’t afford that!
Ready to leap!
Last week I taught a workshop on pre and postnatal exercise for fitness leaders. Already certified, these instructors were primarily working with the general, healthy population but also moms-to-be and new moms. Many of the women in the room were already mothers and had their own stories to share about their pregnancies and births.
Interestingly, we all come to the exercise studio (and the yoga mat) with our own experience. I’m not going to lie but a large motivation for doing this training was to ensure instructors understand the complications and changes to the pelvic floor women have after birth and possibly caused from pregnancy too.
Although not unique, but very unique to me, was my pelvic floor dysfunction post pregnancy and birth of my first child. It took over a year to determine exactly what was wrong. Being a new mom, I thought that what was going on “down there” was normal and what I would have to deal with the rest of my life. Not only was it a tough year with a newborn (read: lacking sleep, sharing my body and milk with a little human being and some days limited adult contact), I was dealing with a body that no longer felt like mine.
By 8 months post-partum I finally conceded that I needed to go to physiotherapy. Nothing was improving with my, what I thought, expert knowledge. Boy was I out of my league! It was with the fantastic work of physiotherapists that I was able to find out what the H - E - double hockey stick was wrong!
In a nutshell, pardon the medical terms, I was diagnosed with a grade one uterine prolapse, rectocele and cystocele. The triple bang for your buck! Recognizing now that these three forms of pelvic floor dysfunction are like any injury, it has taken me this long to finally put the words to print in this blog. Previous to my first pregnancy, I knew about prolapse but the other two were new to me.
Needless to say, having injury in the lady bits isn’t something people talk about. And thus, I’m on the hunt to not only keep my injuries in check but to also get the word out and make it much more well known. This is why I have become trained in hypopressives exercise through Low Pressure Fitness and Hypopressives Canada.
Enter this week’s yoga practice. I was looking for a longer practice and fell into Adriene’s playlist for weight loss. I had somehow (again this week) missed this video before and jumped in with two feet.
What I got was a challenging core workout!
Note: some soreness two days later!
By no means, am I complaining about the yoga asana sequence nor the video at all. Yet, my head goes straight to the core. My core. Is this work good for my pelvic floor?
I modified slightly but was intrigued when Adriene mentioned Uddiyana Bandha.
I had heard references that Uddiyana Bandha is like hypopressive exercise yet I have never taken the time to explore it. Well, this week is the first week to do so.
I dove into Coulter’s book, Anatomy of Hatha Yoga, and was shocked to find not only Uddiyana Bandha but also found Ashwini Mudra, Mula Bandha, Agni Sara, and Nauli. Now too much to cover now (and let’s be honest, I’m a bit overwhelmed with understanding them in text form only) but needless to say, hatha yoga has its own set of abdominopelvic poses that I didn’t even knew existed.
Well, I don’t think they show up in your traditional yoga studio. They seem highly complex and likely very difficult to teach in a group setting. There are also contraindications to consider and thus, hard to ensure all in a group are safe.
So, it might be that they show up in personalized practice for more experienced yogis.
But back to Uddiyana Bandha…
Considered an upward abdominal lock, Uddiyana Bandha is extremely similar to the apneas in hypopressive exercises. By using the breath (inhalation and exhalation), one takes a “false” breath by keeping the glottis closed to lift the diaphragm and the pelvic floor. It is a vacuum effect based on the decrease in pressure in the chest cavity. It may seem to look like sucking in the abdominals but it is much more.
Unable to put my practice into words (I’m still working on my own personal practice of hypopressives!), I’ll opt to leave it at that. Realizing that hypopressive apneas are very similar if not the same as Uddiyana Bandha.
Can’t wait to practice and learn more! For my knowledge but also for my pelvic floor health!
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.