Welcome to my yoga website! I’m Roxanne Halpine Ward, a yoga teacher, writer, and editor in the Philadelphia area. My yoga blog chronicles my journey as a new yoga teacher, a new mom, and a person still constantly growing and learning. I write here about anything related to yoga and wellness, including physical postures, health, fitness, meditation, spirituality, food, and finding calm, peace, joy, and balance in a busy world.
Moon Salutations at YogaLife Institute July 21, 2014
Last week I went to a Wednesday night asana lab at YogaLife Institute. I’d never been there before, but I was excited about the topic of the seminar: moon salutations.
YogaLife is a little far from me – out in Devon, it’s about a 40-minute drive, plus a little extra on the way there with traffic. They have a nice large space with an area for shoes, a waiting room and shop, and it looked like several studio spaces, plus offices and a kitchen. In addition to being a yoga studio, they also produce Yoga Living magazine, so the office space makes sense, but it’s definitely a larger operation than most of the studios where I’ve practiced or worked!
I was really interested to attend the seminar on moon salutations, since I know very little about them. The seminar was really interesting – Kristen had us move back and forth through short portions of the sequence, from one pose to the next then back again, to help build some muscle memory and help us remember the sequence. We also did some simple stretches to help us gain awareness of the pelvis that we could then bring to the sequence, and did some group work too. Overall, it was the sort of class where I left my notebook on the floor while we practiced, then picked it up immediately afterward and scrawled frantically to try to get down everything I remembered. I found it really informative and fun, and the Wednesday night timeslot actually fit into my schedule! I’m looking forward to coming back here again!
The way Kristen taught the moon salutation was very different from the sun salutation many of us are so familiar with. Moon salutations are much more about movement: less about hitting the right pose in the right way and more about transitioning from pose to pose with awareness. Where sun salutes rely a great deal on upper body strength, moon salutations work the lower body, especially the pelvis. The group activities we did were intended to highlight the fact that, once we each got used to the sequence, each person did it a little bit differently: one woman’s transitions revealed the flexibility in her hips, while another’s movements left room to spare discomfort in her troublesome knees, and still another person moved very rhythmically, with small adjustments in each pose that set him up to flow seamlessly to the next. There’s no one way, and no wrong way, to do a moon salutation. I really liked the emphasis on fluidity and the uniqueness and beauty of each individual’s practice.
Here’s a graphic showing the sequence of poses. I don’t think it would help for me to list the asanas in order, because it’s less a list of postures to do in order and more like a dance, which I think the graphic emphasizes. If you try it at home you might make your version a little different. The squatting transition from one side to the other is particularly an area where the sequence will vary depending on the body of the practitioner; I also found a spot where I naturally wanted to insert half-moon pose (ardha chandrasana). I found this was a fun sequence to play with, and a perfect addition to my short 5:30 am yoga sessions. I hope you enjoy it too!
Toddler Yoga June 26, 2014
Something that happens more and more often lately is the YB (who hasn’t turned two quite yet, so can still be called “Yoga Baby”) will pull out the mats and ask to do yoga. For a long time her favorite part of the process was simply rolling out the mats – and always mats, plural, because she insists on having one of her own instead of just practicing on mine – but now she’s starting to actually do poses with me.
I don’t have any training in children’s yoga beyond a 15-minute presentation one of my YTT buddies gave a few years ago, and it is hard to figure out what asanas to show her! Her favorite is downward dog, of course, because she can do it super-easily (with her head on the floor, but still). But you have to do more than just down dog all day. At first I was doing half sun salutes, because she liked how I would peek at her during the up and down and it mostly kept her attention (at left is YB doing a bagel salute last month). Lately, though, she’s been wanting more.
What’s been surprising me is that she mostly wants poses on the ground. I tried tree pose, and then just “let’s stand on one foot”, and then anything resembling a wide-legged warrior stance, and she just couldn’t figure out what to do with her feet, got frustrated, or did something else entirely. Maybe her coordination just isn’t quite there yet? Instead we’ve been doing some poses on the floor: boat pose (which she can do beautifully if Mommy holds her hands to give her some balance), cobra/sphinx and locust (all of which we’re just calling “snakey pose” for now), happy baby (although I don’t think she believed me that it’s a real yoga pose), and cobbler (“butterfly”). She can’t stand up and step one foot forward and one foot back, but she can sit down and press her little feet together. I’m brainstorming other ideas of floor poses that can have animal names that we can do together. (Happy to take suggestions here too!)
