Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Random Kitty Cuteness

Real post coming soon, I just need to order my thoughts a bit!
You know I love the kitties, and mine does/supervises yoga with me every day (as you can see from her frequent appearance in asana photos). In fact, if I am tardy getting to my mat, she often comes to see what my lazy ass is still doing in bed. So when my godmother sent me these pics of her kitty cats, I couldn't resist posting them!

Meet Pixie the kitten:

And Liqourice the cat, formerly an only pet, now a grumpy older brother...

PS: I know there have been many many mistakes in recent posts. Sorry. I will be more careful. Been drinking too much (decaf) coffee and it makes me crazy.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I would bend over backwards...

As WoYoPracMo draws to a close, I thought it would be nice to share what I actually do on my mat most days!

Regular reader will know that I have had recurring trouble with an overstretched (oh, ok, horribly damaged) hamstring, and forward bends, at least seated forward bends, are pretty much out of the question a lot of the time. Combine this with the hunching I have been doing over my knitting in the evenings, and, well, I gotta bend backwards - relieves the stiff shoulders, gets movement into those muscles in the back, doesn't antagonise the hamstring (another post on overstretching to come...)

I am still not a flashy backbender, but my back, and front for that matter, sure have loosened up.

From this (notice the yawning gap between my back thigh and the floor):

Eka pada rajkapotasana variation

To this (photos taken during actual practices, so not quite as pretty as the one above!)

Pigeon variation

Pigeon with strap

Backarch and cat

Just so you know, I don't do the flashy stuff (I think this is flashy stuff, not the basics) every day. Or even every week, sometimes. Just on the days I feel like it, and it feels safe and possible. Seems to work much better for me that way, since the poses are after all tools, not a goal in themselves - just a reminder, since you might get the wrong impression from all these photos!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

New Year, New Yoga Association

Stand up (on a chair), originally uploaded by jnmerrit.

Hee hee, this is truly hilarious. We should all join, methinks....

You will get the chair thing once you have read it.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Q & A with Anna Dubrovsky

I met Anna in September 2006 at KYM, and liked her instantly. She is one of those warm, kind people you feel you can trust, and in fact you can! She is also a really inspiring woman; she has changed her life completely in the last few years - which is why I asked her to do this Q & A. Read on to find out more. Did I mention she is also funnnee? She is.

1. How long have you been practicing yoga, and how did you start?

I took my first yoga class in 2001. It was at a day spa in a New Jersey town I'd just moved to. The ladies in the class were a gorgeous, glowing lot, and most of them were considerably older than I was. I stuck with yoga because I figured it had something to do with their fabulousness. (It's also possible that chemical peels and tummy tucks had something to do with their fabulousness...)

2. How has yoga changed your life?

I wear Lycra instead of rayon to work.

In 2006 I quit my corporate journalism job and moved to India to study yoga. Pretty big change. I came back to the States seven months later and enrolled in a yoga teacher-training program. Now I'm teaching, and I make my living writing about yoga and other topics that interest me. I get paid to go to yoga conferences and gab with the world's most prominent teachers. I won't bore you with the details of my previous career. Suffice it to say that I worked in a cubicle and had five computer monitors on my desk. That change enough for ya?

3. You are currently training to teach yoga. Which teachers have you found most influential and why?

I graduated from my teacher-training program last month.*

I've had quite a few wonderful teachers because I've moved several times since starting yoga. My first steady teacher, Jo Carter, was deeply influential. Her enthusiasm and knowledge hooked me on the practice. She had an Iyengar background, and I left her studio in New Jersey with a great foundation. My next home was in Los Angeles, dubbed "the yoga capital of the West," and I had the opportunity to take regular classes from the sort of teachers who give workshops around the world. Erich Schiffmann was one of them. It was through him that I glimpsed the world of yoga that's beyond the physical. I dove into that world in India, at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram, which is where I met you! My teachers there ranged from founder TKV Desikachar to my roommate and friend Ben. I soaked up so much information during my time there. I studied the Yoga Sutra. I learned Vedic chanting. It was truly transformative. Then I came back to the States, moved to Pittsburgh, and began my teacher training with Robert and Cindi Barton. They taught me how to teach. I know that's a lot of "most influential" nominees, but I've been shaped by a lot of hands.

4. What kind of a teacher would you like to be?

I want to be the kind of teacher who lives the teachings.

5. And lastly, tell us about your new blog...

In November I started a "diet blog" for Fitness magazine. I don't like calling it a diet blog because of what that suggests. I'm not chronicling my efforts to slim down or squeeze into an old pair of jeans or anything like that. I'm trying to change my eating habits because for many, many years I've done the reduced-cal, non-fat, lite thing. In the process, I've ingested so many unnatural ingredients that it's a wonder I haven't grown a sixth toe. I'm trying to purge my diet of highly processed foods. I have a lot to learn about healthful eating, and I'm hoping the readers will learn along with me -- and teach me.

Find Anna at her website and her blog - worth a visit for anyone who has ever cracked open a diet soda.

* Yay Anna - if you are in her area, you should try to get some teacher time with her. Trust me on this.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Be content

All Is One, originally uploaded by Stephen J Phillips

New year, new beginnings, right?
I have signed myself up for Nischala Joy Devi’s Free Weekly Sutra emails. I quite like seeing what her take on the YS is, as compared to the version I usually consult, TKV Desikachar’s.

Her version on Sutra 1.2, 'Yogascittavrttinirodha' is :

Yoga is the Uniting of Consciousness in the Heart

The past few weeks, I have had occasion(s) to notice just how far our practice of yoga sometimes strays from this intention. For example, grading yoga classes into ‘beginner’, ‘advanced’ and so on. How on earth did we get the idea that you are an advanced yogi if you can do certain poses? I won’t even call them difficult, because there will always be some people who find them easy, some who don’t. Does this mean that a former gymnast who is able to contort more than a normal Joe Shmoe is automatically a more advanced yogi? No no no.

Seriously people, refusing a 50-something woman admission to your advanced class because she can’t do chaturanga 'well enough' is not yogic. Call the class something else. Arm balance or strength, maybe. But if that woman is able to sit quietly with her breath, and sometimes, unite her mind and her heart, she is well on her way to being an advanced yogi. Madam Indra Devi practiced yoga postures until just before her death, and I can tell you she wasn’t doing chaturanga, or bakasana. And nobody could question her advanced status as a yogi.

It can be useful to have physical goals in your asana practice, as it is a way to keep you enthusiastic and coming to your mat every day, and achieving those goals can be liberating and exciting. Stella put this beautifully in her post about achieving handstand. But. The asanas are a tool on our way to yoga, one of the EIGHT limbs of yoga practice. Just one of eight. Not the everything. Not the goal.

So, this year, give yourself a gift – be content with where you are in you practice right now. And grateful that you can practice. Every day maybe? Hee hee.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Start Well!

Today, the first day of the first month of 2008, a year, I am told, of new beginnings: you could start by practicing yoga. Today, and every day for the rest of the month.

For more info, see here.

As you know, I have had a daily practice for a long long time now. I have missed the odd day, it's true, but on the whole, I have to practice to feel half normal. Even if it is just a ten minute breathing practice. Something to tune me in a bit. Or remind me that I am tuned in, depending how you look at it.

Give it a go!