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.
Yoga Workshop at the LepreCon March 31, 2014
Two weeks ago I had a great opportunity to give a yoga workshop at my church. Every year the youth group holds a retreat/sleepover over St. Patrick’s Day weekend (they call it the “LepreCon”, haha). My friend Warren, a social worker and therapist, was giving a workshop on meditation, and he asked if I’d be interested in giving one on yoga (later I found out that Warren had done both last year and his yoga portion had been semi-disastrous, so I was doubly glad I’d agreed to help out!).
I only had half an hour, so I began by talking a little about the benefits of yoga (physical, mental, and emotional), emphasized how a yoga pose should be both comfortable and steady, and described how to use your breath as a guide to where you are in your yoga practice. Then I led the group through a brief series of basic core postures and through a guided relaxation. Warren then took over and led us through several meditation exercises: diaphragmatic breathing and three-part breathing, staying focused in the present moment, and a four-part loving kindness meditation, in which we sent forgiveness and compassion first to ourselves, then to a loved one, acquaintances or strangers, and finally to someone who has hurt us. It was a really great experience, both leading the yoga portion of the workshop and participating in the meditation exercises.
Here’s the sequence of yoga postures I taught:
- Basic Warm-up: < 5 minutes
- child’s pose
- down dog
- standing forward fold
- Standing Work: 10-15 minutes
- mountain pose
- 2 half salutes
- 1 salute low lunges
- 1 salute high lunges
- warrior 1
- warrior 2
- standing poses other side
- tree both sides
- Cool Down: < 5 minutes
- seated forward fold
- knees to chest
- Savasana/Guided Relaxation: < 5 minutes
And here’s the playlist I used. In planning the workshop, I was torn on whether to include an extra song or two just in case; I decided to leave them out, so as to help me stay on target with timing, but as it turned out I could’ve used an extra two minutes of music. So this is the playlist I wish I had used. It runs about 29 minutes.
|Jahta Dance||DJ Drez|
|Katamari Stars||Katamari Damacy Soundtrack|
Bacon Update March 5, 2014
On Christmas day, I made an exception to my usual vegetarian practices and had some bacon. I did this last year, too, only last year I only let myself have one piece; this year I decided to have as much bacon as I wanted. Interestingly, this led to a much different bacon experience.
Last year, that one piece of bacon melted in my mouth. I remembered how much I had loved bacon before; confirmed that abstaining from bacon had not changed my perception of its flavor (yes, still delicious); and enjoyed the heck out of every last morsel. This year, without a one-piece restriction, I didn’t feel the same need to treasure every sensation. I still enjoyed the bacon, but I also had the freedom to notice the imperfections: this piece was too crispy, that piece, too fatty and chewy. I noticed how the bacon seemed greasy after it cooled. Don’t get me wrong, there were definitely a few perfect pieces that I gloried in, but overall the experience served less as a reminder of what I’m missing out on as a vegetarian and more as a confirmation that I’m on the right path.
This year I felt a little conflicted about my choice to eat bacon on Christmas. It occurred to me that, if my reason for practicing a vegetarian lifestyle is because I don’t want to participate in violence against other creatures or to fuel my body with that violence, then how could it make sense to break that practice on Christmas Day, a holiday I love, dedicated to peace and harmony and joy? My husband F told me I’m thinking too much, but even so, I feel that Christmas of all days is a day to stick by my principles. But Christmas is also a day for indulgences, and the holiday week is a good time for reflecting and renewing commitments, which certainly happened for me this year. I may or may not have bacon next Christmas, but I’m glad I did it this year.
Bandhas February 27, 2014
At the end of the workshop I attended at Dragonfly Yoga last week, we talked about bandhas. I studied bandhas in my YTT (including reading the definitive book on mula bandha) but it’s not something I usually think much about.
In the workshop, Alexis explained that bandhas are a physical lock we can engage in the body that work to channel the flow of energy (or prana) in the body. The most important bandha is the mula bandha, or the root lock (see the link above). Other key bandhas are the uddiyana bandha in the stomach and the jalandhara bandha at the chin/neck.The uddiyana bandha is engaged by pulling in the stomach, trying to pull the belly button in toward the spine. Jalandhara bandha is engaged by tucking the chin and lifting the sternum, feeling the throat pull back toward the spine.
Engaging the mula bandha stops the energy that is naturally flowing downward and out of the body, channeling it back up and into the body to be used. Engaging the uddiyana bandha keeps that energy flowing up and into the chest; engaging jalandhara bandha stops the energy at the throat, like putting a cap on a bottle. The effect is that energy swirls around in the body in ways that normally don’t occur. There are a wide variety of reasons that this is a positive thing. Practitioners of kundalini yoga work intensely with this energy both physically and spiritually.
