Begin Here Now

New Class! Last Monday I sub at Samsara, teaching “Begin Here,” an introduction to yoga. I have at least a couple students who know nothing, nothing whatsoever about yoga – – my favorite kind of student. If that’s you stop on by any place I teach. Don’t be shy! Monday night is on my schedule for the next three weeks to finish out the series. You don’t have to worry about missing last week. Here’s what I covered:

three-part breathing – with an emphasis on pelvic movement
the pelvis as the centering point to the pose
how to sit on a blanket
sphinx and several cobra variants
standing poses: tadasana, half forward fold, forward fold, wide legged forward fold and triangle pose (with blocks)
Sun Salute A (with cobra, not up dog)
moving in sync with breathing
the meaning of “namaste”
a short history of yoga
the idea of yoga as a way to free energy – liberate the body from congestion and blockages
creating tensegrity (not locking joints)
deepening body awareness in the shoulders, side body and hip
relaxation – savasana
 
three-part breathing – with an emphasis on pelvic movement

It’s challenging at first to sync breath with movement. Start instead by simply observing. Without attempting to change anything, pay attention. Breath doesn’t live in anyone place, it moves through the body uninhibited in a healthy person. If I’m lying on my back I feel my pelvis, spine, front body, chin and chest all moving in careful concert with my inhales and exhales without any special effort. Having noticed the connection makes keeping the connection easier, organic, natural. Make the next step a cognitive, intellectual decision. Push down gently on the exhale, flattening the low back against the floor. Release on the inhale. If that messes up your tempo, relax and try again.

Try not to skip steps when building a practice.
the pelvis as the centering point to the pose

If you can get what’s going on at the center of gravity everything else will fall into place. I mean if you’re looking at me and thinking “That ain’t gonna happen.” Fear not. Get your abdomen engaged and let the other eight limbs sort themselves out in time. You have the rest of your life after all. No pressure.

how to sit on a blanket

Sit with your hips up and knees down. The rounded edge facing the front of the room, the fringe facing the back. Don’t sit in the middle of the blanket like a throne. Sit on the edge to tip the hips forward. Why? Because if your pelvis is in correct alignment everything else will fall into place. If your pelvis is not? Your chin will droop, shoulders will round, groin muscles will ache and eventually you’ll overstretch the large tendons by your spine. Sit so the tail bone feels downwardly directed. Some flexible people sit the butt stuck out behind ’em, back strongly arched. IMHO that’s no more correct than sitting in a curled up vertical fetal position. Use more than one blanket if that’s what it takes, or a zafu, or a block.

sphinx and several cobra variants

Maybe you never realized the center of these backbends in the pelvis. Think again. Your back will move more easily into upward curvature if your pelvis finds the floor. Press down with the pubic bone and the chest lifts all by herself. Neat, right? The sphinx spreads a myth about aging. Aging may be true, but the part about needing a cane at dusk? Not so much. Not if you keep the prana flowing freely. Prana congests from lack of use, not age. Getting older means I have to work harder. Age is no time to slack off.

standing poses: tadasana, half forward fold, forward fold, wide legged forward fold, triangle pose (with blocks)

Most of the people I know who won’t try yoga proclaim they can’t touch their toes. As if that is a requirement. Not. If you can’t touch the floor bring the floor closer to you via a block. A cheap $12 prop. Forward folds? Guess what? If you use them to learn how to tilt your pelvis you will feel better, more effectively, more intensely, whether or not you ever reach your toes. Stop thinking the floor is the goal. Freeing the joints is the goal and those joints aren’t getting any free-er from ignorance and disuse. Triangle pose frees the pelvis side to side, folds free the pelvis back to front.

Sun Salute A (with cobra, not up dog) If you learn nothing else from me learn a 9 pose vinyasa called “Sun Salute A.” Practice this for seven minutes a day. Depending on how stiff you are you’ll feel results immediately or very soon. You don’t need anymore space than yoga mat. This is the quintessential home practice. Doing them by yourself, in the privacy of your soul will teach you more about yoga than YouTube or Dvds. Vinyasa means linking poses, like flowers on a lei. Moving in sync with breathing is at the heart of lots of sports meditations: weight lifting, rowing, running, not just yoga. Learn this skill for life not just yoga.

the meaning of “namaste” A formal greeting? A friendly greeting? Like Aloha it means both hello and good-bye. Like Aloha, in its original namaste isn’t trite – it’s accompanied by a slight bow because it means “I bow to you,” or “I honor you.” Or like its close cousin, namskara, “I salute you.” Say this with reverence for others and yourself.

a short history of yoga

Once upon a time when governments were fragile, men moved to the mountains to get away from political turmoil. Far from infrastructure, hospitals, convenience stores and the like – yoga began as preventative care in conjunction with moral beliefs, ethics, observations and meditation. The ancient yogis weren’t competitive because there was no one present to impress. Even though we now live in cities and practice in groups government is still fragile. Being detached to things I can’t hold on to anyway has its charms.

the idea of yoga as a way to free energy – liberate the body from congestion and blockages
creating tensegrity (not locking joints)
deepening body awareness in the shoulders, side body and hip
relaxation – savasana

Many modern instructors teach yoga as a quasi religion. Others teach asana as a healing modality. If the instructor is heavily into spirituality don’t expect their practice to make sense. Religions don’t have to make sense. That’s what makes ’em religions and not scientific studies. If the teacher is on the healing end of the spectrum, don’t expect too many quotes from the Bhagavad Gita or tips from Ayurvedic medicine. Expect an anatomy based practice with emphasis on therapeutic results. That said, at some point there is cross-over.

A deeply spiritual centered practice may still leave me feeling good at the end, like a stretched cat, open at the top. And a therapeutic workout can lead to “aha” self-reflective moments. Ultimately the practitioner drives the practice, not the teacher. Or to paraphrase the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: the experience exists so that the experiencer may experience it.

Join me Monday at Samsara Wellness Center for more Begin Here Intro Stuff. Or check out the calendar for the other venues and classes.

Now y’all play nice!

Sat Nam