Rox Does Yoga

Musings on Everything Yoga

Links: Why Yoga Teacher Training February 29, 2012

Filed under: teacher training,yoga — R. H. Ward @ 2:28 pm
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A friend sent me this link: Why Am I In Yoga Teacher Training?, by Brad Rourke. I really liked his thoughtful approach and consideration of the different factors that led him to yoga in the first place and ultimately towards wanting to teach. Brad’s path and mine are different, and my yoga is different from his yoga, but what we have in common is a love of yoga, regardless of style, and a thoughtful approach. We both began our training with an understanding of why we were there and a serious attitude about what we wanted to learn. I wish him the best of luck!

In other news, East Eagle Yoga is still signing up students for their 2012 yoga teacher training. Trainees must sign up by March 1, which is tomorrow! I hope they get a good group this year. It’s so interesting to look back on where I was just over a year ago and why I signed up for teacher training. I’ve learned so much since then.

 

Pose of the Month: Goddess Pose February 28, 2012

Filed under: Pose of the Month,yoga — R. H. Ward @ 1:30 pm
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Pose Name: Goddess Pose

Sanskrit Name: Utkata Konasana (Fierce Angle Pose)

Steps:

  1. Begin in a wide-legged stance, with feet about three feet apart, or roughly the length of one of your legs. Angle your feet so your toes point out and heels point in, about a 45 degree angle.
  2. Exhale and bend both knees deeply. Don’t allow the knees to swing out to the front – keep knees right over the ankles. Also, be sure to keep your knees and your toes pointing at the same angle – if needed, adjust the angle of your feet a bit. Tuck your tailbone under.
  3. Keeping your back straight, raise your arms up to shoulder height. Bend the elbows so your fingertips point toward the ceiling. Palms face forward or in, and fingers are active and extended. Drop the shoulders down and back, and press the chest forward.
  4. Look straight ahead and breathe. (Ujjayi breath is great to use here.)
  5. To come out, exhale and release the arms down, then inhale and slowly straighten the legs.

Benefits:

Goddess pose offers many of the benefits of a squat: it’s a great hip opener and works to stretch the pelvic floor, and, like a squat, it’s a great pose for improving your sex life and for pregnant women to practice for those reasons. It also offers many of the benefits of the warrior poses: strengthening the arms and legs and building heat and stamina. Goddess pose is also a great heart opening pose, stretching and strengthening the muscles of the chest.

Contraindications:

Those with knee injuries should work gently and mindfully in goddess pose. If you have poor balance, you could try practicing the pose with your back against a wall for support.

My Experience with Goddess Pose:

Although I’ve always liked this pose, I didn’t practice it often until just recently. Now that I’m pregnant, I find this pose is a nice alternative to a squat and a great supplement to my warrior series: I really enjoy bringing some strong feminine energy to my standing sequence, since the warrior poses feel so masculine to me. I love this pose because it feels elegant and fierce, strong and grounded.

 

Misc updates February 27, 2012

I taught my first prenatal class at EEY yesterday. It was awesome (or, at least, it seemed so to me – I hope my five students also enjoyed it!). I focused primarily on standing postures and included plenty of squatting poses as well; I’ll try to post the full sequence later this week. I felt confident teaching and the class seemed to flow really smoothly. Next time I want to walk around more, and also encourage the students to use a blanket as a prop or cushion (since personally I am far more comfortable these days sitting on a blanket/cushion than I am on a hard floor, and this class is based pretty much entirely on my own experience). I definitely need to do more research, watch a few more videos, maybe get a book, and hit another few prenatal classes myself, but I’m really happy with this beginning. And today my arms, hips, and thighs feel sore, which is a good sign. I hope my students aren’t suffering too much soreness, especially since some of them are still dealing with morning sickness!

When I thought about it, I was surprised to note that this is the first time in a while that I’ve taught yoga to students I don’t personally know in some way. It’s also the first time I’ve taught at EEY since graduating from teacher training. I was nervous, but not overly so, and I don’t think I seemed nervous; once I started teaching, I felt confident and like I had something valuable to share. This was a great feeling, and reminded me of how much I love teaching yoga! The Sunday morning timeslot for this class isn’t ideal, but I’m so glad I made room for it in my schedule and my life.

