Tag Archives: asana

Rocket Delight!

star pose

I taught a Rocket Yoga class last night and it was big fun! I love teaching the 3rd sequence, Rocket 3, because we can explore and have fun with different poses. I had a few new people in class too, which is also interesting.

Someone asked about one particular pose, chin stand. Like “what’s up with chin stand?” I guess you could ask that about any pose from a rhetorical standpoint. Why do we do this? Or even existentially, why are we here anyway?

You realize that sometimes in your teaching you need to back-up now and then and explain yourself. It’s so easy to assume that everyone feels the same way, enjoys strength and flexibility, and is emotionally in a good place. But you never know when students come to class where they are in life. And for their yoga journey, you can only speculate.

So back to the question: why chin stand? Chin stand, or viparita salabhasana, is an advanced asana from Ashtanga Yoga. Imagine salabhasana A, or locust pose, where you lay on your belly while lifting head, chest, arms, and legs. Now, press your arms flat on the ground with arms straight along your body and lift only your legs off the ground. Then, imagine lifting your legs so high that your legs are above your head. That is the pinnacle of locust post, which is chin stand (actually, you could go further and take your feet toward your head, touch your head, or place your feet alongside your ears). But for most of the normal world of yogis, this would be a great achievement.

Rocket Yoga is considered an advanced level class. It takes you to a different level of fun since it is not only physically challenging, it also challenges your mind, breath, and takes you to advanced poses. Not everyone has to do the advanced poses, but its always an option. I’ve been to Baptiste Power classes that are very challenging, but mostly physically and not from a technical aspect. I enjoyed it a lot. I’ve been to more Iyengar styled classes that are technically, and somewhat physically, challenging. Those are fun too. I teach a hot yoga class that is very physical, but I don’t offer advanced poses or strength options like in Rocket. We also don’t study the breath, bandhas, and drishti. That’s what makes Ashtanga different.

Unfortunately, finding Rocket classes abroad is not always easy. There are very few teachers and its not often accepted among traditional Ashtangis. Many embrace the repetitive nature of traditional Ashtanga and what it does for minds and bodies. I love that aspect too. So its hard to break that mold into a more free-form style like Rocket. It has quite a niche—but fortunately for me, its a niche that many love…a lot!!!

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Its a Good Day!

hasta uttanasana

I always feel so good after teaching yoga. I taught Rocket Yoga last night and it left me feeling like I had practiced myself.

Patthabi Jois said “99% practice, 1% theory”. Yet, he was a Sanskrit scholar, an educator,  well respected for his knowledge of the ancient texts. He taught these other aspects tangentially through the practice of Ashtanga Yoga. What is interesting is that only with his most advanced students who he felt could go deeper, he taught Pranayama. Long after the Asana practice, they would be working on their breathing. It is the next “physical” practice that leads you to higher limbs of yoga.

No, I don’t equate myself with Guruji. But I feel Rocket is an advanced level class. I sometimes forget that and assume a lot about my students. When a beginner or intermediate yogi, or even a non-Ashtangi, attends my class, it all comes to light again how special this practice is. When someone comes in and can’t even do sun salutations on their own. When they don’t even know about Ujjayi breath, a central pillar of the Tristhana method of Ashtanga yoga. I quickly remember how unique we are.

In the closing sequence, following Yoga Mudra, we usually take some time in Padmasana for Pranayama. Last night, we did Kumbhaka Pranayama, or breath-retention practice. I was counting so I wasn’t doing it myself, but I felt the effect of it. It put me deeply into Samadhi. Usually, when I put them to rest into Savasana, I’m not super focused. I’m counting students, thinking of temperature and sounds, I’m watching the time. Last night, I got into Virasana with Dhyana Mudra, which is normal for me, and I zoned out. I lost track of time. My Pratyahara was so strong. I was inwardly focused in a meditative state. It completely changed my evening. I sensed my students were feeling similar effects.

Yogas Citta Vrtti Nirodhah. The Purpose of Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind. If you’ve done that, you’ve done Yoga.

Meditation with a Mala

Tibetan-Buddhist-Hindu-Rudraksha-Mala-Meditation-Beads-7

I have read many methods of using a Mala for meditation, but I’d like to share you mine. A Mala is a beaded necklace, or bracelet, that is used for prayers in various faiths. A rosary is a similar device used in Catholicism. The one I use has 108 beads, which is a significant number to many. Other forms are divisions of half or a quarter of that number. For instance, a mala bracelet may have 27 beads, or one-quarter of 108. There is often a head bead that has a tassel or other design that lets you know when you reach the end.

The method I use for meditation usually ends after yoga practice of opening stretches allowing you to find a better seat, or asana. I may use blocks or a Zafu/Zabutan cushion to sit on. I may light a candle or find a place that is serene. It may be a boat dock or someplace that is private and quiet. I wear enough clothes to keep a comfortable temperature.

I will sit cross-legged in Siddhasana, but you may choose Sukhasana, Lotus, or half Lotus. My spine is erect and my hands are open in front of my knees. I keep my head balanced on my shoulders with eyes closed. I take the Mala in the peace fingers of my right hand. I find the notch next to the head bead. Then I begin my breathing, or pranayama. If I rate the sound of my Ujjiya breath from 1 to 10 with 10 being the loudest, I’ll take maybe 1-3 level for meditation.

Now, I focus on an intention. It may be a specific word or short phrase, or mantra. It could be the word “peace” or “love”. Or it may be a self-affirmation, like “do well today” or “be in the present”. My breath is continuous except at the bottom where there is a natural respiratory pause. In that pause, I silently state my intention to myself. Only, I must have complete focus on that intention in order to advance to the next bead. If my mind wanders, I don’t move forward. If I have time, I’ll go through the entire 108 beads. Other days, it may be half or a quarter of the beads. Whatever I do, I make sure I end on the head bead. I don’t want to have to open my eyes to see how far I’ve gone.

It is such an incredibly satisfying and grounding practice to meditate. My other favorite method if I am in a class, at the end of a weightlifting workout, or if I’m out on a run is to sit in vajrasana (thunderbolt pose). I place my hands in my lap in dhyana mudra. In this method, I’ll focus on my breath with my eyes closed, but focused on the tip of my nose. Then I’ll imagine colors, cool blue air as I inhale, and red hot air as I exhale. It is so refreshing. Try meditation and find the peace you’ve been looking for.

dhyana_mudra_geste_de_la_meditation