Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Music of Yoga & Meditation

I am often asked about the music I play in class. The soundtrack to the yoga experience is quite important to me, so I am very careful in my selections. I find that music can really help to calm an active mind or uplift a sluggish body, deepening the yoga or meditation experience. In general, I prefer music that does not have vocals, especially in a meditative practice. Sometimes, if the practice is more introspective, I will practice simply to the music of my breath, or the sound of ocean waves. The practices that are intended to uplift and move energy will have heavier beats and some singing - sometimes it will even be popular music (gasp!). Here are some favorite CDs that I recommend... just in time to put them on your holiday wish lists:
  • Shamanic Dream by Anugama: good "chill" instrumental for slow flow, yin/restorative or meditation
  • Anjali by Benjy Wertheimer & Michael Mandrell: good instrumental for slow flow, yin/restorative or meditation
  • House Made of Dawn by Coyote Oldman: beautiful wind instrumental good for yin/restorative or meditation
  • Shaman's Vision by David Gordon, Steve Gordon: mellow chanting and rhythmic beats good for slow flow, yin
  • Dakshina, The Essence, Moola Mantra all by Deva Premal: incredibly beautiful vocals good for uplifting flow, yin/restorative (this is the artist I am most asked about)
  • Drala by Drala: good instrumental for uplifting flow, yin/restorative
  • Bali Dua by Jalan Jalan: Eastern "chill" with a few dreamy vocals good for yin/restorative or meditation
  • Yoga Rhythm by Soulfood: mild vocals and rhythmic beats good for uplifting flow
  • Deja-Blues by Steven Halpern: hypnotic beats good for slow flow, yin/restorative

Meditation tool
So Hum is a mantra, a tool to help with meditation. It is an easy way to settle your mind to one thing, listening for the sounds that already exist in the breath. Begin by taking a meditation seat (see last month's blog) and start to breathe slowly and easily. On the inhale, gently hear the breath creating the sound "sooooo"; on the exhale, gently hear the breath creating the sound "hummmm". This tool anchors an active mind, giving it discipline and direction as a you would when training a puppy to heel. Detach your internal critic and have patience with your puppy mind. For more information about this mantra and others, please click here.

Schedule updates and events...
Saturday, December 5th 1:00-3:30pm Soothe Your Soul, a Therapeutic Workshop for ALL! Part restorative yoga, part gentle yoga, part meditation, this workshop is all about dissolving stress. Open to all levels and abilities and no previous yoga experience necessary. $40 pre-reg, $50 day of; register at Willow Glen Yoga. Consider this workshop a gift to yourself or a loved one. Register now, only a few spots left.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Why Meditation?

I have been practicing and teaching yoga for over 10 years, but my meditation practice is still in its infancy. Nevertheless, I curl my legs under me, lengthen my spine and close my eyes each week to explore the meditation process. (I hesitate to use the verb, because "to meditate" doesn't seem like an action to me - I set the stage for meditation to occur and then sit back and watch... sometimes it occurs, sometimes not.) Why is meditation so important? It's an elusive practice, so why strive after something so challenging? Some people practice to achieve enlightenment, some to connect with their higher power. These are very noble reasons to practice, but they are not mine... at least, not at this stage in my meditation practice. My intentions are much more self-involved.

For me, meditation is therapy. It's work, it's confrontational, and it introduces you to yourself on whole new levels. The mind is reflective, and we are often so clouded by our surroundings that we do not "see" what is real, only the distorted reflection. Through meditation, we can recognize those illusions as well as the truth. Meditation improves focus, memory and creativity. A regular practice lowers stress levels, blood pressure, cholesterol and decreases substance abuse. It also improves relations, productivity, and self-concept. The challenge is that you need to keep at it, and you need to want to improve. If you are interested, one of my favorite teachers, Erich Schiffmann, gives meditation a whole section on his website: movingintostillness.com. Try it... and then try it again.