Unrelated to how awesome teaching yoga is (or perhaps tangentially related!), I just read this article by Mike Lux titled “What Bible is Santorum Reading?” This is not a political blog, but just last month I blogged about how frustrating I find it that many people who claim to be Christian do not seem to support the values that Jesus describes over and over again in the Bible. Mr. Lux makes a much better case, citing the specific number of times that Jesus told his followers to do things like help the poor, and providing examples from the Old Testament as well. I really appreciated his article so I wanted to share.

 

Pose of the Month: Malasana (Squat) February 23, 2012

Filed under: Pose of the Month,yoga — R. H. Ward @ 8:44 pm
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Pose Name: Squat

Sanskrit Name: Malasana (Garland Pose), Upavesasana (Sitting-Down Pose)

Steps:

  1. Begin standing in tadasana (mountain pose): feet hip-width apart, spine nice and straight, hands in prayer at heart center.
  2. Slowly bending the knees, come down toward the floor in a squat. Try to keep your feet flat on the floor. If you need to, you can widen your stance slightly – toes as far as the outside edge of the mat, heels pointing in.
  3. If you can, work your elbows inside your knees with your hands in prayer. Try to use the elbows to press the knees back, opening the hips and lengthening the spine. Press your shoulders back – you want to keep the chest open and spine straight. Don’t hunch!
  4. Work on balancing here. Find your center of gravity and try to find a way to hold the pose comfortably. Feel your pelvic floor muscles relaxing and opening.
  5. If you need to, you can rest by leaning forward a bit and placing your palms on the floor. You can allow your heels to lift as you do this. When you can, come back into the pose.
  6. To release, simply sit your tush down on the mat.

Variation Using the Wall:

Begin in mountain pose as described above, but with your back pressed against a wall and heels a little out from the wall (maybe a fist’s width). As you come down into your squat, slide down the wall, then use the wall to support your back in the pose. This will take some pressure off and help you balance, allowing you to focus on opening the hips and relaxing the pelvic floor.

Benefits:

This is a great simple pose for anyone to practice since it stretches the hips, works and relaxes the pelvic floor, and strengthens the legs. Because it works these regions, it’s a good pose for improving your sex life. It’s also a great pose in particular for pregnant women (hence my current interest!).

Contraindications:

This pose may be difficult for those with balance issues or knee/ankle problems. If it’s difficult to keep your feet flat on the floor or you feel pressure in your ankles, you could try using some support under your heels (like a blanket folded in half or the folded edge of your mat). Over time, gradually use less support until you can comfortably keep your foot flat. If the whole pose is difficult, you could try it seated on the front edge of a chair: with thighs at right angles to the floor, and heels slightly forward of your knees, lean your chest forward between your thighs.

My experience with this pose:

Right now I am loving squats. They feel great and I know they’re a good preparation for childbirth. I’ve liked squats for a long time, though – one of my yoga teachers in Boston had his students practice squats regularly. As a yoga teacher myself, I like squats for sequencing reasons, because they make a great transition from standing to seated poses, adding more interest and structure to an asana sequence than “OK, let’s all come to the floor now.”

Surprisingly (or maybe not surprisingly), since I’ve been practicing this pose regularly, I’ve been finding myself using it in other parts of my life – like examining items on the bottom shelf at the grocery store, picking up something I’ve dropped, or cleaning up a spill. It’s nice to be able to hang out down there for a while to compare nutrition info on product labels or find that loose change!

For more useful tips on this pose, check out Tori’s post On Squatting.

 

2012 goal update February 22, 2012

Filed under: checking in,reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:03 pm
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Back in January, I did some thinking about my plans and expectations for the coming year. I thought it might be useful to check in and see how I’m doing with all the various goals I came up with.

  • Get registered with Yoga Alliance.(Check!)
  • After registering, look into yoga teacher insurance. (Still need to do this.)
  • Turn this blog into an official website with a schedule and more information about me.(I feel good on this one – if you look around and think I’m missing anything, let me know!)
  • Start a Facebook page for RoxDoesYoga separate from my personal FB to make it easier for yoga friends and potential students to find me. (Done!)
  • Keep up my ties with EEY, the yoga center where I completed my training, by attending hatha yoga class there at least once per month. (January and February: check.)
  • I also hope to attend any special events or workshops that come up at EEY, and teach as a sub there as opportunities arise. (See below…)
  • Reach out to new studios and make connections with other local yoga teachers by attending at least one new yoga class per month. I’d love to start building a new yoga community a little closer to home than EEY and look into teaching opportunities with other yoga centers. (This is such a hard one. I’ve gotten it done for January and February, hitting classes at Enso and Awaken respectively, but I’m not sure how much more reaching out I’ll be able to do. The teaching opportunities have been fast and furious, however.)
  • Keep teaching my weekly Front Porch Yoga class for private students at my home, at least for the next few months. This class will continue to be free, since these students are my friends and their interest in yoga and continued dedication to showing up at my house has provided me with invaluable teaching experience. For now, I really want to stay in practice as a teacher and not lose my confidence, and continuing the free Front Porch class will help me do that.(Front Porch Yoga is now canceled so I can focus on my yoga teaching in other venues.)
  • Begin exploring other yoga teaching opportunities. This is a little more vague, since I’m not sure what’s out there. Some ideas include teaching a discounted class for my neighbors at our town community center, or seeing if the dance studio in the next town over might be interested in starting a yoga program. (I think this resolution will need to be postponed to much later this year, if at all – there’s only so much teaching I can do with a day job!)
  • Continue to challenge myself with reading books on yoga and meditation, with a goal of one yoga-related book per month. (I didn’t succeed with this, although I managed to read the current issue of Yoga Journal and I’m almost done a meditation book. This isn’t turning out to be a good time in my life for reading.)
  • Contact Yoga Journal and other related magazines to look into writing book reviews for publication. (Still need to do this.)
  • Maintain my personal yoga practice. My goal is to fit in some sort of practice every day, whether it’s an hour-long class or three sun salutations. I want to work on practicing pranayama and meditation daily. (This is probably the hardest goal on this list. I am really, truly trying. Sometimes I’m too tired, and sometimes I just forget.)
  • Continue this blog by posting 2-3 times per week. I figure all the goals and plans I’ve listed here will give me plenty to write about! (I missed the end of January/beginning of February due to travel, but otherwise I’ve kept up with the 2-3 times per week goal.)
  • Look into and begin researching prenatal yoga.

That last one is taking off a bit, not entirely through my own initiative. It turns out that the person who has been teaching the prenatal yoga class at EEY has moved to Florida; N needed someone to fill in, and of course she thought of her pregnant former student! I’ll be picking up the 10:30 am Sunday morning prenatal class until at least the end of March and possibly for the foreseeable future.

Although I don’t have any formal training in prenatal yoga, I do have some solid experience considering that all the yoga I do right now is prenatal, and I have firsthand knowledge of how pregnant bodies feel and move. I feel pretty solid about teaching this class, mostly because my body has been very up-front and communicative about what I should and shouldn’t be doing in my yoga practice. (My digestive system needs more work on communication, but my muscles and ligaments are quite chatty.) I’m going to continue to research prenatal yoga as best I can, which right now involves watching videos online and will hopefully involve me picking up and reading a few books. I’m looking forward to learning more as I work with my students and continue on my yoga teaching journey.

 

Vegetarianism and Pregnancy February 16, 2012

Filed under: reflections — R. H. Ward @ 1:38 pm
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I haven’t done a vegetarian update in a while, and some of you may be wondering how I’m doing with being vegetarian (or pescatarian, more accurately) while I’m pregnant. The quick answer is, so far so good – my midwifes (midwives?) have all been supportive, my appetite is good and overall I feel good.

