Rox Does Yoga

Yoga, Wellness, and Life

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
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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’s 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.

 

Saturday’s Workshop at Dragonfly Yoga February 24, 2014

Filed under: teacher training,yoga,yoga philosophy — R. H. Ward @ 12:10 pm
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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.

 

My Year in Blogging: 2012 and 2013 January 9, 2014

Filed under: Miscellaneous,yoga — R. H. Ward @ 12:58 pm
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Each year, WordPress sends me a report of my year in blogging. Last year, I meant to post about it but just basically filed it and left it alone, so I thought this year it would be fun to do a bit of a comparison. Here are the links to the full reports: 2012 and 2013.

My blog was viewed about 16,000 times in 2013, as compared to 18,000 times in 2012. That’s despite the fact that I added fewer posts in 2012 – I posted 76 times in 2012 versus 90 times in 2013. (I feel like I posted less and less often in 2013, but I’m guessing the volume difference came from the extended blog break I took after having YB in July 2012.) All of the most popular posts were from 2011 and 2012, too – none of the most popular posts were from 2013.

In both 2012 and 2013, the most popular posts were all “pose of the month” posts or sequences of yoga poses (a gentle prenatal sequence I did in 2012 ranked for both years). I think I was doing a lot less actual yoga posting in 2013; I feel like I posted more about spirituality, goals and resolutions, and about my family life in 2013. Those sorts of posts are less likely to get hits from internet searches, and are less likely to be read more than once or referenced regularly. That probably explains the decrease in blog views, since I was producing less of the hard yoga content?

My posts on Thread-The-Needle, Gorilla Pose, and Malasana (Squat) were among the top five posts for both 2012 and 2013. For each of these poses, I seem to remember the posts being difficult to find sources for, so it could be that these are topics not covered as well by the general internets. I’m glad that people are continuing to find my write-ups of these asanas helpful.

People who found my blog by searching online often used these search terms: yoga humor, prenatal yoga sequence, what to say during savasana, thread the needle yoga pose, and upavesasana. (And if you google upavesasana – a less common name for malasana – my post is the second link!)

In the new year, I’d like to come back to the pose-of-the-month concept (although it may be more like “the pose of the semester” or “the quarterly pose” or even just a “Pose Breakdown” – happy to take suggestions on a more accurate name for this!). I enjoyed doing those, and it seems like they’re useful to people. I hope too that at least a few of the people who found me by looking for a specific pose found something else here that they liked as well.

 

Yoga Goals for 2014 December 31, 2013

Filed under: checking in,yoga — R. H. Ward @ 10:38 am
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Happy New Year! It’s the time of year when we set new goals and make new resolutions, which, if you’re a regular reader, you know is a favorite topic of mine. Right now I’m so busy between work and toddler-chasing that I don’t think I can set any strenuous goals. However, I do need to follow up on my yoga goals and make some plans, since I have some requirements to meet in order to keep my Yoga Alliance registration current.

First, I need to log ten contact hours of training, in a room with a qualified instructor, before December 2014. Back in August I started thinking about this, but unfortunately the workshops Amy had planned to teach for the fall didn’t pan out, so there went a big chunk of the training hours I’d planned on. I’ll need to do some serious investigating, and soon, to get this done by the end of the year. Amy is still hoping to teach the winter workshop series, so I’ll sign up for that if she gets enough students. I’m also going to look into workshops at Maha Yoga downtown (why did I not know about this place? 17th and Sansom isn’t too far to go for a class on my lunch break, and it looks like they have a variety of workshops for continuing ed!), at Dhyana Yoga downtown, and at Artisan Yoga in Wayne, PA (not too far from me, and I like the idea of the “yoga lab” and dissecting a pose – although I know I can’t do the flying split which is the next one they have scheduled, I want to keep an eye on them and see what they offer next time!). I found these options in less than 15 minutes of searching – Maha was actually the first thing that popped up when I searched “yoga workshop near philadelphia” – so there has to be more out there!

One other idea I’d had (which I think I got from Darshana Communications, actually) was to do a CPR training at a local hospital – they run those sorts of trainings often, and while I hope I would never have to use it, it would definitely be a good tool to have under my belt. I need to check and find out for sure if CPR training would count for my training hours (I would think it would, possibly under the “Techniques Training and Practice” or “Anatomy and Physiology” categories). I want to look into meditation classes, too, but I feel like it wouldn’t be right to take meditation classes now when I have so little time for practice at home. On the other hand, maybe taking a class would be a good idea to get me back into actually doing it? We’ll see.

