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”
Last month, I stumbled upon a yoga presentation by Patricia Walden on her 60th birthday. Wow. Her backbends are awesome and need no comment. But it got me thinking about yoga videos, performances, and “demonstrations.” Bear in mind, I’m talking not about instructional videos. I’m focusing on displays done silently or, more likely, accompanied by music. Some are professionally shot, such as the Briohny Smyth video for Equinox that went viral. Most are self-shot videos posted on websites, on Facebook, on YouTube–followed by lots of likes and “you go, girl!” type comments. What is the point of yoga displays? To inspire? To share? To instruct without instructions? To advertise? To embrace the new media age? To claim a few Warholian minutes of … Continue reading Yoga “demonstrations” in the YouTube age
After President Obama’s second inauguration in January, Beyoncé got flak for performing the US national anthem using a pre-recorded version. At first, I agreed that singing live is not only superior, but also expected. On second thought, her recorded version is still her. We hear her voice, her interpretation. So what if she sang it beforehand? Music is an art form experienced mostly through recording anyway. I researched and found some famous renditions of “The Star-Spangled Banner”: Whitney Houston’s 1991 Super Bowl XXV performance apparently was pre-recorded: Marvin Gaye 1983 NBA All-Star Game performance was not: Yet both are fantastic. I proceeded to think … Continue reading Yoga videos versus yoga teaching
My yoga friend Helen, a pianist, recently mentioned the work of Don Greene, a well-known sports psychologist and performance coach. Skimming his writings, I found the following tip for “centering” before performing: Conjure up a “process cue”: words, images, sounds, or sensations associated with successful performance. This could be a phrase like “good tempo,” a positive memory, a song. He says that music is very effective. It conjures up a mood, a setting; it can psych you up or calm you down. A song? In February I took my Intro I assessment toward Iyengar certification. (Intro I is akin to a qualifying exam; … Continue reading Good Morning Starshine? Desperado? What’s “your” song?
The September 2011 issue of Yoga Journal is “the music issue.” It contains a home practice sequence synced with an MC Yogi playlist, interviews with musicians who do yoga, and a look at the kirtan spectacle in America. The online magazine offers Funky Love Songs, “some of the grooviest, most genre-bending forms of mantra music in the yoga world.” Should we care what Alanis Morissette (cover model), Bonnie Raitt, Moby, Ziggy Marley, and Maroon 5 band members say about yoga? Well, I’m a willing listener of stories and opinions (on yoga, on whatever)—if someone has something to say. I wrote about doing … Continue reading Yoga Journal: the music issue
Nature, its three qualities, sattva, rajas, and tamas, and its evolutes, the elements, mind, senses of perception and organs of action, exist eternally to serve the seer, for enjoyment (bhoga) or emancipation (apavarga). Yoga Sutra II.18, Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, BKS Iyengar Yoga and hula hooping? Yes, according to an August 2011 Yoga Journal article, “You Spin Me Round”: Hoop-yoga is trendy among Anusara yoga practitioners. The magazine profiles performer Shakti Sunfire (aka Laura Blakeman), who’s “part whirling dervish, part pinup girl, and 100 percent yogini.” It quotes Anusara’s founder, John Friend: “Hooping rocks.” My reaction was mixed. On … Continue reading Hooping and the hybridization of yoga in America
A few days after I drafted my prior post on musical accompaniment to asana, I read a fascinating New York Times article, “How to Push Past the Pain, as the Champions Do” (October 18, 2010). In assessing how elite athletes edge out their competitors, despite equivalent “pain,” experts made two points. First, it helps to be familiar with the conditions (such as the race course), for optimal pacing. Second, it helps to “associate,” to concentrate on your sport and the task at hand. Regarding the second point, John S. Raglin, a sports psychologist at Indiana University, says that less accomplished athletes tend to … Continue reading The trouble with mixing yoga and music: Part II
I never do or teach yoga to music. But one morning I scrolled through my iTunes library for something suitable. I chose Trans-Siberian Orchestra‘s Christmas Eve and Other Stories. (It was October.) My favorite track is “Christmas/ Sarajevo 12/24,” their take on “Carol of the Bells.” Half listening in the midst of my asana practice, I found myself drifting down nostalgia lane… to high school band. In the first clarinet row, I sat beside my cousin (I’ll call her JM), a year older and forever smiling. She was neither the brightest nor the dullest light, but that was beside the … Continue reading The trouble with mixing yoga and music: Part I
In response to my post “The lure of the mega studio,” Ray wrote a thoughtful comment, asking me about my frame of reference. To what am I contrasting the mega studio? Since day one, my predominant practice has been Iyengar yoga. So, the studio attributes randomly listed below apply frequently (but not exclusively) to Iyengar studios. But the key difference is not the type of yoga but the teacher-student dynamic: is the teacher just leading a sequence of asanas (like a DVD come to life) or is the teacher actually teaching? Small-ish classes, ranging from 10 to 3o (unless a … Continue reading The mega studio versus what?
Months ago, I received a two-week pass to the biggest yoga studio in my town. It boasts five locations, 30 to 40 teachers, and almost 150 weekly classes in various yoga styles, including Vinyasa Power Flow, Kundalini, and Hatha (a name that I still find misbegotten, as discussed here). Workshops feature celebrity teachers, such as Shiva Rea, Seane Corn, Dharma Mittra, and Mark Whitwell. When I moved here, I tried a class or two, for personal “research” but I soon got busy with my chosen Iyengar teacher and classes. Now, during the holiday lull, I am taking advantage of my pass … Continue reading The biggest yoga studio in my town
What’s your take on yoga as performance art? I just viewed Seattle yoga teacher Theresa Elliott’s yoga-dance compositions, posted on Nikki Chau’s yoga blog. I’ve never met Elliott, director of Taj Yoga but I’ve gathered that she’s a serious and respected yogi. Clicking through her photo gallery, I immediately see that her asana practice is outstanding. Watching her perform choreographed yoga to music, I was struck by both admiration (“I want to lift into handstand from prasarita padottanasana!”) and mild dismay (“Should yoga be performed?”). I’m not adamantly for or against yoga performances, a yoga offshoot that’s been around for decades. London-based … Continue reading Yoga as performance art
Do you prefer doing yoga to silence or to music? At gyms, community centers, and other non-studio settings, most teachers play soft, instrumental, unidentifiable New Age-y music throughout the class. At Iyengar, Ashtanga, and most serious studios, music is not a component. (Some flow teachers such as Shiva Rea do emphasize music in their sequences. Apparently, Rea might have six to a dozen “helpers” marching around to assist students, but she holds tight the deejay mantle and picks particular songs for particular sequences.) The first yoga class I took was at a university gym. My teacher played music (although she never … Continue reading Yoga with music?