We’ve also experimented with some partner poses. She loves climbing on my back when I’m in child’s pose (or any pose where I’m low to the ground, really). She also LOVES yoga flying. We’re nowhere near the point of being able to do anything like this, but maybe in a few years!
One thing that has helped more than I expected is Babar’s Yoga for Elephants, which I didn’t think we’d use till she was older. This is the only Babar book we have, a gift that a friend from my old job spotted at a yard sale and scooped up for me. The level of the text is still a little beyond YB for me to read to her, but she loves looking at the pictures of the elephants doing yoga. We flip through it together looking for poses we can do.
I still have some more continuing education to do to keep my Yoga Alliance registration current. At this point it would be more than I could handle to try and do some sort of children’s yoga training, but I am looking at different books to read, and I’m considering downloading a webinar or two from Yoga U Online. (I’ve downloaded some of their free ones, and listened to an interview with a children’s yoga teacher so far, but I’m not yet ready to pay them money for their content just yet). I figure if I need to clock some hours anyway, I might as well do it on activities that will help me share yoga with her. And overall I’m just really enjoying practicing yoga with my little girl.
Yoga Class Mix #2 June 4, 2014
I just realized I never posted the second yoga class mix I made (and I posted the first one over two years ago – although I’ve done mixes for my holiday classes, I really have only planned two mixes for regular full-length yoga classes since I finished my teacher training. But you know, it’s been a busy few years!). I really like this mix because I’ve worked in some songs that don’t come from the typical “yoga” milieu. This mix has been working well because it’s a little longer that the other one I made; my class at Wellness on Park was an hour and 15 minutes, so this filled the time nicely.
Yoga Class Mix # 2: twelve songs, 1.3 hours
|Track No.||Song Title||Duration||Artist||Album||Notes|
|1||Baba Hanuman||13:59||Krishna Das||Breath of the Heart||Krishna Das, always a favorite. I like this one as a class-starter because it has a nice, easy, regular beat to warm up to.|
|2||Jahta Dance||4:16||DJ Drez||Jahta Beat – The Progression||And then with DJ Drez we start kicking into a higher gear.|
|3||Drop||4:53||Cornelius||Point||I love this song – it’s basically a remix of water noises you can dance to. So much fun.|
|4||Three||3:49||Massive Attack||Protection||A great song to keep the energy moving.|
|5||Runaway||5:06||Beats Antique||Blind Threshold||A friend turned me onto Beats Antique. She loves them because she’s a belly dancer, but I think their music works beautifully for a yoga class!|
|6||Raghupati||5:38||Bhagavan Das||Now||A good solid beat for standing practice.|
|7||A Higher Place||4:31||Röyksopp||Melody A.M.||Röyksopp is an electronic music duo from Norway whom I discovered when I was living in Boston several years ago with much cooler people than I am. I thought the beat of this song and the title/lyrics fit well for a yoga class.|
|8||Devi ‘Rave’||4:29||Krishna Das||Pilgrim Heart||More Krishna Das – this one really gets you moving!|
|9||Nataraja||15:06||Jai Uttal/Ben Leinbach||Music for Yoga and Other Joys||And here we start slowing it down. The perfect song for transitioning through the last standing poses, through the balance pose (ideally: dancer pose, natarajasana!) and to the floor.|
|10||The Greatest Gift of All||4:32||Lotus||Lotus||This song can work well for seated poses or for savasana if you get there early.|
|11||Gayatri Mantra||9:49||Deva Premal||The Essence||I love Deva Premal’s version of the Gayatri Mantra! I think it’s a great savasana song.|
|12||Bliss||6:59||Yogini||Putumayo Presents Yoga||And one last savasana song, just in case. Also a good one for winding down the class if you like to keep the music running while people are rolling up their mats and getting ready to go.|
The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living is based on conversations that Howard C. Cutler, MD, a psychiatrist, had with the Dalai Lama over several years. The author’s introductory note states that the purpose of the book was to collaborate “on a project that would present the Dalai Lama’s views on leading a happier life, augmented by [Cutler's] own observations and commentary from the perspective of a Western psychiatrist” (ix).
