Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Look at the hot girl in front of you, OK now you're done

Anyone who knows who Bryan Kest is will understand my complete and utter excitement that I had the opportunity to take a 3 hour master class with him on Sunday. Bryan is the creator of power yoga as we know it, and he is the most no-bullshit person I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.  He opened his talk by saying, "Well, I could either start by talking to you about how you bring your shit into yoga and you turn yoga into shit. Or we could talk about how every fucking yoga pose is stupid."  Welcome to my head spinning around in exorcist circles in shock at this man and his theories on yoga.

packed class for Bryan Kest

So Bryan talked for an hour about how we are polluting our bodies by polluting our minds with stress and killing ourselves, about how we spend so much time competing in yoga that we lose the whole purpose of the practice. He also managed to say shit and fuck more times than I thought humanly possible in that time frame, as well as the phrase "kunalindi shooting up your asshole" multiple times.

Let's just remember the reason that the yoga asana practice was created, so we could sit on our asana and meditate for longer. It wasn't so your abs would look nice in a bikini or so you could bounce a quarter off your tush. Those are just happy side effects of the practice.

The idea that really stuck with me of Bryan's was the idea to not look around the room.  He started the class by bringing us to virasana, or sitting on your knees, and telling us to look around the room.  "This is it for the rest of the class, look around, see what you need to see. OK, now you're done and you can practice without looking at anyone else." You've heard other yoga teachers say it, you've heard me say it, don't worry about what other people are doing on their mats, there is no competition in yoga.
no peeking 

Bryan took this idea a step farther, don't even look at the person next to you because the person next to you doesn't matter to your practice. All that matters in that you are getting the full benefit of your practice, and the only way to get the full benefit is to not look around the room and stay on your mat. We talk about keeping the mind still, staying with your practice for the hour or hour and a half you're in class and not letting the mind wander off the mat, how about not letting your eyes wander off the mat? How do you think you're going to stay present on the mat with your mind if you're checking out the guy with no shirt on in front of you.

Bryan made another point that spoke to me, as long as you are in your fullest expression of the pose you are getting the most benefit possible from that pose.  That means if you are doing utanasana, or as Bryan might remind us, bending over and touching your toes, you don't have to look like everyone else to get the same benefit as the person next to you. If you bend over and your fingers are a foot off the ground, but you push your sit bones back, your stretch your neck down, you engage into the quads, and open into the hamstrings, you are getting the same benefit as the girl in the lulus who's head is on the floor.

I would venture to say that bendy lulu chick might be getting less intense of a stretch than you are. That means you Mr. or Ms. with the strained face and the "inflexible" hamstrings are getting more benefit from your forward fold than lulu in the front row. Look at that you won. Now put your head down and stop looking around.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

getting light

So you've heard me talk write (or maybe talk if you're in Miami and you come to sweat your asana off with me) about a heaviness in your practice.  Yoga has gotten me though some rough stuff in my life and I cannot encourage you to do anything better than get on your mat when your life is feeling terrible.  You will feel better there, I can guarantee that.

But a light practice, if you've experienced it you know what I'm talking about, its the best feeling. Those days when you float on your mat, you do things you never even imagined you might be able to do one day.  Your mind isn't jumping around, you just get down and get to sweating and you're so happy the entire time you're practicing you could just break into a little yoga dance. So you do a million vinyasas, because that is our favorite dance move.

My friends, let me tell you something, I have been having a lightness in my practice that I have never experienced before.

Add to that that people have been commenting on how happy I am.  So, a little part of me wonders just how miserable I've been due to the number of people commenting on my newly cheery attitude, but the rest of me doesn't really care. Yep, I'm a happy girl, happy on my mat and happy off my mat.

 I've actually been able to get onto my mat and practice more than ususal.  For me, and I know for so many others, our biggest complaint about our practice is we don't have enough time. It is almost impossible for me to get 2 hours to play on the mat. So I don't practice for 2 hours. I go play around for 15 or 20 mins before I teach. I throw my headphones in and listen to some of the new jams I've been introduced to and just mess around a little.

And you know what, my body and mind are grateful for the release.  My practice, in those few minutes is playful, there is no time to get down on myself or the new tightness I'm feeling in my hips (thanks to my ironwoman friend who has forced me to become a runner again).

