Yoga Makes You Well

May you be filled with loving kindness, may you be well,

may you be peaceful and at ease, may you be happy.


Famous yoga teachers

Posted on November 16, 2016 at 9:00 PM Comments comments (30)
I am headed to a weekend yoga study with a highly skilled, famous yoga teacher. A yoga teacher star. The class is in a few weeks and I am giddy to be going,  I have watched videos this teacher made and webinars.  I think I will learn a whole whole lot. 

But today I looked on the part of the description of the class that says "required reading". I noticed there was quite a bit of it. And then I noticed all the books were written by the teacher of the class. 

Okay.  So I looked on Amazon and found they were not for sale there. So I went back to the site where the class required reading was listed and followed the website listed for the books.  It turned out to be the teacher's own website. Okay.  

So I see that to buy all these books that are not just recommended, but required reading for this class will come up to over a hundred dollars. Wow. Okay.  

So since I have waited, I know I need to get them shipped sorta fast to read them in time for class. I look and the only shipping available is two day shipping, which is pretty pricey.  Wow. 

I am looking forward to the class and looking forward to the read.  I think I will learn a lot.  But now part of me feels... Maybe used? I don't know. It feels like the teacher is using the class as an avenue to sell books. I would not mind if it were one book.  Or even two. But four books? All the books on the website for sale by this author/ teacher?  I don't know. 

Headstand and me

Posted on October 19, 2016 at 5:53 PM Comments comments (32)

I love going upside down in yoga.  It is one of the funnest feelings.  It feels empowering.  Learning to balance upside down has brought me lots of joy and a sense of strength. 

Like Oprah, I am going to recommend some things I love from my little platform here on my blog.  No pressure to buy them yourselves, but if you find them intriguing, then check them out! (If you use the link above to buy it, I get a little money for the recommendation.)

I read a book talking about the health benefits and also the potential risks of doing yoga.  The author had researched a lot of different yoga claims and looked to see if they were true or not.  He also looked into what might be dangerous about yoga.

I have always loved doing headstands.  Balancing and being upside down is one of the most beautiful feelings to me in the world.  Reading his book made me think twice about it.  He said about 300 people a year have strokes from doing yoga.  Most of those have the issues brought on from doing headstands.  The pressure put on the head can be too much in the necks of people who are most likely already prone to strokes.  ( My thoughts on this: It seems to me that yoga probably prevents more strokes than it causes.  But I think it is worth taking whatever precautions I can and my students can to be sure to stay healthy.  Nobody needs a stroke.  And who knows who is prone to them and who isn't?)

So that was enough for me to look into these headstand stools.  I had thought about getting one before.  But it seemed like a lot of money to spend on something to be able to do what I was already doing for free (headstand).  I went online and read reviews.  Everybody loved this thing.  Really. 

And so I ordered it. 

It came a few days later and I put it together with the little tool that was included in the box.  That took about five minutes.  Maybe less.

I sat on it to make sure it would hold me up before going upside down on it. It was sturdy and solid.

I put the seat against the wall.  I faced the wall and knelt down.  I put my head into the little hole and my shoulders on the pads.  I walked my legs forward so my hips were lined up above my shoulders and head.  And then I kicked up, one leg at a time.

I was instantly addicted.  I went nuts for this thing.  I would try to stay upside down for a minute or two minutes and do it over and over each day.  I was upside down for a long time for the first week.  Probably about five minutes per day. 

And then I looked in the mirror and noticed some little red dots on my forehead.  It looked like I had a rash, but it was not itchy.  I wondered what I had put on my skin that irritated it.  And why would it irritate just my forehead?

It dawned on me.  I was upside down so much I was having capillaries break in my forehead.  Holy moly!  Not good!

I went online and read about headstand and handstand and broken capillaries.  I was not the first person to do this.  Many others got enthusiastic about inversions before me and wound up with lots of little capillaries breaking in their faces. 

It does put pressure on your head to go upside down.  And it also gives your brain a nice flush of oxygen.  It feels great.  And like many other things, it is wise to do it in moderation.

I read on and many people said they had to start with just thirty seconds per day of going upside down regularly.  After a month, they were able to do more.  Increasing slowly and steadily was key. 

And so my excitement had to give way to good sense and I started going upside down just for thirty seconds each day.  I did that for a few months.  I did that until it felt easy and like there was not so much pressure in my head.  And then after a while,  I went up to forty five seconds per day. 

