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.
As yoga teachers, it is our job to assist people in moving their body in mindful ways that will bring overall physical and mental well-being. A big part of this responsibility entails preventing injury whenever possible. To this aim, yoga teachers use a myriad of alignment cues designed to protect the body from injury. Some of these cues are good advice. Others seem to make little sense. For example, why should one flex the ankle to protect the knee in a hip opening pose? In order to understand whether this is a useful alignment cue, we must explore the effect that hip opening poses have on the knee, and how movement at the ankle may or may not mediate this effect.
I herniated a disc in the lumbar region of my spine practicing yoga. It was excruciating. I cried, not from the pain, but from the frustration and helplessness I felt. I have an active yoga practice and movement is important to me. To be injured so acutely that I could barely move was a physical, mental and emotional shock. I also felt betrayed by the practice that I had invested so much time and energy in. I eventually came to realize that it was not yoga, but my own misuse of the practice that was to blame.