$#!^ 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.


lost connection

The anxiety of preparing to “go live” for real – with people actually counting on me was akin to the 1st time I subbed a yoga class. The difference, was that they first time I was called to sub was about 30 minutes after I taught my final certification test out class. I didn’t have weeks to get hung up on what I would teach or say; I just had to do it. The process of trying to connect (literally to the stream while connecting to the students on the other end) is whole other beast. I feel like it shouldn’t be as hard as it has been. But I don’t know why it always seems to fall short.

My theme for today’s class was actually connection. After 10 minutes of waiting for an image of my practice space to be picked up on my phone and magically appear on my laptop across the room, I was feeling almost helpless. I’d tested over and over and over again. My sequence was set and intentionally simple enough for anyone to join in and flow with us. The problem was that when the connection showed, I closed my laptop as it was behind the stream and seemed like an added distraction. I thought it would throw me off and figured that my son would let me know if I dropped off. My bad, I guess.

I taught my class, oblivious to the people that I supposedly was connecting with. Had I kept an eye on the screen, I would have been able to read the comments, AND I would have seen that the stream was dropped. It’s a bit ironic — but it might take me a bit to find amusement about it. At the moment, I am still disappointed in myself. *sigh* So much for non-judgment.

Can I just say that I miss the old way of teaching? I miss my students. I miss seeing them on their mats in front of me, struggling to learn their names, hearing their breath, watching them move along to my words, and even on that occasion when someone gave a look of confusion so I knew to rephrase my instruction.

Hours ago, after discovering the lost connection, a little too late to make it right, I had resigned to the fact that I should stick to uploading pre-recorded flows to my YouTube channel. I feel comfortable with that; even though I may have to re-record or add voiceover to my videos, I seem to be able to control it better. The problem with giving up on going live is that I fear that if I don’t figure out how to make this online way of teaching work that I will be even more behind the 8-ball once we return to in person teaching again. So…I guess I will keep trying to reconnect.

In the meantime, here is a video which was recorded, edited, with voice over added, then uploaded.

beginning again

My youngest son has been in hot pursuit of his certification to become a personal trainer. Juggling school, a full-time work schedule, among other demands has meant that his 1 year time limit was here before he was ready to take the certification exam. Very astutely, he decided to sit for the exam anyway. This would allow him to learn from it rather than simply letting the deadline pass without even trying. As much as he benefitted from seeing the test and identifying the areas where he needs to deepen his knowledge, his action also set an example for me to follow. You see, I have been quietly regaining my enthusiasm (read: courage) to complete my own certification process over the past 6 months. Ryan’s willingness to brave the test, has me seriously thinking that it is time to finish what I started nearly 7 years ago.

Reigniting my efforts to finish my yoga teacher certification has led me to examine where I would like to take my teaching – in an ideal world. The answer could not be any more clear today than it has been over the past 4-5 years. Ashtanga yoga has been the focus of the 500+ hours of teacher training that I have logged over the past years. It is what I do and, in many ways, how I identify myself. So, naturally, it is where I would want to teach if the opportunity were to present itself.

What better training than to go to the source, where the lineage of resides: Sharath Jois

We are fortunate to live in one of three places where Sharath visits on his yearly US Tour. For the past 3 years, I have been blessed to be able to roll out my mat in the gym at Stanford and follow along to his led count with my extended ashtanga yoga family (from the bay area and beyond).

Although, his verbal cues fall short of what I assume will be expected of me in order to pass my certification, his command of the room and perfectly measured count is exactly what I need to cultivate into my repertoire of tools. And since we are not accustomed to hearing much instruction with a mysore style practice, any verbal cueing is good for me to experience.

Additionally, I have been reviewing my books and videos, ordered a few more, and begun looking for individuals willing to allow me to practice my teaching with them. The goal is to submit my video by son’s birthday and be certified by mine. There is no telling if my certification will lead to anything beyond the satisfaction of finishing what I started.

Photo by Danielle Tsi Photography

Time Passes

This post was held up in my draft posts. I guess I never finalized in published it. Although I intend to keep the original publication date, the two month mark is now way behind us; it’s now nearly eight months since Erika left us. Mojdeh is no longer “our new teacher”.  She is simply “our teacher.”


Ashtanga to the Core

I’ve been practicing Ashtanga Yoga for 5 years now and I’m still struggling to figure out the jump backs and jump throughs. So, the ‘next vinyasa’ (aka my teacher moving on) is yet another struggle with transitions. Like the others, I can fake it but anyone paying any attention to what I’m doing as a yogi can clearly see that I don’t really have it together. And perhaps, none of us really do.

Anyone with a serious spiritual yoga practice will attest, it does not matter if you can lift up and jump back, bind in Marichyasana D or stand up from Urdvha Dhanurasana. The asana practice is only one of the eight limbs of the Ashtanga Yoga Method.

As for transitions — be it vinyasa, my teacher leaving, or getting to & through menopause — the yoga is in the process of figuring it out.

Everything we have been learning on our mats provides us with strength, right at our very core, for the challenges set before us. We are Ashtanga to the Core. And this is why we know that we will be okay.




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