10,000 Vinyasas

Tag: 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.

1 Comment :, , , , , more...

Mysore With Manju

by on Oct.19, 2011, under Uncategorized, Yoga, Yoga practice, Yoga Teachers

“Left goes first”

This was the only thing Manju said to me in my first Mysore practice.  He was talking about binding in bada padmasana; I guess I had been doing it wrong for quite some time, mostly since my padmasana is currently reversed due to knee pain and also probably because I can do it easier that way and no one had corrected me.  I had arrived in the beautiful beach town of Encinitas of the day before, and I was at the end of my first practice. It was so exciting to practice at the Jois Yoga Center and I had had no idea what to expect, so I arrived about 15 minutes early that first day.  I was surprised to find just two people practicing, with a woman (Amy?) helping them. Mysore style.  They were obviously close to finishing, and Manju had not yet appeared.  At the appointed time, 7:00 a.m., I began my Primary Series practice.

Manju appears

Of course, I abandoned my dristhi temporarily when Manju entered the practice room a couple of minutes later.  I was surprised to discover that he was quite short and slight; for some reason, I assumed, probably from pictures, that he was larger and bulkier.  I continued Suryanamascara; Manju fiddled with the CD player and put on a selection of Indian chanting, which played throughout the days of practice that I was there.

 

The Practice

I have been practicing Primary Series for quite some time; I’m familiar with the sequence and have a self-practice several times a week, if not every day.  Recently, I began working through the first several poses of Intermediate Series in my weekly Mysore practice.  The first day in Encinitas, I was a bit intimidated and didn’t know what to expect, so I limited myself to just Primary Series, although I went as slow and controlled as possible, leaving out dropbacks into backbend as well.  The second day, I did the full practice including my Intermediate Series poses as well as dropbacks.  I currently find this regimen completely exhausting, so I alternated days of lengthier practice with ones of just Primary Series. This worked out well in Encinitas.

Adjustments

The first time Manju adjusted me was in Trikonasana; he slightly opened my hip with a subtle adjustment.  The other two standing poses I received assistance with was Parshvottanasana, in which he pushed me further down towards my leg (this is not a common adjustment, in my experience), and Prasarita Podottanasana C, in which he pulled my hands closer to the mat (which is quite common).  Overall, the most adjustments I got were in the seated poses Triagmukha Eka Pada Paschimottanasana, Ardha Badha Padma Paschimottanasana, Janusirsana A, Marichyasana A, B (not D or C), and of course, Paschimottanasana.  This is very unusual, in my experience; few teachers consistently adjust students in these poses.  Manju’s adjustments also demonstrated to me how much deeper I could go with a bit of help; this, of course, was exactly what I was hoping for when I journeyed to Encinitas: an intensification of my practice. Oh, and  Manju also pulled my chest up in Bhekasana and put my hands to my feet (for the first time!) in Kapotasana. I felt somewhat more “official” after these Intermediate Series adjustments. Other adjustments occurred in Supta Kurmasana(placed feet behind head), Baddha Konasana A (pushed down), and Ubhaya Padagustasana and Urdhva Mukha Paschimottanasana (both of which I frankly stink at, and really need some support to fully express the poses).  The only other instruction I got from Manju was to bring my feet closer in Adho Mukha Svanasana, which I have gotten before from Nancy Gilgoff (and is in direct contradiction to Tim Miller’s instruction to me to lengthen my stance here).

What Wasn’t There

What I found even more interesting than Manju’s adjustments were the poses he didn’t adjust.  He adjusted nobody in Uttitha Hasta Padagustasana, which I found completely surprising, since many people, not just me, find it difficult and need more help.  I have noted already the few standing poses Manju adjusted me in, and in looking around, I noticed that those were the only ones he helped many others with as well.  Another surprise:  he did not push anyone deeper in Adho Mukha Svanasana, which is perhaps the most common Ashtanga adjustment ever.   He did help a number of people (but not me) in dropbacks, using a cloth he kept wrapped around his waist to pull students up.  Adjustments can be strenuous for a teacher, and I wondered if Manju’s age had anything to do with the absence of certain adjustments.

The End

I was completely satisfied with my trip to Encinitas and my study with Manju Jois. The practice was solid and satisfying; I noticed small but visible improvements and more awareness and concentration in my practice than I have ever felt before.  If anything, the trip deepened my love and fascination for Ashtanga yoga, and before the trip was even halfway through, I caught myself thinking about when I could return.  