Yoga is fun. Its supposed to be playful. Its so easy to forget that when you look around the room and see people with "perfect" practices or amazing bodies all around you. So my charge for you is to get on your mat, even for 5 mins. When you walk by a tempting wall just kick up into a handstand (I was doing arm balances outside of a starbucks yesterday). I can promise you a few things.  You will have fun. You will engage in conversations with some interesting new people, who will compliment you.  I'll see you on the mat my sweaty friends, even if its just for a few minutes. 

I also promised a little while months ago to post a video of me doing a crow jumpback with an explaination. Instead here you have a video of a lizard jumpback and I will give you a step by step how to.

1. Start in down dog, bring your hips up high, tuck the tailbone under, engage into the core.
2.  Step the foot forward into lizard lunge, keep the back knee up KEEP YOUR CORE ENGAGED (imagine how annoying I am when I repeat that in class). Press into both hips evenly opening into the hips. You should stay here opening up for several breaths.
3. Start to work the shoulder under the front leg. You can take your hand and shift the calf muscle to help the shoulder under as you see me do.
4. Straighten the front leg out, press into the hands, clawing the knuckles into the mat.
5. Start to lift the back toes off the mat, coming into the arm balance.
6. Pressing deeply into your hands shoot your legs back to take your vinyasa.
7. Feel like a bad ass.
8. Make a video and send it to me :)


Friday, November 2, 2012

apathy: the most un-yogic trait you can possess

Friday is usually my morning to sleep in late, take a nice long run, go to the dog park, and hang out. But this morning my alarm went off early and I jumped out of bed, put on real pants (ones not made out of spandex) and went to city hall to vote! This was my very first presidential election voting in person and after waiting for an hour and a half in line at 7am, I finally got to vote. And it was awesome.
waiting an hour and a half was not so awesome, but this view while waiting was
I headed to the dog park, still wearing my "I voted" sticker, smiling my "I just acted as a concerned citizen smile." Where someone remarked that he wasn't voting because "it doesn't matter" and "[I'm] retarded if [I] think [my] vote counts"  My head spun around and flew off of my body. Literally. A good Samaritan had to go retrieve it. Don't worry I've put some arnica and tea tree oil on it, its fine.

So, beyond the fact that its 2012 and this man used the word retarded, which is completely and utterly unacceptable, this man doesn't believe in voting. It is taking all of my effort to not go into a rant about how incredibly blessed we all are to have the right to vote, which remember is not a right in many places. Until recently women and people of color couldn't vote. But, I won't go there right now.

Let's talk about voting from a perspective of just being a person who is alive in the world. Forget about your political affiliations, the issues that press your buttons, just think about being a citizen who walks around in the world every day. You have to care about what is happening around you. You breathe air, you drive on roads, you see people jobless and homeless on the street, a crazy hurricane just hit New York. How can you not care?

Maybe this is a result of having the mother that I do. A mother that made it clear that the problems of the community were my personal problems. A mother that made it clear that it was my responsibility, as a person who was educated and lucky enough to have rights and privileges that other do not enjoy, to make sure the world was a fair place.

What's my point here you might ask, and how does it relate to yoga? OK I'm getting there, hang on.

Apathy. That is my point. Not only is apathy just about the most unsexy quality a person can possess, it is also makes you a terrible citizen and person. Yea, that was kinda harsh, but I also think its very true.  I don't know when people thought this became cool, but evidently there are people that think not caring is cool. It isn't.  It is extraordinarily lame. As lame as using the word retarded as a slur.

In yoga we dedicate our practices to bigger ideas and things that need our energy, we as teachers dedicate our time through karma yoga, we as yogis go to charity class after charity class donating our time and money, we care. So I recognize that I'm preaching to the choir, but you the choir are out in the world with these apathetic people, they roam amongst us, dressed like regular citizens.

If you are apathetic to the world around you, you are barely a part of the world around you. We say it in yoga about the breath, if you aren't connecting with your breath you haven't even walked into the studio yet. So I'm saying this, if you don't care about what is happening to the other humans roaming the earth with you, you haven't even walked into the world yet.

Yoga is all about caring for the rest of the world around us. Sure we care for our own bodies and minds, but we also care so deeply for our fellow humans.  It's the whole meaning of namaste, we look into the eyes of any other person and see the higher power within them.  We can't just say namaste at the end of class, we have to live namaste. If you look someone in the eye and say "I see the higher power in you and I love you for it," you must care for that person.


ps- A special happy birthday to one of my most loyal readers, my sister-in-law Jill, who has always taught her kids to care about the world around them and stand up for what they believe in.  Jill gave me my very first yoga job and I did my first teacher training in her studio! I love you!