I have been doing these inversions with the headstand bench for about six months.  In that time, I have noticed my teeth getting whiter.  Now, I have also improved my diet, adding in more salads.  But I think it might also have something to do with the headstands.  The blood flowing through my head probably is nourishing to my mouth as well.  And a recurrent ear infection seems to be much less present. 

Maybe those benefits are real and maybe they are things that have come from eating better.  Maybe a little of both.

I have certainly gotten more confident and more smooth with taking my legs up above my head and keeping them there and bringing them back down.  The control of that action that comes with repetition has finally started to be part of my practice.  For years, I kicked up one leg as hard as I could to the wall and then the other came up behind it.  Then I was able to kick one leg up with control and the other followed it.  And then I did not need to be right by the wall to do it.  But now I can do it all smoothly and kick up with either leg or pike up with both at once.  And that came from just doing this over and over for a half a minute every day. 

Yoga Graduate School

Posted on October 6, 2016 at 12:10 AM Comments comments (48)
Studying yoga at Asheville Yoga Center for several weekends over several years.  Sounds like a cool idea.  Okay.  I think I will. 

That was the thought a few years ago.  I had studied and got my yoga teacher certification. Now I wanted to get my advanced certification.

One of my fellow teachers introduced me in a class she was teaching by saying I was studying yoga in Asheville going to yoga graduate school.  I loved the way she put that.

So why would anyone go to yoga graduate school?  Fame?  Fortune?  Bossiness?  Lack of good sense?

The program in Asheville is completed at your own pace, pay as you go.  You can finish it in one year or take as many as five years.  I am at a slow and steady pace, hoping to finish in about four years. 

Sometimes I see the same student in different weekends.  One such yogini was an inquisitive redhead who always wore interesting brightly colored yoga pants.  I had seen her at three or four weekend courses over the years.  And then she introduced herself the last time and said that was her last weekend of her studies for her advanced certification.

The weekend went by quickly and we learned a lot and had fun trying things and teaching each other little yoga classes.  Sunday afternoon came and we all said namaste and headed out to drive back home.  I saw her in her bright pants with her red hair wandering out, dazed.  I noticed her happy, sad, lonely, lost, hopeful look and remembered she just graduated from her yoga graduate school.  I stopped my little car and rolled down the window and smiled and told her congratulations.  She said thanks with a very grateful smile.  No one else really understands how much work it is or how much time and effort and just money goes into studying yoga and getting this advanced certification.  Except the others who are also doing it.  I think maybe no one really understands why you would.  Except the odd person in the parking lot who rolls down a window to say good job and that is the ceremony.  Hooray!

I only know why I study yoga.  The teaching of yoga, specifically.  I study yoga because it is beautiful.  It is beautiful to feel it and it is beautiful to do it.  It is a beautiful practice that changes every time I come to my mat.  It is beautiful every time I see students try something and maybe fail or maybe get into a modification or maybe feel the pose in their bodies for the first time and be changed because of it. 

I think it shows respect to the practice and the teaching of yoga to get trained at higher levels.  It is a practice that goes back at least two thousand years.  Studying it intensively for six months cannot really help me or anyone else understand it well when it is so ancient.

The more I study and practice yoga, the more safely and calmly I approach the teaching and the practice of yoga.  My initial zeal has calmed from a fire to nice coals and I can really cook over it now.

It also makes me feel so much more confident to know more about what I am teaching.  All the reading and the classes I attend and the classes I teach work together to make me feel like I know what I am doing when I plan a class and when I teach it.  

And I feel inspired by my teachers.  They have more experience as yoga teachers than I do and they put together classes and show up and teach them.  Somehow that validates me in my belief that it is a worthy use of my time. 

Slow and steady wins the race, they say. 

Does the mat make the yogi?

Posted on March 6, 2015 at 9:23 AM Comments comments (31)
I had an injury last fall that made my yoga practice much more careful.  I could not land hard for months, so no jumping or falling.  It was a practice changer.  It opened me up to Restorative yoga and to Yin yoga.  I learned a great deal in the process.

But slowing down has its price, too.  I lost some momentum and started having a hard time motivating myself to get to class.  Also it was cold over the winter.  We humans seek comfort and I found myself reading about yoga more than going to class.

But one other issue was that I had a cheap yoga mat that was too short for my body,  I was constantly halfway off the mat in my practice. 

I have always felt like yoga was too commercialized and people get into it in order to look a certain way more often than they do to achieve the spiritual benefits.

In short, I have always scorned expensive yoga mats and all they symbolize. 