Meditation Seats
There are many different meditation positions, but the most important thing to remember is to be comfortable and alert. If you are too uncomfortable, you'll be distracted by it; if you are too relaxed, you'll fall asleep. Here are some different seated positions for meditation:

Chair: sit forward on the seat of a chair so that your back does not rest against anything, knees over your ankles, feet flat to the floor.
Seiza: come to all fours, place a block or cushion between your heels, then sit back on it. elevate your hips as high as you need to be comfortable.
Sidhasana: a cross-legged position where the heels are aligned in front of the groins; click here for a picture and instructions; elevating the hips on a folded blanket or cushion can help tight hips.
Half Lotus/Lotus: the classical meditation position, this pose requires some openness of the hips and a deep bend in the knees; click here for a picture and instructions (half lotus instructions are under Modifications); again, elevating the hips on a folded blanket or cushion can help tight hips.

Once you have your preferred seat, rest your weight into your seat, making your feet, shins, thighs, hips and buttocks heavy. Place your hands in your lap, lengthen your torso and melt your shoulders down your back. Lengthen the back of your neck so that your face tips down subtly and close your eyes. Let your chosen meditation process guide you from here, but come back to these steps anytime you find yourself slumping or drifting off.

Schedule updates and events... (see Lorien's schedule for all ongoing classes)
  • Saturday, December 5th 1:00-3:30pm Soothe Your Soul, a Therapeutic Workshop for ALL! Part restorative yoga, part gentle yoga, part meditation, this workshop is all about dissolving stress. Open to all levels and abilities and no previous yoga experience necessary. $40 pre-reg, $50 day of; register at Willow Glen Yoga. Consider this workshop a gift to yourself or a loved one.
  • Private therapeutic yoga sessions: this is a one-on-one 60-75-minute session with Lorien that includes some restorative yoga, guided imagery and breath work that is tailored to your needs. The first session is FREE, and subsequent sessions are $60-$80, depending on location and frequency. Please see Lorien's private yoga schedule to sign up for an introductory slot today!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Yoga Poison, Yoga Nectar... You Decide

I recently had a conversation with another teacher as we were leaving a class we were both students in, and it made me think. I mentioned to him that I had trained and was teaching Therapeutic yoga, and he commented that all yoga is therapeutic. I agreed with him... to a point. There is a saying that one man's nectar can be another's poison. Those of you who have been in my classes know that not all poses are appropriate for all students, and the same is true for classes, teachers and entire schools of yoga. It is challenging to know which one is right for you, which is why I always recommend people try a class on and see if it "fits".

It's important to remember that subtle changes are happening during our practice. Sometimes, we need to be still and quiet in order to sense these subtleties, and sometimes we just need rest. For example, I can perform some of the more challenging postures that make me look like a member of Cirque du Soliel, but my personal practice leans more towards the yin or restorative to balance the rest of my life. The balance is how we make yoga a therapeutic
application, along with slowing down and listening.

So is all yoga therapeutic? Yes, no, and it depends is my answer... today's poison may be tomorrow's nectar.

What we are practicing now...
Resting Half Moon pose is a restorative pose that brings about some subtle changes to the spine's supporting muscles. It stretches the intercostal muscles (the muscles between the ribs) and the serratus posterior inferior and frees the diaphragm, benefiting respiration; lengthens the quadratus lumborum, freeing adhesions in this often tight muscle; creates a squeeze and soak for many internal organs, such as the stomach, liver, and kidneys. You will need one bolster and one or more blankets. To come into the pose:

