Welcome to Yogi Sticks!

Do you know your Gomukasana from your Adho Mukha Svanasana? Is your Vrksasana all it can be? And how do you feel about Supta Baddha Konasana? Do you know what I'm even talking about?

Sometimes the Sanskrit - however beautiful it sounds - is not very helpful. So, to encourage my students to expand their yoga practice into their home, I sketch the poses we practice during class on a chart and add the Sanskrit and common name. Hopefully, this is a useful tool to help them along in their yogic journey. I also troll the internet, books, and journals to find interesting articles about yoga and the yogic lifestyle.


You've probably joined along with the final "Om" chant in your practice, knowing a little about the tradition and meaning, but mostly just enjoying the calming resonance it creates. I think you'll enjoy chanting even more if you know more about "Om" or "Aum".

Om is always within you, even babies make the sound. It is even within the sounds you hear in the real world everyday: the hum of the air conditioner, static on the radio, bagpipes. The Om sound connects you with the divine or the universe. It opens and activates all the chakras, especially the crown chakra.

Three is a magic number when it comes to Om. In Sanskrit, Om is spelled with three letters: A, U, and M and spoken with three parts of your mouth. The "ah" starts in the back of the mouth, then about a third of the way through the sound the "oh" begins to form in the middle. Finally, the last of Om ends with the front of the mouth, on the lips. When you finish each chant, be sure to relish in the quiet stillness it creates.

Additionally, each of the three parts of Om corresond to a part of life - "Ah" represents the creative and birth, "oh" corresponds to the sustaining and sameness of life, and the "m" is destruction and death. These also represent the past, present, and future - the moving from the awareness of the outer world to the inner world.

Further, the sounds of Om represent the four states of being: "ah" is our wakeful state, especially external awareness through the mind and senses. "Oh" is our dream state and our internal experiences. The "m" sound is representative of our deep sleep with no desires. And the silence between chants is our transcendent state, where we have the ability to merge with the universe (or at least just enjoy the quiet).

Traditionally, when chanting Om we use the Om mudra. This essentially is the "O.K" symbol - the tip of your index finger touching the thumb, creating a circle. This connects you (the index finger) with the universe (the thumb). There are many other mudras, each with their own meaning.

Happy chanting!

1-27-10 Lunges

Since we worked on our upper body earlier this week, I wanted to focus on our lower body in different lunge variations. A couple points to emphasize when practicing lunges: be sure your front knee never extends past your toes (look for a 90 degree angle), and if your back knee is off the mat (it doesn't need to be) make sure that it is powerfully straight with the heel really reaching toward the floor.

I've had a request to trace the stick people with a fine tip marker before scanning to make it easier to read and print. So, I'll give it a try next time - and thanks for your input!!

1-25-10 Shoulders

Monday evening's practice revolved around our shoulders including the muscles surrounding and suppporting them. We explored their strength, stability, and flexibility with respect and attention to the sensations the asanas created. Be gentle with your shoulders - don't push beyond their limitations.

The following illustration is from a fanastic anatomy book: The Key Poses of Hatha Yoga, Volume 2 by Ray Long, MD. The drawing is of Eagle pose (Garudasana). The darker the red, the deeper the stretch and the darker the blue, the more intense the strengthening.
Quote for the practice: "To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life." -Baruch Spinoza

Yoga Day USA

Yoga Day USA was a great success. Just check out all the people in one of the beginner's classes! More pictures are posted at http://www.yoga4all.com/. Thank you to everyone who joined us to explore yoga, pilates, meditation, and hula hooping classes, get chair massages, and donate to the SPCA! We truly appreciate your support!

Stillness Meditation

I used this meditation on Wednesday. I thought you may like to use it in your own practice:
1. Settle into your favorite meditation position, including savasana.
2. Let your eyes fall closed, and watch your breath for a few moments.
3. Focus first on feeling your body as a whole, as it sits in meditation. Fee that it has been frozen in space, just like a statue - without any movement whatsoever.
4. Send a message through your body - let the idea of stillness wash over your entire form. Then throughout the practice, no matter what happens, don't allow yourself to move even the slightest bit. Let your body relax into the posture, and feel the weight of your body as it sinks down into the floor.
5. Now go step-by-step through each and every part of your outer form from the tip of the head down to your toes, letting it fall deeper into body stillness.
6. Turn your gaze to the inside of the body, and see it as completely empty inside, just a hollow shell, the color of the clear blue sky.
7.then go step-by-step through every inch of this hollow space inside your inner form from the toes up to the tip of the head, making sure you see nothing but empty sky.
8. As you sink deeper into your own meditation, if thoughts arise, allow them to form as clouds and watch them just float away into the brilliant blue emptiness within you.