Cutler chose to organize the book’s content thematically. The topics include the following:
- Part I: The Purpose of Life (hint: it has to do with happiness)
- Part II: Human Warmth and Compassion
- Part III: Transforming Suffering
- Part IV: Overcoming Obstacles
- Part V: Closing Reflections on Living a Spiritual Life
Each part except for Part V is comprised of three or four chapters discussing related topics. Cutler will often introduce a topic by giving a brief overview of the Dalai Lama’s thoughts, then will delve into the psychology behind the issue before returning to H.H.’s viewpoint and suggestions for dealing with the issue. Overall I feel like Cutler succeeds in meshing the sometimes very different viewpoints of Tibetan Buddhism and Western psychiatry, and I enjoyed the stories that both of them had to offer, but there were times when Cutler just didn’t seem to get what the Dalai Lama was saying and vice versa. In those instances, I was more interested in hearing the Dalai Lama’s viewpoint and just wanted Cutler to stop harping on whatever it was already, but overall this was pretty rare; I tended to enjoy both viewpoints.
One thing that I found interesting was how the Dalai Lama talks about eliminating negative states of mind. Just as in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the Dalai Lama agrees that one of the best ways to eliminate these states of mind is to think of positive ones instead. For example,
“When talking about eliminating negative states of mind, there is one point that should be born in mind. Within Buddhist practice, the cultivation of certain specific positive mental qualities such as patience, tolerance, kindness, and so on can act as specific antidotes to negative states of mind such as anger, hatred, and attachment. Applying antidotes such as love and compassion can significantly reduce the degree or influence of the mental and emotional afflictions” (239).
This passage comes in Part IV, Overcoming Obstacles, in Chapter 12, Bringing About Change. This view fits in so well, to me, with Patanjali’s words in Sutra II.33: “When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite [positive] ones should be thought of.” I was really impressed and excited that Buddhist thought on this topic meshes so nicely with the yoga sutras.
The Dalai Lama’s wisdom is practical and straightforward; you can tell that he himself practices the same techniques he recommends. The book also includes instructions for several meditation practices (like this one), written in the Dalai Lama’s own words from transcripts of his talks. These are scattered throughout the book, as this isn’t intended as a meditation manual, but it’s nice that they’re included in places that make sense thematically.
Overall, I really enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about the Dalai Lama, one of the holiest and most revered people alive today, and to understand his perspective, his kindness, and his compassion.
Mother’s Day Yoga Class May 19, 2014
I taught a Mother’s Day class! Well, not on actual Mother’s Day, it was during my usual Tuesday class time – but it was a class designed for moms, with lots of fun partner poses for moms attending with their offspring (although offspring had to be at least 12 or older – that would have been an entirely different sort of class). It was a small class, but a lot of fun!
Here’s the sequence I taught:
- child’s pose
- cat/dog tilt
- tabletop balance (partner pose)
- downward dog; transition to mountain pose
- half sun salutes X 4
- sun salutations with lunges X 2
- standing sequence
- warrior 1
- Double warrior 2 (partner pose)
- radiant partners (partner pose – although ours looked a little different than this photo, with the back hand down for support)
- triangle pose
- revolved triangle
- pyramid/head-to-knee pose
- wide-legged forward fold (I should have done this as a partner pose! Note for next time.)
- Goddess pose
- repeat standing pose sequence on the other side
- Balance: Partner Tree Pose (partner pose)
- partner wide-legged forward fold (partner pose)
- partner cross-legged twist (partner pose)
- partner boat (partner pose)
- inversion: bridge
- knees to chest
And here’s the playlist I created for the class. I tried to include music with a lot of feminine energy, both specifically mother-related and just general girl power tunes; I pulled from both my yoga music collection and pop music. I was pretty happy with the overall playlist – my only sadness is that I made it long enough that I wouldn’t have to worry about running out of music, but instead there were great songs we didn’t get to!
