A few quotes by Mahyar Raz

Describing a yoga workshop is daunting. Do I stick to objective reportage or do I share my subjective gut feelings? I won’t even try to describe Mahyar Raz‘s workshop, but I’ll let her words (and she is not shy about sweeping pronouncements) speak for themselves: “You must feel the pose, in your muscles, in your body. Before, Guruji taught simply by having students do and experience. Later came note taking and books.” “Every injury actually happened one year before.” (In response to a student’s question on injury prevention, she emphasized awareness, moment to moment.) “You cannot learn quickly. It’s not McDonald’s. No … Continue reading A few quotes by Mahyar Raz

Aches and pains: My favorite home remedies (Part II)

Here are my favorite home remedies for routine tweaks and twinges–and a word on the psychosomatic factor. RICE (Rest Ice Compression Elevation) Rest. The best and simplest remedy is hardest for me to comply with. When I notice a twinge or tweak, what do I do? I might ratchet down, but short of full R&R. When I attend class and the teacher says, “Does anyone have anything to report?” I tend to underreport. Then, instead of forgoing the class sequence, I adjust my intensity accordingly; there’s a big difference in doing a pose at 75% versus 85% versus 95% capacity. I admit … Continue reading Aches and pains: My favorite home remedies (Part II)

Aches and pains: Are you “injury prone”? (Part I)

Last month, eight colleagues and I faced our Intro II assessment for certification as Iyengar yoga teachers. Before commencing, the assessors asked us about injuries or health issues: “Do you have anything new to report?” When my turn came, I said, “Nothing new to report.” I entered the exam “healthy.” Secretly, however, I knew my real answer: “Nothing new, except the usual stuff.” In other words, even 100%, I’m always aware of my potential trouble spots. In the past decade, I’ve sustained one major injury (rotator cuff tear) and a bunch of little tweaks and twinges. I tell myself that … Continue reading Aches and pains: Are you “injury prone”? (Part I)

Are men really less flexible than women?

I recently read two articles on that apparently rare specimen: the male yoga student. In an undated Yoga Journal article, “Where Are All the Men?” Andrew Tilin, considers why men aren’t naturally inclined toward yoga. In a December 22, 2012, New York Times article, “Wounded Warrior Pose,” William Broad investigates whether men risk injury doing asana. The takeaway from both articles (whether true or not) is nothing startling: Men are naturally less flexible than women (although even researchers “can’t specifically link it to differences in hormones, musculature, or connective tissue”). Men are more likely than women to sustain major injuries from yoga (women sustain more injuries overall, … Continue reading Are men really less flexible than women?

Mixing yoga and sports

One of my yoga students, “Sara,” does endurance sports. Before her annual summer triathlon, she stops attending yoga classes as she ramps up her training. Time is limited and she believes that “loose” muscles are diminished in strength. Another student, “Chris,” will celebrate her birthday next year by running a marathon. Swimming was her original sport, and she’s a lean mesomorph body type, with tight shoulders and hips. Now that she goes on long runs on Sundays, she’s forgoing her Monday evening yoga class because she needs a post-run “total rest day.” These cases got me thinking about yoga, sports, … Continue reading Mixing yoga and sports

Yoga, sleep, Savasana, insomnia… and the curious case of Paschimottanasana

Savasana versus nap Have you ever fallen asleep in Savasana? I rarely do, but one of my colleagues seems to doze off regularly. Although we don’t attend the same weekly class, we attend workshops together. If I’m in his vicinity during Savasana, I’ve heard him softly snoring each time. Me, I’m just the opposite. I lie down and let go as instructed. But, while my body rests, my mind continues to whir for a few minutes. So, unless we do a luxuriously long Savasana, I never quite reach mental stillness. When I occasionally do drift off, I know it’s not … Continue reading Yoga, sleep, Savasana, insomnia… and the curious case of Paschimottanasana

Tell me about pain, yours, and I will tell you mine

I need not introduce How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body, the New York Times article that’s gone viral. My first response upon reading it: These anecdotes are outliers! Who sits in Vajrasana for hours daily, tears Achilles tendons in Downward Dog, or pops ribs in a spinal twist?! My second response: No Iyengar yoga teacher would intentionally push students too hard, beyond safety. Salamba Sarvangasana without a stack of blankets under the shoulders? Unheard of! If a novice tries a headstand or an Upward Bow backbend before she’s ready, the teacher would immediately say, “Stop! Come down now!” My third response: Uh, I’m … Continue reading Tell me about pain, yours, and I will tell you mine

Is a bad yoga class still pretty good?

Recently at the gym, I spied on a yoga-type class (it turned out to be “lyrical jazz”) in the adjacent dance studio. The teacher was doing what resembled Upavistha Konasana, facing a wall-to-wall mirror. Behind her, a lineup of students tried to copy. With her elbows grounded on the floor, the teacher lengthened her spine forward. Her students were obviously beginners. While they varied in flexibility, all were rounding their backs and one was obviously in distress (and, of course, totally oblivious). I was waiting for the teacher to jump up and help her students. Instead, she continued in her own … Continue reading Is a bad yoga class still pretty good?

Yogaphobic and yogaphilic people

During my Lonely Planet trip to Hawaii last winter, I taught a few yoga poses to my parents, especially my dad. He’s healthy and fit, but his posture needs an overhaul. His lumbar arch is too flat, while his thoracic spine too curved. Kyphosis. I admit that I was a pain, prodding my unassuming father to sit or stand up straight! My mini lessons were animated, to say the least. He knows absolutely nothing about asana, so every movement was strange to him. I was constantly correcting and adjusting, while repeating instructions and even scolding, when he did crazy things. Once, … Continue reading Yogaphobic and yogaphilic people

Remembering a teacher’s teachings

Last summer I got into the annual weeklong intensive taught by Donald Moyer and Mary Lou Weprin of The Yoga Room in Berkeley. One day, Donald explored backbends, including Eka Pada Rajakapotasana I, with a strap looped around the rear foot. As I ventured deeper into the pose, he looked at me and commented that I “should” be able to touch my toes. By “should,” he meant that I was close, but working the wrong way. I was gripping the strap and pulling my way deeper. With a touch of amusement, he said “It’s not rock climbing. It’s diving backward.” He … Continue reading Remembering a teacher’s teachings

Yoga Rx for my dad

For the past five or so years, I’ve wanted my dad to do asanas for his tight shoulders, chest, and upper back. While he’s fit and lean (and suntanned from gardening, golfing, and simply being an outdoorsman in Hawaii his whole life), he’s got “slouch” (that’s hyper-kyphosis to the Iyengar contingent) written in his genes. As his side of the family ages, they get skinny and stooped. The last time I saw him, he asked about my yoga teaching. (That’s one sweet thing about my dad: he inquires about my life, even the aspects totally foreign to his own.) I … Continue reading Yoga Rx for my dad