Say a yoga teacher walks into class wearing a Bernie Sanders T-shirt. She is making a statement. Is this appropriate for a yoga teacher? On one hand, making a political or any personal statement is not fundamentally wrong. Her quality as a teacher is not based on her political stance. … Continue reading Should a yoga teacher “make a statement”?
In Vancouver, the yoga “uniform” is dictated by homegrown Lululemon Athletica. It’s the go-to source for yoga apparel, regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, and yoga method. At The Yoga Space, an Iyengar studio where I study and teach, I recently found myself in a sea of Swiftly Tech tops and Wunder Unders (including mine). It’s not only a female thing. One day, I was adjusting the shoulders of a male student: a professor emeritus of literature, more the Canadian classic Tilley type–or so I thought. Then I noticed, glinting at me from the back of his pullover, the iconic Lululemon logo. My first Lululemon purchase was the Groove Pant, followed by two … Continue reading Clothes, hair, and other material obsessions
For my new volunteer job as “certification mark registrar” for the Iyengar Yoga Association of Canada, I must obtain signed contracts from newly certified teachers. Sending out forms and getting them back. How difficult can this be? Well, in my first batches of … Continue reading Checklists and Iyengar yoga
In my everyday life in Vancouver, yoga plays a major role in my identity. People know me as yoga classmate, colleague, teacher, and blogger. People whom I’ve never met know me as YogaSpy; my blog is our connection. In contrast, my closest family … Continue reading Back to yoga teaching and blogging
I recently caught a CBC radio interview with twin sisters Lisa-Kainde and Naomi Diaz of the French-Cuban musical duo Ibeyi. They have roots in France, having grown up in Paris, and in Cuba, homeland of their late father, well-known percussionist Anga Diaz. In the interview, the sisters commented on how everyone sings in Cuba. Singing is not restricted only to performers or to professionals. Maybe it’s because kids don’t have other things to do, they said. No PlayStation and other material things. In contrast, in other countries and cultures, little kids might all sing, but soon separate into singers and non-singers. An offshoot of singing is chanting, another vocal … Continue reading Do you sing? Do you chant?
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 … Continue reading Yoga and mirrors: do they mix?
Visiting San Francisco last summer, I took a few classes at the Iyengar Yoga Institute of San Francisco, within walking distance from my friend’s house. “Have you done Iyengar yoga before?” a front-desk staffer asked me when I arrived. “Yes,” I nodded and smiled, but said … Continue reading Going “undercover” as a yoga student
In my first class for teens, I taught an active, but basic, sequence, with lots of jumpings and standing poses. Most were absolute beginners; even the basics were demanding. After class, however, the teens’ teacher, an Iyengar yoga student herself, made a request. “Next week show them some of the fancy poses,” she said. “Fire them up. They don’t know anything about yoga and need to see where it can go.” In my typical adult classes, I demonstrate a pose only if relevant to the day’s sequence. Rarely, almost never, would I demo a pose if I’m not teaching it. Here, she was asking me to do just … Continue reading The yoga “demonstration”
For four weeks last spring, I taught Iyengar yoga to 40 teenagers. All were academically gifted students enrolled in an early-admission university program. While a couple had done yoga in elementary school or with Wii Fit, most had never attended a single yoga class. Thank goodness they were split into two groups of 20. Teens, no matter how advanced academically, behave nothing like adults in class! While I taught a particular subset of teenagers, here are my observation on teaching teens versus adults: Teens can’t stop talking I mistakenly assumed that because these kids were stellar students, they would immediately shut their traps and listen silently (as do adult students). No way! They … Continue reading On teaching teens
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 … Continue reading Case study: hamstring strain (or something)
Before a pranayama class at RIMYI in Pune last August, we students were sprawled on our mats. Some sitting, some chatting; others, like me, lying down leg stretches. When the teacher, Rajlaxmi, entered the room and settled herself on a bolster, I swung up, sit-up style. “Lie back down!” she yelled. What? In a flash, we lowered ourselves to the floor. “Now, roll to the right,” she directed. “Look down. Push yourself up. That’s how we sit up in yoga.” Rajlaxmi is practical, focused primarily on alignment and technique. But that day she reminded me of yoga protocol–the rules and rituals we follow … Continue reading Yoga protocol: why does it matter?
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 actual yoga studio. In a year or two I began acquiring my own props. My first foam blocks were the dense, textured ones sold by Yoga Props, a longtime Internet retailer based in San Francisco. (I’ve never seen them sold elsewhere.) In classic black and with an un-scratchable … Continue reading The yoga block