The biggest issue has been making sure I get enough of certain nutrients. I need lots of protein, so I’ve been eating a hard-boiled egg with lunch every day. I was worried about iron being a problem, even before my pregnancy, so for a while I was taking extra iron supplements in addition to my prenatal vitamins. My iron levels were great, but it resulted in clogging up my system pretty badly, so I had to stop the extra supplements. Now I’m just making sure to eat plenty of leafy greens to keep my iron up – the iron from greens seems easier to digest. We put spinach in just about everything, and Trader Joe’s has a southern greens blend that I love sauteed up with onions. We also eat salads once or twice a week, and we’ll often top a salad with a vegetarian chick’n patty or burger, which helps with the protein count too.

One of my new favorites is almond butter. Trader Joe’s has one that includes omega 3’s and flax seed oil, and while it has a little less protein than peanut butter, it also has less fat and sodium and more of pretty much everything else. And I think it tastes better than peanut butter too. We whipped through our first jar of almond butter in less than five days.

At this point in my pregnancy, the baby needs a lot of omega 3’s and calcium, so I picked up some extra supplements of those. The Viactiv-style chocolate calcium chews are tasty and easy to eat during the day. For omega 3, we got a bottle of kids’ gummy vitamins – they were cheaper than the grownup version and included more grams of omega 3’s, and they taste like candy. On our vacation last week we also ate tons of fish, with almost every meal, so hopefully baby is getting plenty of material to work with.

I have been having some trouble with beans. My system seems more prone to digestive issues now that there’s less room in there for digesting, and I was getting gas so bad that my belly would be visibly larger a full day post-beans. One of my pregnant friends suggested the obvious – and Beano seems to be helping. Sometimes I’m amazed at my ability to have a problem’s solution in my house, stored right in the dining room even, and not think of it.

No crazy cravings yet. My thought on cravings is this: if I am desperate for a hot dog (or some meat loaf, or whatever) and can’t stop thinking about it such that it’s obviously a hormonal thing, I’m not going to deprive myself of that thing. I don’t plan to start eating meat again, but I’m willing to be flexible depending on what my body wants, and that includes onion-flavored jello or whatever. Honestly, I think onion jello would be less gross to me than meat at this point, but if my body’s craving it and it’s generally accepted to be food, I’ll eat it. Overall, though, I’ve been really happy with my decision to continue not eating meat and keep up healthy eating habits even while my body has extra nutrition needs.

 

Teaching at Awaken February 15, 2012

Filed under: yoga — R. H. Ward @ 1:37 pm
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I’m excited to tell you all that I’m going to be teaching yoga at a real yoga studio! And I’ll be paid, even! Tonight is my first class at Awaken Massage & Yoga in Media, PA. Teaching yoga on my front porch has been incredibly rewarding – I’m so glad that I could provide that class to my friends and so grateful that they kept showing up. Now I’m delighted to gain teaching experience in a professional yoga studio setting, and to get to know everybody at Awaken.

I created a Schedule page with Google Calendar so it’ll be easy to find out when I’m teaching right here on the blog. One more step towards turning this blog into a professional website!

 

Welcome! February 11, 2012

Filed under: yoga — R. H. Ward @ 4:45 pm
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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 Music: Class Mix # 1 February 9, 2012

Filed under: music,yoga — R. H. Ward @ 1:33 pm
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For a long while I had trouble finding music I liked for yoga. Then F got me one CD, a friend at work passed along another, I picked up a few recommendations from Yoga Journal or random Amazon lists, I figured out what that one great song they always play at the yoga studio was, and along the way I built up a bit of a collection. I thought I’d share with you a mix I made for a yoga class.

