Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Anatomy Weekend - System Overload

The weekend of 10/15 we had a guest trainer lay down some intense anatomy knowledge. Folks, the human body is entirely too complex to learn over the course sixteen hours spread over three days. Lillee Chandra of the Yoga Tune Up program spent the weekend teaching us the ins and outs of flexion, extension, abduction, adduction, golgi tendons, the psoas, the scapula, the thoracic cavity, the calcaneous and SO (stressing SO) much more. Miss Lillee is an expert in all things human body. This was a skosh unnerving (see what i did there?) considering that I have not thought about human anatomy in a text book capacity since high school.

SeXXXy, right?

When I returned to my apartment after our session with Lillee on Friday night, all I wanted was warm tea to calm my brain, and a warm bed in which to digest the plethora of biological terms swimming in my head. Neither of these things were to be. When I returned home, it was to a loud, (fun!) drunken house party. A true rager. A goodbye party for friends moving to Pearl Harbor naval base in Hawaii. No warm tea and bed that night, but plenty of cold beer and barbecue. It was a fantastic time! Such is the life of a yogi. Roll with the punches. My physical therapist friend LOVES anatomy and wanted to know all about what I'd learned that night. I wasn't quite on par with his knowledge, but after many beers he didn't mind. I feared his phrenic nerve might cease being involuntary.

Every yogi's best friend...Err....

 After chatting for a bit and engaging in some Drunkasanas with other folks at the party, I was able to duck away and take a look at the homework Lillee assigned for the night. The rest of the weekend continued to be a no nonsense crash course in anatomy and self massage using the Yoga Tune Up Balls (this deserves a post all to itself, it's that good). I'm chugging along in my training, and I am absolutely loving it. Joining this program is one of the best decisions I've ever made.

Friday, October 14, 2011

My Chosen 'Sutra' (Thread)

My homework due at training this evening is an essay about a specific Sutra or "thread" from the book "The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali." The whole of the work is broken up into four books which each contain different Sutras, essentially basic guides for life. We were to choose one Sutra and then write a reaction to it. Below is what I'll turn in tonight (minus the pics!).

Patanjali: The Man, The Myth, The Yogi

Book One, Sutra 33
“Maitri karuna muditopeksanam sukha duhka punyapuna visayanam bhavanatas citta prasadanam. By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness.”

    This Sutra is echoed by the more modern teaching of The Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have done to you.” In the Sutra however, Patanjali breaks down this idea further by describing the four types of people one may encounter. The happy, unhappy, virtuous and the wicked must all be treated in certain ways by the yogi. By treating each type of person appropriately, the yogi may stay balanced and peaceful in her own mind while addressing those around her in a positive way. 

  By greeting the happy with friendliness, the yogi stays free from jealousy and negative speculation about the happy person. Friendliness and well wishes basically ensure those feelings are returned by the happy person, thus creating a positive experience for both parties. By offering friendliness the yogi also keeps at bay her own wickedness which otherwise would cloud the mind-stuff and destroy any chance for calmness and peace.

  When we offer compassion for the unhappy, we show that we are sympathetic to their feelings of unhappiness, despite the matters of why they have come to be unhappy in the first place. The yogi does not place blame or judgment on the unhappy, but offers empathy and mercy towards them. These actions certainly will not increase unhappiness, and may possibly serve to reverse the feelings of sorrow and elevate the unhappy to a better emotional position. By offering compassion, the yogi inadvertently invites compassion to be returned and keeps a stable, peaceful mind.  

    Virtuous people are often envied or resented for their luck and accomplishments. These feelings stem from inadequacies one feels about themselves. However by treating the virtuous with delight, as Patanjali suggests, the yogi may in turn learn to strengthen and grow the virtuous qualities already in their possession. In our modern culture, the virtuous are often coveted and despised by the jealous and envious. Some are not able to delight in the success of others, and must then focus on shortcomings of the virtuous and attempt to tear them down out of spite. This takes an enormous amount of mental and emotional energy, distracting the envious from their virtues, successes and delights. The mind cannot be peaceful and calm when it is poisoned by jealousy and malice. 

    This leads us to the final of the four types of people Patanjali describes in this Sutra, the wicked. According to Patanjali, the yogi is to treat the wicked with indifference. By doing this, the yogi does not give up her peace or clarity of mind. The wicked do not want assistance or guidance from the yogi, therefore it is best that they are treated with indifference. It is likely that at one time the yogi has acted wickedly, and that must be remembered. Hope the wicked will recover and become a better person in the future, rather than despising or engaging them. The wicked will never accept well intentioned advice therefore the yogi should not offer it lest she lose her own serenity.