  • Place your bolster with one or more blankets stacked on top to your right. Position the support perpendicular to the spine. Sitting on your right hip, use the left hand to ensure the right rib cage lengthens as you extend the torso up and over the support (if it feels too intense on the shoulder, check that your waist is on the bolster, not armpit). As you come deeper into the pose, slide the right hand out and along the floor straight above the head. Your head may rest on your right arm or a folded blanket.
  • Slide the left leg forward and the right leg back behind you to create a scissor shape. Or, just extend both legs straight, one resting on top of the other. Stretch your left arm over your head and bring the palms together, or clasp the left wrist with the right hand to deepen the stretch through the left side. Be here for 2-5 minutes.
  • To come out of the pose, place the left hand on top of the bolster. Bring the legs together with the knees bent. Using the strength of your arms slowly press up to a seated position. Change sides.
Schedule updates and events...
  • Saturday, October 17th, 1:00-3:15pm: Seva Workshop with Lorien & Debora Cohen at Willow Glen Yoga in San Jose. Join us for a vinyasa and yin yoga class, followed by guided meditation. All donations go towards Tina Tran's Seva challenge for humanitarian efforts in Uganda; please click here for more information. If you are not available for the workshop, but wish to donate towards her efforts, please go to Groundspring and select "Seva Challenge" and "Tina Tran". Thank you!
  • Saturday, October 4th, 3:00-4:30pm: Qi Gong with Larry Wong in Campbell. This is where I learn all those fun energy moving techniques. Come learn from my teacher. See the GGBC website for more information. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Connecting to the Source

We humans are interesting creatures. We want things labeled, and quickly, so we can put it on a shelf and move on to the next thing. I notice this when I tell people I teach yoga; they reply to me with terms like "stretching" or "relaxation". To me, yoga is more than this. When I align my body, breathe and focus my mind, I am connecting to something bigger, some Source. I've heard the same description from people creating art, music, playing sports, and other examples of getting out of the cognitive part of the brain and into the instinctive part. All of these are yoga to me, because they are all joining us to our Source. So what do I teach? I teach the process of getting quiet, aligning, focusing and breathing so that we can connect to our Source. It's not a perfectly-defined label, which is okay with this human.

What we are practicing now...
Utthita Hasta Padangustasana (extended hand-to-big-toe pose), at the wall. I love the variation with the extended foot on the wall, pressing against it to ignite moola bandha. It's very supportive and grounding! See Yoga Journal's beginner's tip for more details.

Schedule updates...
  • New class for Adobe employees! Please help spread the word to your Adobe friends that we will begin a series on Sept 14, Mondays 5:30-6:30pm. Contact the Fitness Center for more details.
  • Yoga Retreat September 25-27: one room left. Sign up now for the Perfect Blend Yoga and Wine Weekend in Amador County.
  • Join us Wednesday morning for a 9:00-10:30 Hatha Flow class at Willow Glen Yoga; this intimate class covers the foundations of pranayama and bandha work that is not available in a fast moving flow class.
Coming up...
  • Fundraiser yin, yang and meditation class with Debora Parente-Cohen on October 17. Please see the flyer for more information.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

My Dog, My Guru

A guru is a being who leads one from the darkness of ignorance to the light of knowledge. Less than a year ago, our family adopted a dog. She was rescued, and comes with many challenges, but we fell in love with her almost immediately and she is now part of our family. Three different sources recommended the Cesar Millan ("The Dog Whisperer") style of dog ownership, using energy to assert respect and loyalty. We read his book, watched his TV show and I even went to his online resource. After ten months of working with this dog, I have learned so much from her! It is a meditation for me to walk my dog, as I am always noticing my own energy projection, the weight in my feet, the tension in my hands and my breath. Anytime I find myself straying from my meditation, she senses it and will attempt to take the leadership role from me. This is a great feedback experience for me. I also noticed what I was willing to tolerate in her behavior, and began to ask for the same from my family, friends and students. Working with her has really improved my inner strength and focus. She has helped me to learn so much more about myself... bringing me from the darkness of ignorance to the light of knowledge.

What we are practicing now...
Pasasana (the noose pose) is a wonderfully warming pose that massages the abdominal organs, stretches the ankles, calves, knees, hips, shoulders and torso. In class, we have been working with the wall as a prop to work towards the pose. See Yoga Journal's instructions for getting into the pose.

Schedule updates... ah, the impermanence...
  • Saturday, August 15th 10:00-11:30am Yoga Soup at Willow Glen Yoga in San Jose. Join me for a wonderful blend in active (vinyasa) and passive (somatics) techniques to unstick the body!
  • Thursday night 7:45 class at Willow Glen Yoga is now an Intro-to-Yoga series; no drop-ins allowed. For yin, please come Tuesday nights only.
  • Wednesday nights, 6:00-7:00pm at GGBC in Campbell in a yin class, which is followed by a meditation class. Come join us for clarity in body and mind!
  • Last Tuesday 10:00am yin class at Courtside in Los Gatos will be August 25.

