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.

Kirtan Kriya

Inspired by today's article on the link between memory and meditation (www.tampabay.com/news/aging/lifetimes/article1090402.ece), I wanted to post a bit more regarding the Kirtan Kriya. In Sanskrit, "kriya" means action or effort and "Kirtan" refers to the call-and-response chanting of mantras. According the newspaper article, simply chanting "Sa Ta Na Ma" while touching fingertips for only 12 minutes per day increased blood flow to areas of the brain crucial to memory, and improved scores in verbal fluency and logical memory.

I've come across a great video on YouTube with a very thorough explanation of the chant's meanings, power, and use in daily life. Here's the link (the man is adorable - so happy!): www.youtube.com/watch?v+n1Oq4vOcD9w. If the link doesn't take you directly to his video, just do a search on YouTube for "kirtan kriya meditation" and he is usually the first listed (a man with a long beard dressed in white robes and turban - with the website sikhnet.com).
If you interested in more links between yoga and the brain, be sure to check out Lisa's popular workshops (also called "Yoga For the Brain") held at the studio: http://www.yoga4all.com/

4-21-10 Inner Legs

Watch it wiggle, see it jiggle...

Let's use our inner legs for more than bright white reflectors and jokes! When we tap into the energy from our big toe ball mound through the inner leg to our core, we have opened up a whole new world - and level in our yoga practice. No one said it is easy, but the rewards (yes, multiple rewards) are worth it!
Tonight's quote was a Hindustani proverb: "There is nothing noble about being superior to some other men. The tru nobility is in being superior to your previous self."

4-19-10 Triangle(s)

Why do only one triangle (Utthita Trikonasana) when you can do at least three?? The practice tonight focused on Triangle pose in several variations (Triangle, Moon Triangle, Revolved Triangle, and Wide Angle Triangle). We practice Triangle, Revolved Triangle, and Half Moon with our backs on the wall to keep us in correct alignment and stop us from cheating. In Triangle, it is more about the twist that how far down you can get. Trikonasana is one of the most studied asanas, so don't be discouraged! Use internet and print resources to explore your pose further! Quote for practice: "When we force, we cannot feel, and when we feel, we cannot force."

4-14-10 Side Body (yes, again)

No, I never get tired of finding space along our side bodies (just in case you were wondering). I love that feeling you get when you stretch into places that have been "out back smoking and watching reality TV" , if you will. Picture your ribs as Venetian blinds and let them open to allow sunsine in - and give you a chance to dust them off! Aaaah, fresh air and clear light!

And by the way, how comfy was our supported twist during pranayam? Not to mention the newfound popularity of Queen's pose for savasana? Mmmmmm...I'm purring just thinking about it.

This weekend (tomorrow the 17th, actually), Judy is doing a workshop on the 5 Tibetans - a unique yoga practice of only 5 postures designed to optimize the spinning of your chakras, thereby rejuvenating the body. It's designed to take just a few minutes each day - and it's fun!
Judy is very knowledgable in the tradition and is a great workshop leader. Check out
www.yoga4all.com for details, and the postings for 2/3/2010 and 2/17/2010 on my blog (Chakras).

"He who has no wish to be happier is the happiest of men." - William R. Algers

4-12-10 Neck and Upper Back

Between spring cleaning, gardening, weather that begs you to be active outdoors, and hunching over a calculator and pencil (or computer) finishing up taxes, we tend to overuse our necks and back this time of year. So I put together this class to help alleviate some of the pain you may be experiencing. And even if you are lucky enough to be pain free, this is a great sequence to relieve stress and tension. Remember to keep the collarbones moving away from each other, opening the chest.
During our pranayam practice (supported fish on a blanket - sounds like a new brunch food), I recommended using a breath meditation from Thich Nhat Hanh to bring us into present moment awareness. He is a Zen master, poet, and artist with several books (several available at local libraries)- beautiful prose and accessible meditation instructions. Here it is:
Inhale: "Breathing in, I calm my body."
Exhale: "Breathing out, I smile."
During savasana, I also shared a breath from Thich Nhat Hanh to use as an awareness "guide":
Inhale: "Dwelling in the present moment,
Exhale: "I know this is a wonderful moment."
Tonight's class quote: "The wealth of a soul is measured by how much it can feel; its poverty by how little." - William R. Alger

4-7-10 Concentration and Balance

Last night we worked through several balance poses, aimed at developing our concentration and encouraging our sense of balance. In addition, I introduced a few simple acupressure exercises that are said to be beneficial to our memory and concentration. These are posted above (you should be able to click on a picture for a larger view), from the awesome book, Acupressure's Potent Points by Michael Reed Gach. The book is organized alphabetically by type of common ailment (from Acne to Toothaches and Wrist Pain). A great place to find books on the web is http://www.dealoz.com/. You simply type in the title and it searches all the major book outlets finding the prices with shipping and applicable coupons. I've added it to the links section on the right of the blog...

Mahatma Gandhi: "My message is my life."

Be well!

4-5-10 Twists

As I said at the beginnning of practice, we were going to channel Chuck Berry and do some twistin'!

In yoga, twists are especially beneficial for "releasing tension in your spine, breaking open the outer bindings of your hips, and squeezing and releasing the sponge of your body. Twists allow you to be soft, fluid, and organic in your body movements. When you use force in a twist, it reveals how your mind if often directed and determined, reminding you to lead more from your center (your belly) and simply observe with your mind," says Rodney Yee in his book, Yoga: The Poetry of the Body. He goes on to remind us to ask the following questions: "Am I holding my breath? Am I leading with my head? Is the spiral of my body even from feet to crown of head? Do my heart and my lungs feel supported and opened?" By the way, this book is available to check out at the studio!

Quote for practice: "The intention of the effort is far more important than the effort's outcome" - Aadil Pahlkivala

True in life...and especially true on your yoga mat!

3-31-10 Forward Folds

Flat back, please! Bend your knees if you need to, but let's keep our backs flat and spines extending forward when practicing Uttanasana (forward fold). Remember, reaching the floor does NOT guarantee happiness, so just accept where you are in your practice and be thankful for the progress your body has made!
Tonight's quote: "If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don't have integrity, nothing else matters." - Senator Alan K. Simpson

3-29-10 Glutes

I'm back! Sorry for the delay in posting this past week. I was helping host a family wedding/reunion and time just got away from me. But, now I am back on track with the ever-popular stick people - WOOHOO!

Remember, when using your glutes (especially in poses like locust, cobra, and bridge) focus on the lowest part of your buns, in the area they connect into the back of the thighs. Don't crunch your lower back!

Quote for the practice: "Although no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending."