Tag Archives: rocket

Ooops, I’m in the Wrong Class

Once upon a time, I was sitting in a University class and the professor walks in. He is known to be a stern teacher and not all that personable. He doesn’t even acknowledge us and starts writing on the board what appears to be very basic chemistry. He is writing about molarity and Avagadro’s number. The problem is, everyone in the class had signed up for something a lot more complex. Someone finally spoke up and asked, “Isn’t this supposed to by Physical Chemistry?” For those in the know, its likely the most difficult class you can take in the sciences. He kind of scoffed and looked angrily at us and began wiping off the board. Next thing you know, up go the differential equations and formulas for understanding the geometrics of a water molecule.

Kind of a different slant on this is when a beginner yogi walks into my Rocket Yoga classes. It happens almost once a week. The information sheet and website describe the classes, but I don’t think people usually read the descriptions. I mean, yoga is yoga right? [Wrong!] The description says that Rocket is a mish-mash of Ashtanga from all 6 series. And to the right column says it is “High Intensity”. So you think people would ask around.

We start out with 5 sun saluation A’s and 4-5 sun B’s. Chair pose and wide leg forward folds. Once we get into splits, they are already fully invested in the class. But then we start into much more difficult poses not to mention throwing in some forearm stands and handstands.

Now is when they say “What have I done?!!!”

But its too late to back out now. I can tell by even the most basic poses that they’ve never had an Ashtanga class. Even more accomplished yogis who are strong and flexible who haven’t been taught the style of Ashtanga show their different experiences. Its not wrong, its just not how we do it in Ashtanga.

And you know what? All of this is OK. They didn’t stumble into the wrong class. I tell everyone, do what you can do. If you need child’s pose, then by all means take it whenever you want. If you want to sit and watch when arm balances come up, go ahead. But please try if you can. I tell them to keep coming back. Maybe take some Ashtanga and other more intense classes to build strength and breath. Anyone can try Rocket and is welcome to come. I try my best to speak to every new face I see after class. Most often they don’t come back, but I’m hopeful they will try again. That’s all we can do is try our best.

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Rocket Yoga 3 “Happy Hour”

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I love all three of the Rocket Yoga sequences, but I especially like Rocket 3. I was just thinking on Saturday, when I taught Rocket 2, how uniquely designed each sequence is; particularly the first two. But Rocket 3 is really special. When I took Rocket training, we were given relatively strict guidelines for the sequences. And what I took away from it was more the “intent” of the practice than the sequences themselves. Do we meet the guidelines that uses a lot of energy, fun, and freedom in the practice? Yes?! Then we accomplished the goal. Larry Schultz, the founder, liked it that way.

Every once in a while, someone new comes to class. I can see that they have a style of their own. Maybe they’ve practiced yoga for years, but not necessarily Ashtanga yoga. Some poses, like triangle, side angle, and Warrior I, have a lot of variations that are possible. In Ashtanga, you would strictly apply a certain style to the pose. But in Rocket, I allow a lot of leeway. As long as they follow the “intent” of the practice, then I’m happy. Would I be happier if they applied the strict Ashtanga style? Yes. But that’s not so important. After coming to class for a while, they usually start to meet the style guidelines of Ashtanga.

Since Rocket 1 is closely associated with the Primary Series of Ashtanga, it tends to be the strictest in Ashtanga terms. But it is still fun and playful. Where we really play is in Rocket 3. I usually browse through Ashtanga series 2 through 6 and see what I can include in class. And then we jump in and out of the Rocket 1 & 2 sequences. Its a good time for experimentation, work-shopping, falling, and laughing. We even play with things like Zombie-presses, which we’ll probably do tonight.

I’m loving the practice and what it does for you. I’ve gotten so much stronger and proficient in the process. I see people on Instagram doing horse pose (vatayanasana) or some other higher level pose they’ve never done before and I think to myself, we do this every week in Rocket Yoga! People are sometimes amazed when they come to practice. Like “how is this even possible?!”

That’s what I love about Rocket Yogis! They are the cream of the crop!

Rocket Delight!

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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!!!

Hmmm Mysore Ashtanga?

I’ve been teaching Rocket Yoga for a while. It includes playful sequences incorporating many poses from all 6 Ashtanga series. Most Ashtangis never leave the first (primary) series for whatever reason and if that is something that fulfills their life, then they should continue doing the practice.

With recent schedule changes at the studio, I’ve been thinking about getting back into Ashtanga myself. I’ve thought a lot about going to Mysore style classes again. But the thought of someone saying, “you can’t do this pose, so you stop here and go to the finishing sequence” doesn’t appeal to me one bit. Maybe its my ego or hard head that can’t take that kind of criticism anymore. In every yoga class I teach, I don’t tell people to stop or to not modify a pose. So its difficult for me to think of stopping because I can’t do one particular pose and never having the opportunity to go on unless that’s accomplished. What if I had disfunction in a joint or a rod in my back? Then, by those criteria, I wouldn’t be able to practice Ashtanga.