But I found myself really wanting one. 

And I had some reasons to tell myself I needed it.  I have worn out enough mats to pay for an expensive mat that will last.  I am tall and need a longer mat.  There are mats out there that come with a lifetime warranty.  And maybe it would motivate me to get to class more regularly.  It also might cushion my jumps and falls more than a cheap mat.

Okay.  So I bought one. 

I read reviews online and decided on one with a lifetime warranty and a line of yoga teachers behind it saying they will not use any other mat. 

And it has inspired me to go to class more regularly.  It does cushion my feet and knees and elbows better.  It is luxuriously long and I am on the mat most of the practice now.  

I adore my yoga mat.

So did I sell out?  Did I turn into a yogi who conspicuously consumes?  Or did I get myself the proper tool to do my job? 

Maybe a little of both.  But no regrets.  I guess there has to be a middle ground.  I do not look at the others in my class who have cheap yoga mats and feel superior.  And I do not look at others in my class who have expensive yoga mats and feel put off.  I guess I made a choice that is right for me and I feel okay to let others do the same.

Restorative Yoga

Posted on November 5, 2014 at 2:19 PM Comments comments (45)
This past weekend, I traveled to Asheville for a restorative yoga workshop.  Blankets and bolsters and straps and blocks and all sorts of props make restorative yoga very delightful.  It is easy to slip away and become altered and relaxed during such a class.  Intentional relaxation. 

So needless to say, I loved it.  As did everyone else in my class.  We all got younger and younger as the weekend progressed.  I felt my shoulder melt open and move more freely than it has in years after just laying around in these comfortable positions all weekend long.

When you hold poses for a long time, it melts the harder soft tissues like tendons and ligaments.  The tendons are the parts of the muscles that connect them to bones and to other connective tissue (fascia) throughout the body.  The tendons also have the Golgi tendon organelles inside them.  These little organelles are the control center that tells muscles to relax and lengthen. 

So holding poses a long time makes things very different.  It rules.

Another thing I like about restorative yoga is that there is no pressure that you might not be good at it.  Regular yoga has some intimidation to it because we do measure ourselves against our fellow yogis, for better or worse.  There is no thought of failure in getting into poses that are near the floor on bolsters and pillows, passively laying there for ten to twenty minutes per pose. 

But the physical is only one aspect of this yoga.  Restorative yoga (and all yoga) is also for the mind and the spirit.  And when you start opening up the tissues of the body and inviting them to move in ways they previously did not move, well then the question of why they did not move before that way comes up.  Grief, trauma, injury all heal physically but sometimes stay stuck on an energetic level.  Holding positions of comfort for several minutes at a time invites the yogi to explore the new found comfort and the prolonged discomfort that has been resident in the body.

So restorative yoga is easy and it is hard.  It feels awesome and it also challenges you to show up for yourself and be present with your own body and life.  It changes you.

Making a plan

Posted on October 26, 2014 at 10:30 PM Comments comments (62)
Years ago, I read a book about making a plan and making it come to life.  It was a book about goal setting.  About manifestation.

I got that book after going through an old file in a drawer and finding a piece of paper dated seven years earlier (!) which stated my goal of becoming a certified yoga teacher.  It was still my goal and yet I had done really nothing to make it happen.

So I ordered the book.  It was called "Wishcraft" and it had a dreamy cover, having been printed in the early eighties, I think.  I read it.  Actually, I devoured it.

It had strategies about making goals and making them happen.  I did not try many of them.  But I did try this one...

The strategy that caught my attention was to buy a little dry erase board and choose a goal, any goal.  I chose this yoga teacher certification goal.  Then it said to draw a horizontal line across the board and write today's date on the point furthest to the left and the goal and a date on the point furthest to the right.

So I did.

Then it said to figure out the steps between point A and point B and chart them.

So I did.

Research yoga teacher programs in town online and in person.  
Apply to one.
Figure out how to pay for it.
Read the required reading before class starts.
Do the coursework.
Go to class.

Okay.  Seems simple enough.

The book said to leave that dry erase line up with dates all the way through until the goal was met (or discarded).

And I did. 

I drew a little picture that inspired me about yoga on the board.  I looked at the board every day, usually several times a day.  And I followed the instructions I had put up there about my process.

The book said that it is powerful to write things down and look at them on the wall every day.  I have found that to be true.  It is so simple.  But when those dreams lie tucked away in a drawer, they don't get as much notice each day as when they get put up on the wall. 