    Sri Swami Satchidananda’s commentary on this Sutra asks the reader if she can think of another type of person not mentioned by Patanjali here. I offer the arrogant person as an additional character. Arrogance is a corrupted form of pride. The truly arrogant are most likely overcompensating for feelings of inferiority despite virtuous accomplishments. They are never pleased with themselves nor do they know how to maintain a serene mind. The arrogant attempt to make those around them believe an exaggerated version of reality. The arrogant however, are not truly proud in the pure and positive sense. They are liars who spread falsehoods to themselves and those around them in an attempt to quell internal conflict. I believe this type of person should be treated with a combination of compassion and indifference for all of the same reasons listed in the previous examples. I agree with Satchidananda that this Sutra in particular is an important one to keep handy in the mental rolodex. These ideas are basic, positive ways to treat others which in turn help the yogi to achieve peace, serenity and calmness within.        

Friday, October 7, 2011


Who knew Sanskrit was so sensual? Yesterday in Rebecca's 12:45 class I had a yoga victory. Never once had I attempted the pose Titibasana (Firefly), no teacher had ever woven it into a class. But Rebecca is not like teachers of yoga days gone by! She is a Titibasana wielding maniac! Ok, she's not actually a maniac. I mean, maybe she is, I only see her for a small portion of the week. The point is, she doesn't hesitate to include difficult asanas and seriously challenge her students.  

Rebecca: Probably not a maniac.

She lead up to the pose gracefully, including poses to warm up the shoulders and hips. From a wide legged forward fold, I placed my hands on two blocks, dropped my ass down, squeezed my shoulders in with my knees, pressed into the floor and to my absolute shock lifted my feet up off the floor. It wasn't perfect, but the basic form was there. Rebecca gave me a little shout out, a confidence injection that allowed me to straighten my legs just the tiniest bit more. In a moment, the realization that I'd just executed a tough pose that I had never attempted before seeped in and I rolled back and fell on my butt. VICTORY! What other things have I skipped over just because I figured there was no chance I could do them? Rebecca related a conversation she had with a friend that resulted in her being told, "You must take on the challenge delicately, but you must take it on." Nothing too earth shattering in this advice, save for the fact that we should adhere to it more often.

Firefly: Hopefully mine will look like this one day.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Find The Boney Landmark - Weekend Number Two

Weekend number two of Pure Yoga Teacher Training was all about adjustments. Learning how to properly hands-on adjust a student ensures their safety and success and is a vital component of being a competent instructor. Putting your hands all over sweaty strangers and pulling them around is awesome!

Don't you want to rub all up on this dude?

When adjusting however, it is imperative that you not be a completely skeevy creep. This means employing the "Barbie Hands" or "Crab Claw" technique. In other words, no heavy petting. Keep those hands stiff and use your palms to touch those sweaty hips! Go for bone! Find the boney landmark! It's all starting to get very sexxxy up in this yoga training. There are a number of adjustments to use on any number of poses. "Fawcett Shoulders," "Sacrum Press," and "Warrior Two Tango" are just a few on which your imagination should ruminate.
No boney landmarks here! Don't touch the butt!

It feels like the group is really starting to get to know each other better, even though we are only two weeks in. All of my fellow trainees are fantastic students and will make even better teachers, I'm sure. It's a lot of fun meeting new people who are all into yoga. Not many really care about the correct pronunciation of Parsvakonasana, or discussing their favorite Sutra. It's nice to dork out yoga style with other awesome folks.

"Yeah, Kat. It's pronounced PARSHVAKOHNAHSAHNAH!"

I am four classes into my 40 class requirement! I've been going full on for 9 days, so today I'm taking a recovery day. My triceps are killing me in the best way, and I've found ribs I was not even aware existed. The prospect of teaching an actual class is thrilling, I really can't wait! Next session (which is the weekend after this coming) we'll be turning in a typed out sequence for a 60 minute beginner class. I'm stoked to put it together and test it on my guinea pig house mate. I'm sure he will LOVE IT!

Rebecca gave us this lovely piece about how yoga fits into any lifestyle, at any time and does not take anything from you, but gives. I think it's as beautiful as she is.