Mother’s Day Class Mix: 18 songs, 1 hour 27 minutes
|Track No.||Song Title||Duration||Artist||Album||Notes|
|1||Ong Namo||10:03||Snatam Kaur||Grace||I’ve only just discovered Snatam Kaur. This is a nice light song for the minutes before class begins.|
|2||New Beginning||5:33||Tracy Chapman||New Beginning||I like the idea of Tracy Chapman kicking off a yoga class.|
|3||Sons and Daughters||5:18||The Decemberists||For obvious reasons.|
|4||High on a Mountain Top||2:42||Loretta Lynn||Van Lear Rose||Loretta Lynn has a great spoken-word song on this album about her mother, poor and desperate, stealing a pair of red shoes for her when she was a little child. A spoken-word song wouldn’t work for a yoga class, but that’s what made me think to pull a Loretta Lynn song for this class.|
|5||Holiday||4:06||Madonna||The Immaculate Collection||Because Mother’s Day is a holiday!|
|6||Girls Just Want To Have Fun||3:56||Cyndi Lauper||The Essential Cyndi Lauper||For obvious reasons.|
|7||Ice Cream||2:36||Sarah McLachlan||The Freedom Sessions||What Mother’s Day would be complete without ice cream?|
|8||Comptine d’un autre été : L’ap||2:21||Yann Tiersen||Amélie Soundtrack||Because Amélie is one of the girliest movies I’ve ever seen, but without being trite or predictable.|
|9||32 Flavors||6:07||Ani DiFranco||Not A Pretty Girl||More ice cream.|
|10||Never Knew What Love Meant||5:22||Lotus||Lotus||A yoga album, but it felt appropriate.|
|11||Harbor||4:24||Vienna Teng||Warm Strangers||One of my all-time favorite songs. When I listened to it in the context of a mother-child love rather than a romantic love, I got all teary.|
|12||Dante’s Prayer||5:25||Loreena McKennitt||Live in Paris and Toronto (disc 1)||I thought Loreena would be a good pick to include, and this is a light and beautiful song (although I could do without the 30 seconds of people clapping at the end of the live track – but the studio version has monks chanting, which didn’t feel right for Mother’s Day).|
|13||River, Run||3:46||Suddenly, Tammy!||(We Get There When We Do.)||My favorite obscure band! Love this song.|
|14||Beloved||7:05||Anoushka Shankar||Rise||A great yoga song.|
|15||True Colors||3:48||Cyndi Lauper||The Essential Cyndi Lauper||I had to include this one. I often sang this to my YB when she was a tiny baby. In this class, this ended up being the savasana song, which I liked.|
|16||Green Island Lullaby||3:17||Vienna Teng||Warm Strangers||This is just a lovely lullaby, in Teng’s family’s native Taiwanese.|
|17||Yemaya Assessu||3:34||Deva Premal||The Essence||I love Deva Premal’s version of the Gayatri Mantra, but this is a lighter, less serious chant. Friendly-like.|
|18||Bliss||6:59||Yogini||Putumayo Presents Yoga||The final song on the excellent Putomayo yoga collection. I included it here just in case I was running out of music and needed a little more for savasana. Apparently I needn’t have worried!|
I have two yoga teaching updates today!
First, I’ll be teaching a special Mother’s Day yoga class at Wellness on Park on Tuesday May 13 at 7:30pm, full of fun partner poses and a music playlist powered with feminine energy! Moms, grandmas, and anybody who loves one are welcome (participants should be age 12 and up). Best of all, all moms pay only $5!
Secondly, I will be leaving Wellness on Park in order to spend more time with family and on my own yoga practice. My last class will be Tuesday May 20 at 7:30pm. I hope you’ll come out to make it a good one!
When I come back to teaching yoga sometime in the future, I’ll be sure to make an announcement here. Until then, I’m looking forward to seeing what the next yoga adventure will be.
Quote of the Day: Compassion Meditation April 29, 2014
Today I wanted to present a quote from the book I’ve been reading. I myself haven’t had any time to try to practice this meditation, but I wanted to make sure I had it saved here on the blog for future reference. It sounds like a beautiful practice. Maybe reading about it will help someone else out there.
“So… let us meditate on compassion today. Begin by visualizing a person who is acutely suffering, someone who is in pain or is in a very unfortunate situation. For the first three minutes of the meditation, reflect on that individual’s suffering in a more analytic way–think about their intense suffering and the unfortunate state of that person’s existence. After thinking about that person’s suffering for a few minutes, next, try to relate that to yourself, thinking, ‘that individual has the same capacity for experiencing pain, joy, happiness, and suffering that I do.’ Then, try to allow your natural response to arise–a natural feeling of compassion towards that person. Try to arrive at a conclusion: thinking how strongly you wish for that person to be free from that suffering. And resolve that you will help that person to be relieved from their suffering. Finally, place your mind single-pointedly on that kind of conclusion or resolution, and for the last few minutes of the meditation try to simply generate your mind in a compassionate or loving state.”
- His Holiness the Dalai Lama, quoted in The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living, page 129