Coming up...
  • New class for Adobe employees: beginning Monday, September 14, 5:30-6:30pm! Check with Jessica in the fitness center to sign up.
  • Fundraiser yoga class with Debora Parente-Cohen coming in October... more details soon!
  • As of this writing, I still have 1 room available for the Wine, Dine and Yoga Retreat September 25-27. Please let me know asap if you are interested!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Revisiting Freedom

Remember how you felt when you first got your driver's license? Liberty and limitless possibilities coursed through you, along with thoughts about driving across this vast country! Coming off a family road trip of my own, I revisited my own independence and thought about how our founding fathers must have felt once they declared the independence of an entire nation. Just like with us getting our license to drive, they found liberty and possibilities (along with a healthy dose of responsibility, as any driver knows). What does this all have to do with yoga? Well, we are "governed" in yoga by rules and limits... some are there for good reason, some are self-imposed, and some need a closer look. This summer, maybe you can find your own freedom within your yoga practice. Find what works for you, within the limits of your body. Explore different paths and trust your intuition. Celebrate your freedom!

What we are practicing now...
A great little yin pose that is truly powerful is Figure 4 against the wall. This is a wonderful pose that helps relieve back pain and opens up stiff hips. Being on your back will also help to reduce blood pressure, if practiced regularly over time.

To come into the pose, sit on the floor with your hips as close as possible to a wall; lower your side to the floor, so your torso is perpendicular to the wall, then roll onto your back and extend your legs. It's okay if you are not right up against the wall, especially if you have tight hamstrings. Take a few breaths in legs up the wall. when you are ready, cross your right ankle over your left thigh, flexing your foot so that you cannot see the bottom of it (your legs make an inverted "4" shape). Begin to bend your left leg, sliding your foot down the wall and bringing your right leg closer to you. Tighter hips: you'll feel this almost immediately, and your hips may rise off the floor - that's okay, as long as you're not straining; if you are, then move away from the wall more. Looser hips: you may need to take your right knee in hand and prop it up and away from you (towards the wall) in order to feel anything.

Once you are there, breathe. Be here for 2-5 minutes, breathing slowly and smoothly and softening the muscles so the connective tissues are taxed, rather than the muscles. When you are done, come back to legs up the wall pose and take a few breaths before moving on to the left side. Ahhhhh....

Schedule updates...
Lorien will be out of town July 18-28, but classes will continue with subs.
  • Starting Wednesday, July 1: Yin yoga at GGBC in Campbell, 6:00-7:00pm; drop in to this class and then stay for meditation! A perfect combination.

Coming up...
  • Beginning August 6, the Thursday evening Yin Yoga class will become an Intro-to-Yoga series.
  • Saturday, August 15: Yoga Soup at Willow Glen Yoga in San Jose, 10:00-11:30am.
  • Monday, August 17: Yin Yoga at  Willow Glen Yoga in San Jose, 4:00-5:30pm.
  • Monday, August 17: Vinyasa Yoga at  Willow Glen Yoga in San Jose, 6:00-7:30pm.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Soothing Pitta's Fire

According to Ayurveda (an ancient health science), summer increases the fiery pitta characteristics. That can be good news for those of us who need some motivation to make changes. But if you are already someone whose constitution contains pitta, this may create an imbalance (To understand more and determine your dosha, please see Ayurveda infocenter). A pitta imbalance can make someone very quick to anger, impatient, self-critical, hostile, and can physically manifest in the skin (rashes, acne) and stomach (heartburn, ulcers). It's important that students with pitta constitutions practice yoga in a cooler environment, have fun with their poses and work at a reduced effort. In general, forward folds that soothe the nervous system calms the pitta imbalance, but practicing side bends and twists while focusing the breath in the back of the body will also help, as will emphasizing a longer exhale to release built up anger, frustration, stress, etc. It is the perfect season to explore new poses and methods of practicing. Yin yoga is also very appropriate for this time of the year. (Try the blended Yin & Yang class on Saturday, June 27 for something new and fun!)

