Rox Does Yoga

Yoga, Wellness, and Life

Yoga Link Round-Up August 1, 2014

I’ve been collecting links for a while, so here’s a link round-up!

  • Mother and 4-Year-Old Daughter Take Impressive Pictures Of Their Yoga Poses: I linked this in a¬†recent post about practicing yoga with YB, but I just can’t get over this. It makes me a little teary, actually. I love these photos: I love the joyful looks on their faces, I love the little girl’s obvious commitment to each pose, I love their matching pants. I would love to do a photo shoot like this with my YB someday, but clearly I need to step up my game because there are some arm balances here that I just can’t pull off. ūüôā
  • A Selection from the Hammer Museum at UCLA’s Contemporary Collection: Katie Grinnan’s Mirage: To create this fascinating sculpture, Grinnan “cast multiple molds of her body executing a sun salutation”. I find the piece exhilarating, exciting, and also a little creepy.
  • The Strength-Building Yoga Pose That Tons of People Do Wrong: Related to sun salutations, I love this informative video from superstar yogini Kathryn Budig on how to chaturanga properly without hurting yourself.
  • Bending the Rules to Offer Yoga With a Beer Chaser: My father-in-law sent me the link to this NYT article about yoga classes in breweries, offering a beer tasting after class. While I love both yoga and craft beer, I’m really not sure how I feel about this. I find that yoga, like running or dancing or working out, makes me feel fresh and healthy and connected to my body; afterwards I typically want a glass of water, a banana, a salad, a smoothie. I just don’t feel like beer would taste¬†right after a yoga practice – but believe me, I’d try it! And I think it’s fantastic that classes like this are leading people to yoga and helping them build a practice that can extend beyond the brewery.
  • Yoga Every Damn Day: My husband sent me the link to this piece about how, when we’re dealing with other issues in our lives and can’t make it to the yoga mat, we’re still practicing yoga every damn day. I don’t know Angela Arnett but I admire her strength and calm in this piece.
  • Pope Francis Reveals Secrets of Happiness: Can I tell you how much I love Pope Francis? He seems to be so full of kindness and peace, focused on loving and helping and supporting people. Everything he lists here is also discussed by Matthieu Ricard, former scientist and Buddhist monk, in his book Happiness, and seems to be in agreement with everything I’ve ever heard or read from the Dalai Lama, including the concepts discussed in The Art of Happiness. When the Catholic Pope and the Dalai Lama¬†agree about how you should live your life, I feel like there’s something right happening.
  • And finally, for your giggle for the day:¬†Men in Yoga Pants.
 

Moon Salutations at YogaLife Institute July 21, 2014

Filed under: yoga — R. H. Ward @ 1:24 pm
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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!

Moon Salutation

 

Toddler Yoga June 26, 2014

Filed under: books,yoga,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 9:18 am
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Bagel salutesSomething 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!)Babar's Yoga for Elephants

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.

Double Down Dogs

 

Yoga Class Mix #2 June 4, 2014

Filed under: music,yoga — R. H. Ward @ 10:39 am
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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.
 

Mother’s Day Yoga Class May 19, 2014

Filed under: music,yoga — R. H. Ward @ 10:24 am
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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:

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 √©t√© : L’ap 2:21 Yann Tiersen Am√©lie Soundtrack Because Am√©lie 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!

 

 

Yoga Teaching Updates: Mother’s Day Class, Last Class at Wellness on Park May 4, 2014

Filed under: checking in,yoga — R. H. Ward @ 12:21 pm
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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.

 

Train Travel Woes April 25, 2014

Filed under: yoga,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 2:19 pm
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One Monday last month, I got all my stuff together to go to a yoga class downtown on my lunch break from work. I packed my mat and yoga clothes into my yoga mat bag and even remembered to bring it with me on the way out the door! Unfortunately, I didn’t remember to grab it when I got off the train – I left the bag in the overhead rack. As soon as I got to the office, I realized what I’d done. I called Lost & Found right away and gave them a report, and I stopped by the Lost & Found office in the train station twice over the next week. No luck. My beautiful handmade yoga bag, my favorite tank top, and the fairly new pants that actually fit were all gone for good.

It’s such a small thing, but the whole experience has been kind of heartbreaking in its way, and really put me off my yoga for several weeks. (For starters, obviously I didn’t make it to class at lunch that day!) ¬†I felt too stupid and sick about the whole thing to even start investigating replacements for my lost things for a while. The pants I should be able to replace with a trip to Old Navy, luckily. The top, not so much – it was a prAna brand top, but they don’t have one like it in their current collection; I only had this top to begin with because of a great sale that made it affordable. I’ve now signed up with prAna’s discount program for registered yoga teachers so I’ll be ready to order a new top as soon as they start selling one. But the yoga mat bag! The Etsy seller whom I purchased it from no longer seems to make them, and after scrolling through options for hours, I haven’t been able to find a comparable one. For now I’m settling on a bag from Gaiam just to get me through, but I think I’ll always dream of my lost bag.

The mat itself wasn’t terrible to lose; I’d had it since 2002, sure, but it was old and worn and I’d already ordered a new mat just for fun. It would’ve been nice to have some time to break the new mat in, though, and not have to pull it into circulation right away. Now I have a brand-new mat that isn’t sticky at all and that I slide around on. I’ve looked up some tips for breaking in a new mat, and I thought I’d share them here!

I’m planning to shower with mine and give it a warm water rinse. If that doesn’t work, then I’ll try the salt scrub – it seems like a great idea. For the rest of it, I’m just trying to practice non-attachment¬†and living in the present moment – what’s done is done. If my things are gone, then they’re gone, and I have to let them go and not cling on to my regret. Hopefully someone somewhere is enjoying the bag, and maybe¬†the clothes were given to charity!

 

Yoga Workshop at the LepreCon March 31, 2014

Filed under: music,yoga — R. H. Ward @ 10:10 am
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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
    • cat/cow
    • 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
    • triangle
    • 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.

Song Title Artist
Cherry Ratatat
Jahta Dance DJ Drez
Runaway Beats Antique
Drop Cornelius
Katamari Stars Katamari Damacy Soundtrack
Bliss Yogini
 

Link Round-Up March 12, 2014

Filed under: yoga,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 9:38 pm
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For today, here are some interesting recent links:

  • An Antidote for Mindlessness: I love seeing scientific evidence to support meditation and mindfulness practice – and this one is in the New Yorker!
  • A Happy Life May Not Be a Meaningful Life: This article looks at a recent study comparing people’s perceptions of a happy life with those of a meaningful one. People tend to perceive the expected sorts of things as bringing happiness: good health, a carefree lifestyle, having enough money. However, those things don’t give our lives meaning – things like spending time with loved ones, putting in effort even on mundane tasks, and giving to others make our lives meaningful.
  • Here‚Äôs Looking at You: Yoga, Fat & Fitness: I love this writer’s attitude about bodies practicing yoga! I’d love to take a class with her.
  • 20 Ludicrous Things Said by Yoga Teachers: This made me laugh SO HARD. There are some things yoga teachers say that no one else would ever think of. But I love the thighbones as rainbows spiraling outward, and I’m totally stealing “Shine your collarbones”.
  • 7 Things Your Yoga Teacher Wants to Tell You: I love these tips from yoga teacher Kathryn Budig – a fun quick read. My favorite is what she has to say to people who think they need to be flexible to do yoga – I’m totally stealing this response!
 

Bandhas February 27, 2014

Filed under: yoga — R. H. Ward @ 12:39 pm
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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.