10,000 Vinyasas

Tag: Ashtanga yoga teaching

The Importance of Adjustments in Ashtanga Yoga

by on Jun.21, 2012, under teaching, Yoga, Yoga practice, Yoga Teachers

When I began my journey towards teaching yoga, the fastest and easiest way was to take a weekend teacher training course with YogaFit, a U.S. organization founded by Beth Shaw. Even at this early stage, I could perceive that this method of leaching out all the authenticity, homogenizing and dumbing down of yoga was unsatisfying to me as a budding Ashtanga practitioner. Indeed, I believe that one of the major reasons Ashtanga appeals to some people is its authenticity. At any rate, adjustments are not taught in YogaFit, or at least, not well (the rumor was that in California, you were forbidden by law to adjust students). Subsequently, however, I was fortunate enough to  attend a series of workshops on adjustments, taught by a senior Anusara instructor, and of course, I had the direct experience of my teacher’s adjustments on me. These experiences made me realize the importance of adjustments (the Anusara teacher called them “assists”) in teaching yoga in general.  I have recently been contemplating the deeper aspects of Ashtanga yoga in comparison to other styles, particularly Iyengar and its now discredited offshoot, Anusara, and the role of adjustments in poses.  In essence, adjustments in Ashtanga are an integral part of the practice and dovetail nicely with the theory of the idea that energy flow is more important than alignment in Ashtanga.  An example of this would be the pose Utittha Trikonasana, which in Ashtanga involves taking the forward hand to the foot and binding the big toe. To achieve this, students are encouraged to shorten their stance in order to lower the hand sufficiently. Over time, the student will open and be able to go more fully into the pose, but also, the teacher will adjust the student and encourage the body to feel the depth of the pose, thus contributing to the progress of going deeper. Viewed in this way, adjustments are vital to the practice of Ashtanga.  Indeed, most Ashtanga teacher training programs emphasize adjustments to a great degree (I think). When I think of the shallowness of the Yoga Fit training and the teachers who simply model poses in their classes, I appreciate the Ashtanga practice so much more.

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Teaching Cues We Love

by on Aug.02, 2011, under teaching, Yoga, Yoga practice

Following a improvisational vinyasa class last week, and hearing an unfamiliar and startling cue, I started thinking about how as yoga teachers, we try to find new ways of inspiring our students to go deeper in their practice or into a particular pose. As yoga students, I am sure we are all familiar with the “aha!” moments when a teacher says just the right thing to help you find your way into a pose, or you leave practice thinking more about some spiritual aspect of yoga that was mentioned. At this point, I thought I would throw the floor open for helpful or inspiring cues that you’ve heard, or used yourself. You can attribute these, or not. I’ll start with a few:

On poses:

“take it to wherever it goes”–Ken Willian

“don’t hurry”–Lisa Long

“no forcing”–Ana Hollis

“surrender to the pose”–unknown (or, mine)

On the breath:

“let me hear you breathing”–Lisa Long

“soften your breath”–Ana Hollis

“without the breath, yoga is just exercise. With the breath, it becomes something else.”—mine

And one of my all-time favorites:

“I just make this crap up”–Meg Stecher

And here’s an original one from me: “some of my language is aspirational”

Now, let’s open the floor to readers…any takers?

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Winding Down From Teaching…

by on Jul.19, 2011, under Acro Yoga, teaching, Yoga, Yoga practice

Well, last week I ended up teaching twelve classes, ranging in size from one (twice) to twenty-five. I taught full Primary Series twice, an advanced Ashtanga class with Second Series variations, and several basic or introductory classes. Far from being tedious or tiring, I found this experience to be educational, enlightening and just plain fun! I remember when I first started teaching and was trying to teach three or four classes a week; at that point, it just seemed almost too much, although admittedly some of the classes were not scheduled at convenient times and locations. Seems clear that I’ve come a long way in my teaching progress, and yet I do understand with quite a bit of clarity that it is really important to be able to continue practicing if you teach yoga. Your teaching should be an evolving process, and that can only come through a continuing yoga practice, which is also changing as you learn and move deeper. I have been gradually moving back towards Ashtanga in my yoga practice over the last few months, and I am happy with how that’s going, although the aches and pains of body parts occasionally require my attention. I am working on rehabilitating my knees, and hoping to get back to the correct form of padmasana (I have to draw the left foot in first right now), but I am also trying to remove myself from expectations about this practice and just enjoy the moving meditation.

This week’s schedule calls for only one extra class for me to teach, so I am getting a break, I guess. Hoping to get all three sessions of acro-yoga in before next week; we won’t be practicing for a couple of weeks after.

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