What we are practicing now...
Kurmasana (tortoise pose) is a pose that opens the hips, back and shoulders, stimulates the thymus and abdominal organs, and soothes the nervous system. It is also a pose that develops pratyahara, or withdrawal/softening of the senses. Try it and notice how calm you feel after.

See Yoga Basics website for instructions on entering this pose. Enjoy!

Schedule updates...
Lorien will be on vacation June 12-25; classes will continue with subs. Join the following special classes in June:

  • Thursday, June 4 12:00-1:00pm: Power Yoga at Decathlon Club in Santa Clara
  • Saturday, June 27 10:00-11:30am: "Yin & Yang" Yoga Soup at Willow Glen Yoga in San Jose

Coming soon...
Beginning in July, the GGBC class will have a new night and format: Wednesdays 6:00-7:00pm, Yin Yoga at GGBC in Campbell, followed by a meditation class; see the GGBC website for more information... yin & meditation, a great combination for Wednesday nights, so come check it out!

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Authentic Sub

One of the characteristics of a yoga teacher's life is that we often have to find subs for our classes. I have been on all 3 sides of this equation: the student's side, the permanent teacher's side and the substitute teacher's side. When I come in to teach someone else's class, I try to respect what the students have been learning, if possible. (Sometimes I get no information about their class, so I just go in and teach what I am called to teach.) Most times, I'll have a clue as to what the students expect, and I try to honor that. In the past 5 years of teaching, I've noticed that trying to please everyone ends up pleasing no one. So now, I walk a line between honoring the permanent teacher and staying true to what I am called to teach. That may mean that my upcoming stint as a power yoga sub does not include all the planks and chaturangas (yogic push ups) that the students are used to... but it will feel more energetically sound than if I were to try for something that doesn't fit me. Who knows, maybe they will appreciate a difference? One of my very favorite teachers is Marti Foster. I experienced Marti as a student when she came to sub a class I was taking. Her style is unique, and certainly contrasted the permanent teacher's, and I loved it! Yoga resonates differently for everyone, but I know I have to stay within my frequency, even as a sub.

What we are practicing now...
Vasisthasana (side plank) is a heat-building pose that requires healthy wrists and shoulders and a strong core. If you are not quite there yet, please see the modifications below.

To come in to the pose, take plank pose (the top part of a push-up). Feel a slight round through your upper back as you support your shoulders, and do not arch your lower back. Bring your right hand directly under your face, spreading your fingers wide. Roll onto the outside edge of your right foot (keep your legs straight), and stack your ankles. Lift your hips slightly and draw your inner thighs together and up. Extend your left arm up and feel your wrists stacking. Breathe here, then release back to plank for the other side. Rest your wrists when you have completed both sides.

For more challenge, take Vasisthasana as described above. Begin to lift the top, unanchored leg off the other leg. Go slowly as you would any balancing pose. If it feels good, begin to bend that leg (like a tree pose), possibly taking hold of the big toe with the up-stretched hand and extending both into the air. Breathe here and come out with control. Repeat on the other side.

Modifications for this pose depend on the area of weakness. If the core is not yet strong enough, come into half circle pose (see reverse gate pose on this asana page) and work on lifting that back leg a little. If the wrists are compromised, try the plank and side plank on the forearms instead.

Schedule updates...
Lorien will be teaching the following special classes in May:

  • Thursday, May 7 12:00-1:00pm: Power Yoga at Decathlon Club in Santa Clara
  • Saturday, May 9 10:00-11:30am: Yoga Soup at Willow Glen Yoga in San Jose
  • Tuesday, May 26 10:00-11:15am: Yin Yoga at Courtside Club in Los Gatos; this is a new permanent class for the schedule!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

6 weeks = 5,000 years

I am very honored and excited to be teaching an Introduction-to-Yoga series again for Willow Glen Yoga. I really enjoy teaching beginners the basics of yoga, from the poses to the breathing to the more esoteric aspects. It does come with its challenges, though. Recent evidence dates the yoga practice back to 5,000 years ago! This "fad" has certainly stood the test of time. My job is to boil those years down to what is relevant today and what the average beginner will be able to grasp within 6 weeks. This challenge is another aspect of my teaching that I enjoy, as it uses all my skills!