I also have to log 45 teaching hours before December 2014 – the good news is that I’m at 39 hours now, so I just have to teach six more classes in 2014 to make that goal. That shouldn’t be much of a problem, although I do want to get more students into my class at Wellness on Park.

The other change I want to make this year is with regard to my blogging schedule. I love writing here, and the opportunity it affords me to look at yoga and other topics from a new perspective, but with my work schedule and the baby I have to recognize that I just haven’t been posting as often as I used to. I haven’t kept a Tuesday-Thursday schedule in a while. Instead of beating myself up about that, I’m going to acknowledge the limitations I’m currently working with and change my goal. I’m going to aim to post weekly, but will only hold myself to posting twice a month. If I can do better than twice a month, I will, but I think two solid, thoughtful posts in a month should be doable.

Here’s to accomplishing some yoga goals in 2014!

 

Holiday Yoga Class Sequence and Playlist December 27, 2013

Filed under: music,yoga — R. H. Ward @ 11:37 am
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Hey there, friends and fans of yoga. With all the holiday cheer going around lately, I haven’t had much time for blogging. So here’s a quick update:

My holiday themed yoga class on December 17 went wonderfully well! My Tuesday night class has not been particularly populous since I started teaching it in October, so I was hoping I might get five or six people – about that many had emailed to say they were coming. And then on the 17th, it was snowy and slushy and cold, and I worried no one would feel like going out. Well, my five or six people showed up, and then a few more people arrived, and then there were five more people coming up the stairs, and we packed the room! It turns out that the yoga studio at Wellness on Park can fit about 14 people (15 if the last person is Donna and she squeezes herself into the corner by the door without a mat), and sadly we even had to turn away a few latecomers. It was fantastic! We had a great friendly group that included three mother-daughter sets, which I absolutely loved. The class was a lot of fun to teach and everyone seemed to enjoy the holiday energy.

Here’s the sequence I taught (I had planned on a few more things but I had to adapt and think on my feet since some things, like legs up the wall, were obviously not going to work with the number of people we had in the room):

Warm Up

  • Child’s pose
  • Cat/cow
  • Thread the needle
  • Downward dog
  • standing forward fold
  • mountain pose

Sun Salutations

  • 5 half sun salutes
  • 2 salutes with lunges
  • 2 full salutes

Standing Sequence

  • warrior 1
  • warrior 2
  • triangle pose
  • revolved triangle
  • extended side angle
  • revolved side angle
  • pyramid/head-to-knee pose
  • prasarita
  • Repeat sequence on the other side

Balance!

  • tree pose
  • quad stretch
  • dancer pose
  • repeat balance sequence on the other side

Cool Down: Seated

  • Garland pose/squat
  • Staff pose
  • Seated forward fold
  • Upward plank
  • Janu sirsasana
  • Janu sirsasana with a twist

Cool Down: Reclining

  • happy baby
  • bridge pose
  • reclining twist
  • savasana
  • Brief meditation

I tried to focus on heart-opening poses and on centering and balance poses. When it’s cold out, we tend to round the shoulders and hunch down into ourselves just when we most need to open the heart; I wanted to include an element of centering and balance because the holiday season is tough on the body and drains energy, even if we love all the celebration. I wanted people to feel relaxed and refreshed and ready to tackle all the gift wrapping and caroling and parties to come.

And here’s the playlist for the class’s music. A few of these songs I might cut for future classes – “The Winter Solstice” by Sufjan Stevens in particular didn’t work for me – but overall I was really happy with the effect.

Song Title Artist
all that I want The Weepies
Maybe This Christmas Ron Sexsmith
Wintersong Sarah McLachlan
What A Year For A New Year Dan Wilson
anorak christmas Sally Shapiro
The Winter Solstice Sufjan Stevens
Everything’s Gonna Be Cool This Christmas eels
Christmas with the Snow Marah
Holiday Vampire Weekend
The Christmas Song The Raveonettes
Hey Guys! It’s Christmas Time! Sufjan Stevens
Christmastime Smashing Pumpkins
12.23.95 Jimmy Eat World
Snow Loreena McKennitt
Snowman Suddenly, Tammy!
The Peace Carol John Denver & The Muppets
Sweet Secret Peace Neil Finn
Song For A Winter’s Night Sarah McLachlan
Christmas In The Room Sufjan Stevens
The Atheist Christmas Carol Vienna Teng
Hilli Amiina

I hope all of you are having a wonderful holiday, no matter how you celebrate.