1-20-10 Twists

Twists are great for releasing tension in your spine, opening the hips, and squeezing your body like a sponge.In his lovely book, Yoga: The Poetry of the Body, Rodney Yee explains to "feel how your feet and legs energize your spine and how the length of your spine is like a flower's stem extending into the blossoming of your chest" while in a twist. He goes on to write that we should, "mindfully walk from your tailbone to the crown of your head, observing how to create equanimity throughout your spine."

1-18-10 Hero and Warrior

Monday night we explored several Warrior poses (Virabhadrasana) and a couple Hero (Vrasana) variations. Warrior poses require great concentration in the legs, keeping them strong rather than just "sinking" into them. Use the muscles - don't hang in the ligaments.

Tonight's quote was from Robet Byrne: "The purpose of life is a life of purpose".


10 Reasons NOT to do Yoga

Need to convince a skeptic? Try this link:

Why Do Yoga?

It’s very trendy to practice yoga these days. Like being “green”, it seems everywhere you turn, someone is selling yoga. There are clothing lines hocking $80 yoga tank tops, websites offering props, books, and DVDs of the “latest” yoga style, and even discount department stores featuring their own lines of yoga materials. Celebrities with long, lithe bodies rave about their yoga mastery and classes are offered everywhere from local gyms and mom’s groups to high-end yoga studios. So it’s easy to get caught up in the hype. Who doesn’t want to be strong, flexible, and relaxed, right?

But the truth of the matter is that the practice of yoga is much deeper than these physical manifestations that have garnered such popularity. The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit root “yuj” meaning work, coordination, and integration. Put those together and yoga is defined as “union”: A union between the individual and the universe, a union between rooting down and growing taller, a union of our dark and our light.

About 4000 years ago, Patanjali wrote The Yoga Sutras, the definitive yogic text. He defined yoga as “Yoga citta vrtti nirodhah” or “Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind”. In other words, the practice of yoga was not designed to help you stand on your head, touch the floor, or twist up like a human pretzel. The purpose of yoga is to settle your mind and stop the self-talk and chatter that prevent us from being present for our lives. And doesn’t that awareness sound better than having nice biceps?

Granted, the physical movements (called asanas) in a yoga practice are designed to work your body – creating within you a union of strength and flexibility. These movements, when combined with breathing practices (pranayam), and meditation make up Hatha Yoga. And within Hatha Yoga you can find dozens of variations (Bikram, Iyengar, Anusara, Triyoga, Pwer, Viniyoga, Kripalu, etc). Yoga provides a fantastic work-out. You use muscles you didn’t even know you had. A regular practice builds strength, promotes flexibility, improves balance and coordination and posture, and is excellent for lung health. Yoga programs can even be tailored for specific conditions (asthma, liver disorders, cancer, PMS, etc). And best of all, rather than feeling tired and beat-up after exercise, you are likely to feel a quiet energy after even the most rigorous yoga practice.

Yoga is for everybody regardless of age, physical condition or religion. The only equipment you may need is a sticky mat (widely available, fairly inexpensive, and often available for use at the gym or studio you attend). And the only requirement during a yoga practice is that you breathe. No worrying about to-do lists. No rehashing your day. No thinking about what to make for dinner. You only breathe, and if movement feels good, then start moving. I like to think there is a little yogi inside each of us, letting us know what our body needs. So tap into your inner-self and try yoga. Not because it is cool to do yoga, but because it can profoundly change your life – from your mental state and physical appearance, to your diet and daily habits.

Every yoga class ends with the word “Namaste” which means the light and divine in me bows to the light and divine in you. Namaste.

January 13th - Triangle and Revolved Triangle

We were all about Triangle (Trikonasana) and Revolved Triangle (Parivrtta Trikonasana) tonight - working from toes to crown to harness the strength and openess required to find peace in these often challenging poses. Remember, it is more about the twist and less about the fold. Twist from the inner to the outer and BREATHE!

Tonight's quote: "Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your concsiousness. Ho do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at this moment." -Eckhart Tolle


January 11th - Legs

In tonight's practice we focused on our legs - both their powerful strength and their delicate flexibility. It is important to remember to lift your knee-caps when in these poses, to not only activate the correct muscles, but also to protect your joints from hyperextending.

The quote from tonight's class (shared by my good yogi friend, Jessica) was: "It will all be fine in the end. If it is not fine, it's not the end". Love it!

Have a great week!