So if you would like to learn the basics, or know someone who does, tell them about my 6-week series beginning Wednesday, April 1 at 7:45 pm at Willow Glen Yoga. There is still space available, and I promise I'll keep the history to a minimum! Sign up online at willowglenyoga.com.

What we are practicing now...
Pincha Mayurasana (forearm balance) is a great inversion for this season. It builds heat and focuses energy in the upper body where congestion may be trying amass. I really like the video instruction on Yoga Mates, including the instruction to NOT do the full pose! Watch it first before trying, as you will be upside down. Be sure to rest and stretch your neck and shoulders after completing your version of the pose.

Schedule updates...
Lorien will be on vacation April 13-18, and classes will continue with subs; here are some other times you can catch Lorien around the Bay Area:
  • Sunday, April 5, 4:00-5:30pm: Hip Openers & Restorative practice at Courtside Club in Los Gatos.
  • Tuesday, April 7 10:00-11:15am: Yin yoga at Courtside Club in Los Gatos.
  • Wednesday, April 8 6:00-7:30pm: Yoga Basics at Willow Glen Yoga in San Jose.
  • Saturday, April 25 10:00-11:30am: Yoga Basics at GGBC in Campbell.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Silence is Golden, Duct Tape is Silver...

... is my children's favorite thing to say when we sit down to watch a movie together! It always makes me laugh, but it is true that in this frenetic culture, silence is priceless. Whenever I am struggling with a problem, looking for inspiration or just feeling out of sorts, it is in silence that I find a solution.

Just like the rest of your yoga practice, silence takes patience. In my yin classes I often tell students to sit with whatever emotion arises out of the silence - some feel relief for the break from the noise of living, some are uncomfortable in the quiet, and some are simply neutral to it. Whatever the response, it's important to practice this act of getting quiet. Once you are able to let go of the static noise of your mind, you'll be amazed at what bubbles to the surface from deep within... but you have to be quiet in order to pay attention to it!

What we are practicing now...
Hanumanasana (splits pose) is a bit intimidating to students, especially if the hamstrings are tight. It is such a great pose for the hips, thighs and abdominal organs that it should not be overlooked. I enjoy taking students into the pose in a very yin way, relaxing as much as possible in each step to overcome the fear that can arise during this pose. Go to my favorite yin resource and following the instructions for the "Dragon Flying High" and then the "Dragon Splits": yinyoga.com. Rest in Child's pose between legs and then come to your belly and breathe deeply, sending thoughts of safety to counter any feelings of vulnerability. Fellow yoga teacher Kelly McGonigal has posted some beautiful insights on her website about this pose: www.openmindbody.com.

Schedule updates...
Lunchtime yoga at Symantec on hold: the company needs the space for cubicles, so our Tuesday/Thursdays series is taking a break; we hope to start back up again in August at the Mountain View location. This is not a reflection on the wonderful yogis who have been so dedicated to the practice over the last 18 months - you all are the best! I hope to reconnect with you in classes elsewhere, or in August at our new space.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Yoga by Lorien Podcasts

These podcasts are meant to be supplementary to your ongoing practice. I strongly recommend gaining a foundation in yoga poses and breathing with a live teacher first.

90-minute Wellness Yoga class; includes legs up the wall variations, somatic work and restorative poses; recorded on June 14, 2011

23-minute discussion, meditation and breathing exercise recorded in Yoga as Cancer Support Workshop on April 23, 2011

90-minute Hatha Yoga class recorded on March 10, 2011

60-minute Yin Yoga class recorded on March 2, 2011

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Engineering & Yoga: A Smooth Ride for All

