$#!^ Happens

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a weekend of yoga workshops. Of course, as is the case over the past few months of SIP, my attendance was virtual via ZOOM. The teacher of this workshop series was more of a traditionalist, following the “rules” of advancement in the practice with much more rigor than my teacher (or any of the teachers I have practiced with). To be frank, I don’t know if I would still be practicing ashtanga yoga if he were my teacher. That said, I did take his “encouragement” to heart where my lack of persistence in mastering (in the truer sense) all of the poses that I have been given has resulted in a longer list of IOUs than I would care to admit. In fact, the process of recording my practice for my YouTube channel has highlighted these less-than-perfect transitions (namely the jump-backs and jump-throughs).

When I asked him about the specific muscle engagement/firing required to lift my leg to my outstretched hand in poses such as utthita hasta padangusthasana and vishyamitrasana, I didn’t hear the answer I was looking for. Earlier in the week, my chiropractor and I had discussed the differences in muscle activation required to access movement in the various zones of a particular movement such as this. In my case, I can lift from the floor to level with my pelvis. I lack the necessary muscle activation to create movement from pelvis to face. Yet, I have some activation from the face upward. Then boundaries in my range of motion, within this region, being the limiting factor in this zone.

While the yoga teacher’s reminder to try harder and with more consistently was taken to heart, I know that this doesn’t work for every situation or person. This was also discussed at length with my chiropractor with whom I have conversations such as this with because, as a trained nurse, we can speak the same language more or less. In my case, my struggle with balancing on one leg limits my ability to work on this as much as I would have liked over the years. My teachers always focused on the fact that utthita hasta padangusthasana is meant to be a balance pose. Therefore, I never worried so much about my inability to lift my leg higher. Although, I’d be lying if I said that it never bothered me.

Nevertheless, I stepped up my efforts in my practice and also added some additional exercises on leg lifting that I found on a few YouTube sites on dance and on mobility. The resulting proximal hamstring tendinopathy (read: pain in the butt) was not the outcome I was pursuing. And now my practice mandates that I take care not to make bad things worse. This means bending my knees in forward folds, using a block in the many of the standing poses so that I can still activate my quadriceps muscles without having to fold deeper into the pose. Fortunately, my experience with practicing with injuries has taught me to listen when the body talks: feel, move, assess, modify, feel, [repeat]…BREATHING throughout of course. As for learning to lift my leg higher than my pelvis, it will come…in time.

In the meantime, I can work on paying back another one of my other IOUs. This weekend, I am signed up for a workshop on jump backs and jump throughs. I am excited to revive my efforts in this endevour. I sort of gave up trying when a different teacher, after seeing my attempt, shook his head and muttered, “I don’t know what to do with that. Good luck.” This was during a time when I was full on working on the cultivating the strength and effort for this transition but in need of some mechanical understanding. Sadly, even he couldn’t advise me. Today, I am hopeful that things will be different this time around. Even if I don’t magically get it, I want to have tools to rework it and find a new enthusiasm for doing the work.

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Top Shelf

After a few hours of perusing the royalty-free music available on the internet, I was completely at a loss. All I needed was 5-10 seconds of fun, unique audio – WHY was it so hard to find? After mentioning it to my son, he suggested using music from DAV @activepoet, a friend who’s music is up-and-coming AND has been quite generous with letting him use it in his personal training and workout videos. The problem was that, although I loved many of his songs, I didn’t want lyrics for my what I was creating: an intro piece for my videos on YouTube. And I didn’t know the musician, Wooshay, who does the instrumental part of the song. “No problem”, my son assured, “I’ll just ask him.”

He sent the message and, much to my surprise, received a response within a few minutes. “Tell me which song and I’ll send it to her.” WOW! Choosing the song took a little longer as I wanted to consider all of his music while trying to mentally strip away the words from the sound. In the end, my first thought was the one I went with.

Official Title: Top Shelf – Wooshay, Dav @activepoet, & Slvmm
The resulting intro came out really nice. Using mostly stills from my everyday practice over the past many years. I also included one short video component of me falling out of a failed attempt at karandavasana. I felt it was important to include this because, let’s face it, I am real. Like everyone else, I have my strengths AND I have my weaknesses. Keeping a nice balance in these two aspects of the practice is the message that I am trying to portray. With this honest approach to the practice, we can place our practice of yoga on the Top Shelf.

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Breaking Down the Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series

For a while now, I have wanted to record and post a video covering the full primary series practice. At the same time, I wanted to provide more detailed instruction of ways to modify the practice to make it more accessible to everyone wanting to learn it. The result of this effort is not one but two videos of the Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series.

The first, featuring a Half Primary practice, was posted about a week ago. In this video, I offer modifications for many of the poses in the first half of primary. Due to the additional instruction required to provide the various options, I decided to keep it to only half of the series. Then, a few days later, I posted another video with less instruction in the first half but more modification/options towards the latter half of the series. This video covers the Full Primary Series from the opening chant to the closing chant.

I hope to create more content in the coming weeks. In the meantime, if you have ideas for yoga related video content that you would like me to consider, please leave me a comment either here on my blog or on my YouTube channel.

Good Things Happen

You all have probably heard the saying that sh!t happens. It does happen – perhaps a little too often actually. But good things happen too…

One good thing that happened while we were sheltering in place (SIP) is that I completed my final requirements for my RYT 500h certification. Although I struggle to find meaning in what this added certification means for me or my students right now, the not-so-simple act of finishing the process I began in 2014 is BIG.

And I could not be more proud.

What good things have happened in your world recently? Please share…because I care.

sthira bhaga

While LIVE on our Mysore ZOOM, I flow through my morning practice with an acute awareness that my teacher is watching. Not only is she watching, she is waiting for me to finish up my second series already so that she can see what progress I’ve made in the third series poses she gave me last week.

But my practice is slow today and my coffee has yet to kick in. Gasp if you wish; I don’t care what you think. I NEED my COFFEE.

As I lay on my back, working to place my lower leg behind my shoulders, I notice the moon through the window in front of me. In the window of the adjoining bedroom, I can also see the sun’s blessed light. It’s lovely and a part of me wants to spend another 5-10 breaths in yoga nidrasana. But then I remember my teacher. She’s watching. I hear her call the name of one of the other students. The last time she called his name, he was at pasasana, and I was 3-4 poses ahead in the series. I can tell by her words that he is now working on pincha mayurasana. It is clear that today’s practice has not been flowing as steadily as it should. I suppose the time I spent crying BEFORE going into kapotasana slowed me up…a little. Yeah, that was unexpected.


“Okay Juls,” I tell myself (quietly, as my computer is no longer on mute), “just breathe and get moving.” I limp along to the end of second and arrive at third with 30ish minutes until my work meeting. I am sore but have more energy today than last week. I might go well. I mean, miracles DO happen. Right!


Third Series has been described as “Divine stability; sublime serenity.” Reading this description sure makes it sound nice. Right? And, it IS nice. But it’s also HARD. The journey to this point is far from stable or serene (without the added pressure of having it be divine or sublime on top of that). I’m not complaining; I asked for this and I am happy to take it on. Lord knows my side body is weak and could benefit from a little stability – and serenity. My teacher knows this as well.

Nonetheless, I must admit that the difficulty that I am experiencing feels foreign yet satisfying. It feels right to finally be working on creating stability in the side body. And although there are moments when I question if I really deserve to be have these poses, I am super grateful that my teacher has allowed me to go here.

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