What interested me most in the bandha discussion was that Alexis mentioned how people who move their bodies with a lot of grace and strength are using their bandhas. I know this is true in yoga: engaging a bandha in a pose, or not doing so, has a big effect on my energy level while holding that pose; I can hold a pose longer and stronger if I’m using my bandhas. However, Alexis also related this to other disciplines like dance. One of the other students who had a dance background said that this is totally true and ballet dancers are constantly “pulling up” in order to move the way they do; she said that, when a male dancer lifts a woman, she’s so “pulled up” and strong through her core that she’s practically holding her own weight. I’d imagine that bandhas are used in other physical areas as well, like sports and martial arts, even if they’re not called by that name.
On the drive home, I found myself singing along with the radio and realized that I had my uddiyana bandha engaged! Not with the full stomach scoop shown in the link above, but still, more than just tightening my abs. As soon as I noticed, this began to make perfect sense – I had some training as a singer when I was younger, and that core strength is so important to holding and sustaining a note; it makes sense too from a yoga theory perspective, because the uddiyana bandha channels energy upward, just as the singer is channeling breath and sound up and out into song. Of course the voice will sound stronger and purer with the energy generated by uddiyana bandha fueling it! I was so excited. I hadn’t thought of this when I was learning about bandhas in my YTT; it was Alexis mentioning how bandhas are used in other fields that made me notice. Now I have a stronger understanding of what uddiyana bandha is and what it does in the body.
Saturday’s Workshop at Dragonfly Yoga February 24, 2014
On Saturday I went to a yoga teaching workshop at Dragonfly Yoga Studio in Doylestown, PA. Dragonfly has a totally different structure to their yoga teacher training program than East Eagle Yoga does: at EEY, the YTT program is a 10-month, very structured program that begins in March and ends in December, but Alexis has made the program at Dragonfly a lot more flexible. At Dragonfly, there’s a three-hour workshop every month, and the topics are decided in advance. You pay for each workshop as you go; if you want to complete a 200-hour certificate, then you need to do all of the workshops (as well as other requirements), but they can be done out of order and over the course of a longer period of time depending on your schedule and desires. And the workshops are open to those who are not on the path to RYT-200. I was able to sign up and attend Saturday’s workshop even though I already have my RYT. Because the topics of each month’s workshop are set in advance, I can pick and choose depending on my own interests and the places I’d like to develop in my own practice.
I think the difference between the two models is pretty fascinating. At EEY, you have the benefit of traveling through the program with a group of other students who are on the exact same path, and there’s a lot of benefit to having that backup and doing it together. It’s also nice to have the structure and to know that these are the things I need to do and as long as I do them, I’ll be done by this date. I could imagine that for some people, the more flexible arrangement could mean not ever finishing the program; however, for people with busy lives, the added flexibility would be really appealing. And it certainly seems like the students in Dragonfly’s program have bonded, even though they’re all at different stages of the training; starting and finishing together isn’t a requirement for team-building. Plus Dragonfly’s model allows them to pick up random extra students like me along the way. They made an easy $75 from me on Saturday for something they were doing anyway!
And I really enjoyed the workshop, too. Here’s the description for Saturday’s class:
Unit 2 (February) – The Prana Of Yoga: Chair Asana /Presentation of Opening & Closing/Bandas/Presentation of Yogis/Types of Hatha Yoga
Sure, some of the content was material I’d learned before, but my YTT was three years ago now and it’s always good to have a refresher, plus different people teach and interpret yoga concepts in different ways. Looking at the full list of Dragonfly’s workshop topics, I think I’d find something interesting and new almost every month.
Since it was my first session, I had no homework to prepare, but the other students had to make presentations based on their reading. Each person presented on a yogi or yogini that they’d researched, as well as on a different type of hatha yoga. I remember the research presentations from my YTT and I really enjoyed it then, and it was no different this time – everybody presented on books I hadn’t read and people I’d heard of but didn’t know much about! I now have several new books to add to my reading list, all suggested by people with whom I share a common interest, which I find to be the best recommendation.
The main part of the class was taken up with chair asana, a topic I’m really interested in but haven’t studied at all. Alexis set up the class in an interesting way: each student was assigned an asana to study and write up, in the same way that I used to do for the Pose of the Month during my YTT, but the difference was that in addition to examining the primary version of the pose, each student also had to look into how the pose could be done using a chair or using the wall. Then each student had to teach the pose and its variations to the class. I thought this was a really cool way of structuring the lesson, making the material easier to remember than if it had just been a lecture. I feel like I learned some useful information about chair yoga and I have some ideas about how to convert other poses using a chair as well.
Overall, I really enjoyed the workshop. Just as important is the fact that all the logistics worked out well: Dragonfly is in Doylestown, quite a hike from my house, but I was able to drive up to my parents’ house and drop off YB for the afternoon, then pick her up on the way home and have dinner with her and my mom. This was a perfect arrangement because (1) my husband F then got the whole day to himself, and (2) YB and my mom adore each other and had a great time. So I had nothing to feel guilty about in taking the afternoon for myself! And I can check three contact hours off my requirements for renewing my Yoga Alliance registration. Win-win. I’ll definitely be going back to Dragonfly later this year.