Whenever people find out that my previous incarnation was as a mechanical engineer for Lockheed Martin, I inevitably get the question: isn't that a huge change to go from being an engineer to teaching yoga? The answer is yes and no. The obvious differences are there: environment, hours, management, etc. The similarities are not always as apparent, but they are there. You begin to notice them as your train your mind and body, working as an engineer to construct a stable structure with proper ventilation. And at the heart of yoga teaching are the concepts of duhkha, usually translated as meaning suffering, and sukha, usually translated as meaning ease. A literal translation of sukha brings us "good space", referring to the term used to describe the correct construction and alignment of a wagon wheel to its axis; a bad alignment creates duhkha, "bad space", or a ride filled with suffering; a correct alignment creates sukha, "good space", or a ride that is smooth. That is an engineering concept, right at the heart of yoga! So, the next time you practice, think like an engineer of your self: create a smooth ride... good space... sukha. Namaste!

What we are practicing now...
Urdhva Dhanurasana (upward bow or wheel pose) is an amazing pose to counteract the "Silicon Valley Slump" as it stretches the chest, shoulders and hips. It requires both strength and flexibility. The arms need to be able to extend overhead while rotating the elbows parallel to each other - no easy feet for a desk jockey! Stretching open the chest and strengthening the triceps and latissimus dorsi muscles achieve the arm position; opening the front of the hips while inwardly rotating the legs and firming the lower abdominal muscles achieve the leg position. A great preparation for this pose is Bridge. To come in to this rewarding but challenging pose, go through the steps outlined in Yoga Journal. There are lots of ways to use props and partners to experience the elements of the pose, but don't be in a hurry. Work with the steps slowly and only lift when you feel ready! Be sure to counter pose by bringing your knees to chest or chest to knees. Enjoy!

Schedule updates...
No updates for now. See my website for a complete schedule, as well as podcasts for home practice.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Resolution, Intention & Bhavana

Happy New Year! Like many people, I use the turn of the year as an opportunity to reflect and learn. I no longer make "resolutions", because I've found that my brain does not accept easily the restrictions associated with resolving to do or not do something; in short, I rebel against my own mind! Some years ago, I began setting "intentions" for the new year. These intentions were a softer approach to improving myself over the next 12 months, but I found them to be too soft, too vague or too unrealistic.

What I've now found is the concept of "bhavana". A bhavana is a vision that furthers one's self and others - exactly what I was trying to achieve with my resolutions and intentions, without the negative or ambiguous connotations. A bhavana has 3 elements; it is:

  1. A positive expression of what I want to happen, rather than the absence of a negative; i.e., "speaking compassionately to my kids", vs. "not yelling at my kids".
  2. Concrete and clear, without vague concepts; this was where my intentions always went wrong, because "peace on Earth" was really hard to visualize.
  3. Specific and focused on an actual image or idea; I like to use the concept of taking a snapshot of what my bhavana would look like, bringing the picture into focus and cropping it to its most relevant parts.
This year, try creating a bhavana for yourself, remembering to make it positive, concrete and specific.

Monthly Pose

Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I pose)
The warrior poses are often mistaken by newcomers to yoga; how can a warrior, a symbol of war be a part of something so peaceful? The answer is that the warrior represents the fight against ignorance or misperception. We need this aspect to cut through our veils so we can see truth, and because we live in the world, we need to continue to cut through those veils constantly.

See Yoga Journal's website to learn the steps to come into the pose, as well as modification and benefits. During the winter months, it's good to focus to the downward energy of the hips, legs and feet, and let your heat build!

Schedule & Event Updates

See my website for complete schedule; below is a summary of the changes beginning January 5th.
  • Mondays: no more 4pm Yin Yoga class
  • Wednesdays: NEW 9am Hatha Flow class at Willow Glen Yoga
  • Thursdays: 7:45pm class is now a YIN YOGA class!

JANUARY WORKSHOP: Intro to Flow Workshop on Saturday, January 24th 1:30-4:00pm at Decathlon Club in Santa Clara. The perfect workshop to start or restart your dynamic yoga practice, you'll learn breath, poses and flows that are found in any flow yoga class, as well as the best ways to modify for your specific needs! $35 for members and $45 for guests (includes a day pass to the club), pre-registration required. For more information or to sign up, please contact Amy Chang at (408) 738-2582, ext. 150, or yoga@decathlon-club.com.