I went on my first silent retreat in February 2016. It was a profound experience for me in many ways. It’s so rare to have an abundance of time in which there is nothing to do, other than to sit and observe. And in silent retreat, that’s exactly what happens. The observations can be surprising, and things come to the surface that you might not expect.
Mindfulness is the practice of staying awake, without judgement, to the present moment. Mindfulness practices include a range of activities including awareness of breath, non-judgement, non-reactivity, mindful eating, body scan, and some types of cognitive behavioral therapies. Today’s mindful practices, especially those undergoing scientific study (such as the MBSR curriculum,) are derived from ancient Buddhist practices. Mindfulness is being studied at an ever-growing rate, as more of the benefits of this ancient practice come to light and are adopted into mainstream modern culture.
One of the most common reasons that people come to yoga is to gain flexibility. As we age, certain areas of our bodies become stiff and we fall into habitual movement patterns that exacerbate the problem. For example, sitting for long periods of time will greatly reduce the range of motion at the hips for most people. One of the best ways to counteract all that sitting is to get up and move, and preferably practice yoga. Aside from feeling better, increasing flexibility can also promote healthy joints, muscles, and bones. It also ensures that we stay active, which in turn promotes cardiovascular health.
This is a break from our regular posts about anatomy and asana in order to focus on another key element of a yoga practice - yoga philosophy. I don’t remember when I first heard about my teacher, Ramaswami, but as soon as I learned about him, I was interested in studying with him. He used to offer a 200hr Vinyasa Krama teacher training at LMU in Los Angeles. In 2015, he announced that it would be his last year. Although I didn’t have the money or the time, and I already had a 200hr and 500hr certificate, I somehow made it happen: I traveled to LA for 6 weeks to learn from this legendary teacher.
The number of rotator cuff injuries reported in the US is increasing, as are the number of surgical interventions for such injuries. These injuries can be debilitating and interfere with work and recreation. Healing can take a long time, and surgery is often required. These types of injuries take an enormous toll on physical and mental well-being. Rotator cuff injuries often start with impingement. Impingement is when the tendons of the rotator cuff muscle become inflamed or trapped beneath the shoulder blade, usually due to a poorly or inefficiently functioning shoulder joint. This can lead to pain, discomfort, tearing of the tendons, and more serious injury.
Twists don’t have to tie you up in knots! In this blog post, I’ll review the anatomy of twists, discuss the dangers that people fear from twists (and the scientific literature around that danger), and suggest five twists that can be helpful for your yoga practice. Finally, I’ll discuss the benefits of twists (both real and imagined). If you’re not into the anatomy portion,, feel free to jump to the numbered twists below.
If you scroll through instagram looking for yoga photos, you’ll see only a handful of yogis posing in Warrior 1. It’s not a particularly flashy pose, or one that people like to show off on a beach or a mountaintop. But it is a foundational pose that can be fairly complex when you break it down into its component parts.
In many flow classes, it’s common to hear the instruction to ‘roll up to standing’ from a standing forward fold. This isn’t something that’s found in traditional yoga practices. In ashtanga yoga, you always rise from a forward fold with a flat back. I also haven’t encountered it in my (admittedly limited) experience with Iyengar yoga. It seems to be an instruction that has made its way into yoga classes via dance. Although it might seem like a harmless alternative, it is something I never teach anymore, and I teach my students in teacher trainings not to teach it either.
I stopped playing music during the yoga classes that I teach many years ago. Music is a distraction to me as a teacher and it is a distraction to students. Yoga is more than an exercise class. It is movement, breath work, meditation, and self-discovery. I view each asana class as a mindfulness practice above all else. And I believe that playing music during asana class can have unintended consequences for students.
Here are five reasons to stop playing music and embrace the silence as a yoga teacher:
There are many good reasons to practice back bends, but improvement in cardiovascular health may be one of the most important, and one of the most overlooked. There are several ways that a regular practice of back bends can impact your heart and lung function. The back bends don’t even have to be deep. Moderate poses such as bridge pose or locust pose would work well.