3 Comments :, , , , , , , more...

Really Fun Practice!

by on Sep.05, 2011, under teaching, Yoga, Yoga practice

Ok, I’ve done this once before, when the gym I teach at had no yoga classes on a holiday (4th of July), and after hearing my students lamenting that fact, I came up with the idea of an informal practice, where I would go through much of Primary Series, not teach but just call out the names of the poses and those who showed up would just follow along.  That worked well, and after detecting some similar interest on Sunday for Labor Day, I decided to repeat it. I had 6 show up this morning, one a woman who brought her young daughter who’d never practiced yoga, and we went through my “basic” practice, which is Suryanamascara A/B, all the standing poses, paschimottanasana, purvattanasana, and then skip to setu bandasana, backbends, and then the closing sequence, which takes about 55 minutes.  I had a great time, and I think my students did too.  I am inspired by my students enthusiasm and their willingness to keep practicing; another benefit of teaching I would have never experienced had I not taken that leap forward 2 1/2 years ago.  It’s difficult to find the words to adequately describe the amazement and fulfillment I experience both from the practice itself, and the teaching and all the other experiences which seem to spontaneously come from it.

Comments Off on Really Fun Practice! :, , , , , , more...

Injury Update

by on Sep.03, 2011, under Acro Yoga, teaching, Uncategorized, Yoga, Yoga injuries, Yoga practice

I think the shoulder is completely healed, a combination of rehabilitation (Airrosti) and me being careful in practice.  At any rate, we did 3 kickovers in a row at acro today without issue, and I believe it’s time to move on.  Anticipating tomorrow’s practice with hope and enthusiasm. A death in the family this week caused me to miss some practice, and I was especially glad to get back to it; it feels like your body truly needs this and suffers when it is not available. Teaching notes:  I am starting my fourth weekly class tomorrow, and intend for it to be a more vinyasa-style class, in the vein of what my original teacher used to teach.  I continue to sub a different class at least once a week, which keeps things fresh and at the same time makes me appreciate my “regulars.”  One of the unanticipated pleasures of teaching is watching people make progress.  I imagine some of them may not even notice the slow but steady progress, but when you look at the group as a whole and compare them to the students in a subbed class, the difference is noticeable.

Comments Off on Injury Update :, , , , , , more...

The Return To Practice…

by on Aug.28, 2011, under Acro Yoga, teaching, Yoga, Yoga injuries, Yoga practice

Well, I was kind of joking a few posts ago about the “sweatiest practice ever,” but I think yesterday’s return to my Saturday led Primary Series really was, in fact, if not the sweatiest, then certainly up in the top three. Also noted that this practice was done on perhaps the hottest day of the year here. At any rate, brought one of my students along to help him experience a different teacher and environment; he acquitted himself well.  My shoulder has almost completely healed, and I did not aggravate it yesterday by jumping back (I am doing this with more awareness now, so I think we can continue without fear of further injury). I had missed the led Primary class quite a bit, and despite some normal difficulties, got through it with a sense of serenity and peacefulness.  Looking forward to getting back into more practice, although I may have to attend to my “other” job more than usual this week. In other news, I have picked up a new class at the gym on Saturday mornings, and am scheduled to sub for a teacher at the gymnastics center not far from the house.  Acro has been going well, also (pictures to be posted).

Comments Off on The Return To Practice… :, , , , , , , more...

Yoga Teaching Explosion!

by on Jul.05, 2011, under teaching, Yoga, Yoga practice

For some reason, probably because so many go on vacation during this month, I find myself with quite a few additions to my teaching schedule; specifically, I will be teaching Sundays and Thursdays at Yoga Shala (Beginning Ashtanga), as well as filling in for a couple of fellow instructors at the gym where I teach. This will give me an opportunity to teach the full Primary Series for the first time, something I’ve been wanting to do. This is the point at which I say, “well, you wanted to teach yoga, right?” Actually, far from dreading my full schedule, I am looking forward to adding to my teaching experience. I have reached the point where I have very little negative feelings from teaching; I feel accomplished enough to have acquired a bit of confidence in my ability to lead a class. In some ways, teaching is a furtherance of your yoga practice and the direct feedback you get is encouraging. I feel lucky enough to have had some really excellent teachers and instruction, and to be able to share that knowledge with others is inspiring and gratifying, in a way that my “other” job is not. I am completely impressed at this point with the direction yoga teaching has taken me, and am curious and eager to find out what’s next. Come by for a class if you find time in your schedule; namaste!

An additional note on practice: one of my favorite teachers is filling in at Yoga Shala at the end of the month, so I will probably have to wander over there a bit more.

1 Comment :, , , more...

No More Saturday Vinyasa

by on Nov.02, 2010, under teaching, Yoga

Well, my brief tenure as the Saturday morning vinyasa teacher at Yoga Shala has come to an end. Attendance varied, but was in the low numbers most of the time, and the owner wants to start a new class at the same time, so there you are. I am trying not to bring my ego into my teaching, which of course is sometimes difficult, but it isn’t in this case, particularly. My teaching schedule is pretty full already, and I’ve been doing it long enough to feel some confidence that it wasn’t my abilities that caused this change, so on the whole, I’m not unhappy with this latest development. I also recognize that there are many things that one shouldn’t try to control, and my yoga practice and teaching fall into this category. So, I am now free to practice or do something else on Saturday mornings. Perhaps I will use this time to explore other teachers or areas of yoga, and then of course I have teacher training coming up.

3 Comments :, , more...

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!