For several years, “Sam” regularly attended my yoga classes with his wife. One day, she arrived alone and said, somewhat apologetically, “He needs it, for sure, but he just didn’t see enough change.” Sam was lean and fit at middle age. He enjoyed running and had tight hamstrings, a troublesome shoulder, and occasional back pain.…… Continue reading Why Are You Doing What You Do?
Two decades ago, I was a new yoga student. My first yoga prop was, no surprise, a mat. Turquoise blue, it was one of those pebbly textured mats, made in Germany, favored by Iyengar yoga practitioners. Guess what, I still have it. It’s one of my second-string mats, and it’s seen spiffier days. But it’s…… Continue reading Lifetime Investment: Yoga Props
When I first met her, my yoga student “Dana” was into endurance sports. Each summer she’d take a break from yoga to train for a triathlon. She loved the outdoors and spent her weekends in Vancouver’s surrounding mountains, hiking, kayaking, snowboarding, whatever the season dictated. A couple of years ago, Dana faced major health issues,…… Continue reading Being adaptable
In Berkeley in the late 1990s, I learned to balance in Salamba Sirsasana (Supported Headstand) step by step. At first I didn’t even try to balance, but just kicked up to a wall, one leg at a time. Once up, I’d try moving my feet away from the wall. Wobbly at first, I eventually could…… Continue reading Fear of falling
In January I somehow pulled a muscle in my back while teaching. Exactly when and how I did it, I don’t know. Perhaps I twisted too deeply demonstrating Parivrtta Parsvakonasana (Revolved Side Angle Pose). I was teaching “cold,” from not warming up beforehand and from the freezing winter temperature outside. Toward the end of class…… Continue reading Are you in touch with your breath?
This winter I’m teaching Supta Virasana (Reclined Hero Pose) every week in my two-hour classes. Every week. Will simple repetition boost progress in this surprisingly demanding restorative pose? If taught only occasionally, students never familiarize themselves with it. Most require elaborate prop set-ups to accommodate tight quadriceps and iliopsoas, knee and ankle issues, and so forth. If unfamiliar with the pose, they can’t remember how to…… Continue reading My winter of Supta Virasana
Inverted poses are important in Iyengar yoga. Senior practitioners often cite an inversion as their most essential pose. (Sarvangasana (shoulderstand) seems to be a favorite.) Can anyone do inversions? General contraindications include spinal disorders, hypertension, and glaucoma. Recently, however, I’ve met yoga students with glaucoma who do brief inversions with the approval of their ophthalmologists. Hmm… Around the same time, I…… Continue reading Should you go upside-down if you have glaucoma?
At my sister’s home in Santa Cruz, I do a brief yoga practice before breakfast with my niece. In my bedroom, there are large mirrored closet doors. I typically face away from the mirrors. During my last trip, however, I ended up doing Sirsasana (headstand) facing the mirror. A sofa blocked my line of sight, so all I…… Continue reading Yoga and mirrors: do they mix?
In early 2014, I strained a left hamstring muscle near the origin. Or an external rotator in the left hip. Or something. It snuck up on me. There was no acute injury. I simply noticed less range of motion (ROM) in straight-legged, forward-bending poses, marked by a pulling sensation on the lateral side of the sitting bone. Initially I was sure that whatever…… Continue reading Case study: hamstring strain (or something)
For my first six months of yoga classes, I used no props–at least what I now know as props. At the Berkeley RSF in the late 1990s, all we had were towels and padded gym mats (which did come in handy for kneeling). Eventually we got mats. But I didn’t try a block until I set foot in an…… Continue reading The yoga block
I bumped into an old friend during my holiday trip to California. “Dylan” has always been an athlete, so I wasn’t surprised that he’s still avidly into hockey, skiing, and other sports. But I didn’t expect him to say, “And here’s one for you. I’m learning to play bluegrass banjo.” What? Is Dylan even musical? Anyway, he wanted a quality instrument,…… Continue reading Learning on your own
A few months ago, one of my original yoga teachers, Donald Moyer, observed my Tadasana. Under his scrutiny, I tried extra hard to perfect my pose. To my surprise, he said, “You’re tucking your pelvis.” What? If left to its own devices, my body is overly mobile in the lumbar spine. I am a natural pelvic…… Continue reading Pelvic tilt: how much is too much?