Yoga Class Mix # 1: nine songs, 1 hour

Track No. Song Title Duration Artist Album Notes
 1 Crazy Heart  7:10 Bahramji and Maneesh de Moor Call Of The Mystic I discovered Maneesh de Moor in somebody’s yoga music list on amazon.com. I don’t love the whole album, but this is a good, mellow song to start out a yoga practice and warm you up.
 2 Mahadeva  5:41 Anoushka Shankar Rise This up-tempo song gets your practice moving.
 3 Rupa Tujhe Deva  9:10 Cheb I Sabbah Krishna Lila This one’s a little funky, with some Eastern flair.
 4 Namah Shivaya  7:17 Krishna Das Pilgrim Heart Krishna Das is one of my very favorite musicians for yoga. He’s got like a dozen albums and they all pretty much sound alike, which is great because you can pop on one of his albums and just asana out. This is one of his more upbeat songs. I really like to chant along with him as I practice.
 5 Self Travels  5:27 DJ Drez Jahta Beat – The Progression I found DJ Drez recommended in Yoga Journal. His music is like yoga meets dance club: funky, great beat, lots of interesting samples mixed in.
 6 Nataraja  15:06 Jai Uttal/Ben Leinbach Music for Yoga and Other Joys This is the song I loved at the yoga center. The whole album is solid, but this song is just fantastic. It’s mellow and really long, so you can just flow from pose to pose while the song backs you up. I put this song here in my mix because around here it’s usually time for a balance pose, and this song reminds me to do natarajasana.
 7 Rever’s Edge  2:49 FLCL Soundtrack FLCL is an anime series that my friend DB loves, and I scored this song from him. It’s a really beautiful little instrumental, and coming at this point in the mix, it reminds me to slow it down for savasana if I haven’t already.
 8 Alone In Kyoto  4:48 AIR Lost In Translation Soundtrack I discovered this song by accident: I’d downloaded the soundtrack to the movie Lost in Translation and put it on my iPod but hadn’t listened to it yet, and then the song came up in random play and I was floored. It’s really beautiful, perfect for calming down and getting ready to relax.
 9 Sri Krishna Arati  6:51 Bhagavan Das Now Bhagavan Das’s album “Now” is really structured with yoga in mind – you can just pop in the whole album and practice all the way through. This is the savasana song. It’s a good length for savasana, and it even ends with bells gently chiming to bring you back to yourself, followed by “Om” and “Shanti” each chanted three times. I usually stop the song (by gradually turning the volume down) before we get to the bells so I can bring my students out of savasana myself, but it’s a perfect song for an individual practice.
 

Hips Square to the Ocean February 7, 2012

Beach Sun SalutationPros and Cons of Practicing Yoga on the Beach

Cons:

  1. Sand gets everywhere.
  2. Passerby feel welcome to chat with you about your yoga, which can be distracting and annoying.
  3. Sand shifts under your mat as you move. After your warrior sequence, the patch of firm even sand you picked out won’t be nearly as comfortable to sit on.
  4. If the beach is breezy, you’ll have to weigh down the corners of your mat if you don’t want to spend half your practice fixing it when it blows over.
  5. You don’t need to apply sunscreen before yoga class in a studio.
  6. Sand really gets everywhere!
  7. It’s easy to get distracted by all the birds, people, shells, boats, and other items you see at the beach.

Pros:

  1. Practicing yoga outdoors can be a welcome change to enhance your practice.
  2. Your beach yoga practice can be a conversation starter with people you might otherwise never have talked to.
  3. Shifting sand underfoot can actually help to stabilize you in postures where you tend to wobble – for example, you can wiggle your feet more deeply into the sand for extra support during balance poses.
  4. The ocean breeze can refresh you and cool you off as you practice. Weighing down your mat with shells adds an element of beauty to your plain ol’ mat, and finding the shells can be a fun preparation for practice.
  5. Once you’re sunscreened up properly, sun salutations to the actual sun add meaning to your yoga practice and remind us of where this sequence of movements came from in the first place.
  6. On the beach you have plenty of room to spread out so you won’t be touching (or bumping, or smelling) your yoga partners like you might in a studio class.
  7. Although the beach brings a whole set of distractions, it can also bring new vitality to your practice. The sounds of the birds and the waves can center us and bring us back to our true selves.

(We had a wonderful vacation! Now back to your regularly scheduled blog posts, with more beach yoga photos to follow.)

 

 
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