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

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

Can Iyengar yoga attract the masses?

A friend recently tried a few classes at one of Vancouver’s large, multi-branch yoga studios. While her main practice is Iyengar yoga, she was curious to see what else is out there. She found teaching quality quite variable, and she was amazed at the hordes of students. “How big are the classes?” I asked. “At least 30, maybe 40,” she said. “And when we exit the room, the line-up for the next class is just as long!” I wasn’t surprised. In my own explorations, I’ve attended classes with 60+ students at large studios. Considering probable attrition rates, these studios must … Continue reading Can Iyengar yoga attract the masses?

July challenge: Supta Virasana every day for 31 days

In June, I attended a three-day workshop with Chris Saudek, a senior Iyengar teacher based in Wisconsin. She made her first trip to RIMYI in 1980, and today her midwestern decorum belies her brilliantly intense sequences and drill-sergeant rigor. I gain much physically from her workshops: my hip flexors were toast after the first full day, while my anterior deltoids felt it for weeks! But her finer teaching points will stick with me much longer. I can still hear her words. One day, a student asked about dealing with injuries or trouble spots. Her answer started with a question: “If your teacher … Continue reading July challenge: Supta Virasana every day for 31 days

On being “ready” for a pose

Yesterday someone asked me, “How do I know if I’m ready for a pose?” “Which pose?” I asked back. “Handstand.” During a recent workshop with senior Iyengar yoga teacher Gabriella Giubilaro, she finally kicked up, with a minimal spot. But she usually requires more help. She’s rather nervous about the pose, and handstand requires a bit of aplomb, plus lightness and control. We discussed the essential requirements, such as limber hamstrings, open chest and shoulders, and solid arms (she hyperextends her elbows). Working on each element is helpful but ultimately there’s only way to befriend a pose: to do it. Kick … Continue reading On being “ready” for a pose

Finding a meditative experience in an Iyengar class

The same student who sparked my prior post, “Criticism and praise in yoga classes,” asked another question about Iyengar yoga classes: “I… love my vinyasa practice because of the familiar repetition and rhythm—you can lose yourself in the continual movement. Do you think you can ‘get’ that meditative experience in an Iyengar class? Maybe on a micro level (the specific postures)? Or is that more of a personal thing (not something you ‘get’ from a class). Do you know what I mean?” Excellent question. Here are three answers off the top of my head: Pose by pose My student answered … Continue reading Finding a meditative experience in an Iyengar class

Holding the plank

Last week, I happened upon the blog of Lauren Lipton, a journalist and novelist based in New York. (Blogger’s fate: you waste time reading other people’s blogs.) In her post “a whole lot of nothing,” she mentions, “I can now remain in the plank pose for three and a half torturous minutes.” That caught my eye. Three and a half minutes! And, being who I am, I wondered how long I can hold the pose. During my next home practice, with no ado, I checked the time and launched into plank. I couldn’t see my wristwatch. Argh! I dropped to … Continue reading Holding the plank

Travel bubble

I ended my summer with a two-week trip to California. I traveled alone, to attend a yoga workshop and to visit family. Flying back to Vancouver, I sat in my seat, oddly comfy and happy, reading a novel (by Laurie Colwin, if you’re curious). It was a luxury to sit, undisturbed in my thoughts. During the trip, I conversed with someone about life on the road, we spoke of favorite locations, travel tips like which Thomas Cook UK discount codes to use and which spots are not to be missed. He mused that life is more complicated while traveling. I … Continue reading Travel bubble

Getting your ducks in a row

One of my students, Anna, is debating whether to continue yoga classes this spring. The class she attends, on Mondays from 12:45-2pm, immediately follows three hours of her own work, introducing music to babies and toddlers. As a Music Together teacher, she must be “on”: engaged and animated (the under-four set won’t cut you any slack!). She has no time to catch her breath or to gather her thoughts (or to eat a snack) before yoga. She’s also busy in her personal life, raising a young son with her husband. While she enjoys the class and the way it pushes … Continue reading Getting your ducks in a row

Hina Matsuri, cherry blossoms, and seasons

Today is Hina Matsuri, a Japanese festival translated either to “Doll Festival” or “Girls’ Day.” It falls on the third day of the third month. (Note: the former Boys’ Day is now Kodomo no Hi (Children’s Day), on the fifth day of the fifth month.) For a straightforward background, read the Wikipedia entry. For the Hello Kitty version, check out the following blog post (the stuff you find by Google searching!). Hina Matsuri is associated with spring and cherry blossoms. Have you noticed the change in daylight and weather? Seemingly overnight, we’ve turned a corner. Seasonal pursuits One of my yoga … Continue reading Hina Matsuri, cherry blossoms, and seasons

All-or-nothing resolutions

He who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future. George Orwell My free three-week pass at the mega studio elapsed on Monday. I took 25 classes in 20 days. A limited-time offer is a great motivator, isn’t it? Perhaps resolutions serve the same purpose. Here, the impetus is not a deadline but a vow, to oneself. I rarely make resolutions. If I do, they’re vague (read more novels; don’t lose temper; organize computer files; practice balancing in handstand) and too numerous for effective full frontal attack. Perhaps I’ll try a new tactic this year. Ever … Continue reading All-or-nothing resolutions