Yoga Challenges

Posted on October 25, 2014 at 12:17 AM Comments comments (27)
I have been teaching in some new ways lately.  Sort of going off the grid with yoga teaching in order to try and capture some interest from some new people.  It is interesting and kind of fun.

Some teenagers I work with make up their own yoga challenges for us to try in class.  If one of them can accomplish the feat, we all try it.  It makes yoga more of a game.

I am teaching one on one in a more corporate environment, too.  Getting people to just try that has been tricky.  So I started decorating and putting up a little stick figure yoga lesson on the dry erase board so that there is some sort of curriculum.  It met with some good response.

Yoga is so much fun.  It exposes so much about us to ourselves.  It is just a great way to observe the way we act and think and approach life.  And then, as we change our habitual postural patterns on the mat, those attitudes and beliefs might get adjusted or discarded, too.

In the book about Ayurveda and Yoga that I am reading, it talks about the importance of a healthy body as the basis for being able to transform consciousness to a higher level. (This book is mostly over my head, but that just means I will read it three times and finally understand it for real.)  And that is the main goal of life as far as Yoga is concerned.  Transform consciousness so you are radiating more like a god energy.  So you are less selfish and more compassionate.  So you are more helpful because that is what you want to be.  Not because you read it and grandma says you should.  But because you actually want to. 

I like helping people get healthier bodies.  I like working with lots of other people who also like helping people get healthier bodies.  It is cool to help people get better.

Cleaning up

Posted on October 9, 2014 at 9:26 AM Comments comments (28)
It is fall.  Time to take out clothes from storage for a cooler season. Time to look at what I have used and not used. Time to get rid of things that no longer serve.

The yogic principle this relates to is "saucha".  Saucha translates as cleanliness. It is really cleanliness in outward ways of life and in inward ways of life,  Habits with clothes and possessions as well as with thoughts and people.  Yoga encourages us to look at them and see what is clean and what is not clean in all our habits.

I had a bunch of nice clothes that I used to wear years ago, but have not put on in years.  They were crammed into my closet along with lots of things I do use and wear now.  They were so fancy I did not want to let them go.  But they were no longer useful in my life,  

So, with saucha as my guide, I went through and got rid of them.  I took them to my neighborhood church's clothes closet.  Now some people who do not have the money to buy nice things will be able to have some nice things,  and I have some closet space.

Letting go of those things felt hard.  But then it turned out to be so nice.  Clean.  

A different kind of yoga

Posted on September 28, 2014 at 10:28 PM Comments comments (22)
I went on a trip and while I was gone, I got injured.  I think I am going to be fine, but I must say doing yoga is different with an injury.

As I design classes, they may even be harder because there is less variety in the poses as I avoid whole body parts.  That focuses the work on the other body parts in a way that has my students giving me the stink eye.  I am used to the yoga teacher stink eye, so no worries.  But still.

One thing yoga is supposed to do as you go along through the years is get deeper and more internal.  It is supposed to introduce you to yourself on the mat.  No one is there but you.  And if you show up regularly, you will get to know yourself. 

Being injured in yoga class is a little embarrassing.  It is bad enough that I am not the one taking the option to do a headstand in the middle of the room like another person in class.  But now I am having difficulty with the regular up and down motion of sun salutations.  Modifying.

And yet, there is something almost gorgeous about being able to modify a flow and keep going.  It is creative and personal and it requires my full presence and attention.  I am paying attention to how my injured body part is able to move and not move.  I am being careful and aware.  I am listening to myself and learning in a unique, personal, private way.  I am learning a language of moving with awareness in a different state than I am used to.  It is like I am trying out my little bit of French to talk to my body and listen to it as I move. 

Like doing yoga left handed.

Yoga brain

Posted on September 4, 2014 at 12:36 PM Comments comments (20)
One of the fun things about working out with yoga is that afterward, you feel sort of... better.  There is a certain lightness and a feeling of bliss that sometimes accompanies the end of Savasana (Corpse Pose) and that final "Om".

In that few minutes of waking up from yoga practice, there is a lot of socializing that happens in the class.  People become friends at yoga and we want to talk and tell each other the news or just some yoga insights we have had. And yet, we have this yoga brain.  

It is far from problematic, of course.  We drift happily around and put away props, smiling, saying hello and floating out with rolled up mats under our arms. 

I think it is similar to music or to what worship is supposed to be like.  It is other-worldly.  It is internal.  It is cultivation of clouds to ride the rest of the day.