The Primary Series is called the healing series. Everyone should be able to do it and enjoy its benefits. I think that’s where Rocket Yoga makes Ashtanga more accessible. It provides an atmosphere where you can play and enjoy and not be as strict. That is where I like to be. There was a time when I enjoyed a stricter form of practice. I did traditional martial arts for years where you were strongly chastised for straying from what was right. There is a time and place for that kind of body movement. But I suppose I’m not in that time or place anymore.

For me, my yoga practice gives a feeling of wanting to strengthen my mind and body. As I get older, I know I’m not going to get much more pliable. And as I’m building strength outside of yoga, I know that breaking down muscle and building it stronger than before is going to interfere with the depth of my yoga. But its something I’ve come to accept in my life because I choose to enjoy building strength by other means. Having that strength is different from yoga strength. And it is all good. Its just that I find fulfillment in other endeavors as well.

So maybe Ashtanga Mysore classes will have to continue to wait for me. I respect those who want to follow the system. I think it is good for your bodies. But its not good for mine. At least not for now.

When Amazing is Normal

I love when my Rocket Yoga students come into my general classes. Sometimes I’ll offer a harder “Rocket” option and my Rocketeers are the only ones who do it.

In a Rocket class, the harder version is the standard. So I don’t even look twice when they pop into handstand or flying pigeon. Its just normal.

But when I’m teaching a vinyasa flow or hot yoga class, what is normal turns out to be quite remarkable. Every yogi is special to me, but those Rocket Yogis are the icing on the cake.

You are stronger than you think – Larry Schultz

Its the little things in life

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I taught a Rocket Yoga class last night and left feeling like I’ve found my purpose.

I didn’t realize until afterward that a new person strolled into class. When it dawned on me afterward, I asked. She actually had been to a Rocket class that someone substitute taught for me last week. And she enjoyed it so much that she came back.

Rocket is a lot like CrossFit. I know if I programmed a killer workout that made an obvious change in a person’s life, I’d feel so satisfied that my effort wasn’t in vain. I know that Rocket is different from a regular Vinyasa Flow class, or even an Ashtanga class. It takes something simple and cranks it up a notch…maybe a few notches.

Here are a few staples of the practice:

  • The standing series begins with a 5 breath hold Bakasana
  • A long standing flow on the right side, then the left
  • Pincha mayurasana follows standing flows
  • Prasarita Padottanasana series includes a tripod headstand
  • Rocket Abs integrates Navasana with leg lifts and holds
  • Nearly every Navasana ends with a handstand, and there are quite a few
  • Many forward folds end with an arm balance
  • Ardha matsyendrasana transitions with a handstand or headstand in between
  • We always do chakrasana (and I’m not talking about upward bow) and pigeon pose
  • Pranayama (breath practice) is for advanced Ashtangis, so that’s what we do

Garsh do I love the excitement I feel from this practice.

Being Observed

The yoga studio where I teach is finishing up with a round of 200 hour teacher training. I end up with a trainee or two in the classes I teach.

Last night, I had someone observe my Rocket Yoga class. I have been teaching Rocket for a while and received advanced training in it this past March. So it was fun to hear someone comment on what I’m doing.

First of all, observers love my music. Rocket Yoga was developed when Larry Schultz traveled with the Grateful Dead. With those roots, I embrace elements of Rock & Roll in my classes. You’ll hear the gamut from The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Marvin Gaye, Flock of Seagulls, Tracy Chapman, to Stevie Wonder and Santana. It peaks to a fervor during sun salutations and standing poses and starts to soften through seated and finishing poses. I am careful to craft the entire 75 minutes of class so that it ends with more Tamasic sounds. This ambience along with my vocalizations and dimming of lights makes for a complete practice. The lady last night especially loved Pink Floyd saying that it fit perfectly with the Rocket.

Second, and most significant for me, was the care that I gave students. From my own practice, I know when you feel tired and defeated. That’s not the time when you ask someone to do a very demanding pose. Instead, I opt for more of child’s pose than in most classes. As an Olympic weightlifter myself, we will often sit for 3-5 minutes between each attempt at the bar. So I know when we need some time before doing forearm stands or intense arm balances. I am also careful to know when someone needs assistance or correction. Sometimes, people simply step with the wrong foot or twist the wrong way. These are easy corrections that keep them within my instructions. But also being aware of injuries or limitations in students. I try to never say that a yogi is “tight”. Instead, I say that they are stronger in some places of their bodies.

Lastly, I was commended for my encouragement. Larry Schultz always said “you are stronger than you think”. I use that phrase often. Its easy to feel weak and defeated. But they really aren’t. Sometimes yogis are simply tired, but the strength is still there. Someone was working on Pincha Mayurasana “forearm stand” and I said this phrase. It was sorely needed at that time. I also say “just try”. Don’t think about it, just try. Don’t over-analyze or put yourself in a box. If you try, you never know what will happen. I was very stoked that she noticed this in me.

I’ve been teaching for several years now, but I still know I have a lot to learn. This student said she usually focuses on learning sequences from teachers. But with me, it was the nuances of encouragement and care that came through. I think of the melting pot of experiences I’ve learned and adopted from other teachers. I am unique. We all are. But we take what we can as students of the practice and make it our own.