My winter of Supta Virasana

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, … Continue reading My winter of Supta Virasana

Should you go upside-down if you have glaucoma?

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 … Continue reading Should you go upside-down if you have glaucoma?

The yoga block

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

Pelvic tilt: how much is too much?

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 “tilter.” I typically get corrected for too much anterior tilt. Was I overcorrecting? Donald observed that I was clenching the gluteus maximus, i.e., buttocks, and the external hip rotators. He advised me to soften and spread instead–to correct excess tilt by lifting through the anterior vertebrae. (An aside: “buttocks” must be among the top 10 … Continue reading Pelvic tilt: how much is too much?

Tadasana feet: what is parallel?

Recently a physiotherapist asked me to stand, feet apart, facing a mirror. When I did, she said, “Your feet are slightly turned inward.” In the mirror I saw my feet aligned in Tadasana. I then repositioned them to show my natural alignment, a bit more outwardly turned (yet still more or less parallel). That made me reconsider my Tadasana feet: To avoid excess turnout (a common misalignment), have I been overdoing it the opposite way? Determining whether feet are parallel requires observation of the “midline” of the foot–a line between the second and third toes to the mid heel. If your feet are narrow and oblong, both inner and outer … Continue reading Tadasana feet: what is parallel?

Home practice in my hometown

Flying into Hilo, my hometown, two weeks ago, I gazed out the airplane window. An endless, supersaturated palette of green, along the Hamakua Coast. While much of the world, including California (my subsequent stomping ground) is suffering from drought, Hilo has had over 12 inches of rain in the month of April alone. The aerial view was striking. What a vast bountiful island. So much undeveloped land. Still a chance not to ruin it. I thought to myself: I’m lucky to have grown up here. I didn’t always appreciate Hawai‘i, not enough anyway. One of my worst habits is not appreciating what I have–in the moment. Only afterward does it hit me. Maybe I … Continue reading Home practice in my hometown

Take it to the next level

Last summer, I resumed freestyle lap swimming after a hiatus. I’m purely a rec swimmer and will never be super fast, but I still want to cut my 1000-meter time, 25 minutes. “What’s a ‘decent’ 1000-meter swim time?” I asked my yoga student who does triathlons. Here’s her paraphrased answer: It depends. A fast swimmer will take 15 minutes or less. A slow swimmer will take 30 minutes or more. Most of us have a comfortable speed. Swimming is not like running (at least to me). The time difference between my fastest and slowest swims is about two minutes, but I … Continue reading Take it to the next level