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

Unsupported shoulderstand?

A friend pointed me to a blog post, “Please, NO Lifts in Shoulderstand,” by Sandra Sammartino, a yoga teacher based in White Rock, BC. My initial response? No way. In Salamba Sarvangasana the overwhelming majority of people need shoulder support, such as folded blankets. Then I stopped and caught myself. In my prior post, “Learning on your own,” I wrote about the necessity to learn independently. This means being open-minded about teachings, techniques, rules, and majority opinions. Whether you ultimately agree or disagree with an established idea, your conclusion should be your own. So I read Sammartino’s piece more slowly. She studied with … Continue reading Unsupported shoulderstand?

What it’s like at RIMYI (Part II)

Note: This post continues my “self interview” about RIMYI. Read Part I first. Was the student population diverse? Based on my unscientific observations during August 2014, the biggest contingent was from Italy. I met dozens of Italians and many British and French. I met a handful each from the US, Canada, and Japan, and others from Germany, Australia, Spain, Russia, Hungary, Hong Kong, Israel, Mexico, Singapore, Chile, Colombia, and South Africa. The Indian students were local, i.e., Indian citizens, mostly Pune residents. In terms of race/ethnicity, the majority of foreigners were Caucasian. There were some Asians and Hispanics; I saw no blacks or people of African descent. The gender ratio was relatively balanced, with about a 60/40 … Continue reading What it’s like at RIMYI (Part II)

What it’s like at RIMYI (Part I)

Since flying home two weeks ago, my temporary life in Pune already feels distant–long ago, far away, a parallel world that words cannot quite describe. Once back, my mind switched to the here and now, the immediate stuff of life. Sooner than I probably realize, my memories of RIMYI and India will grow fuzzy, however vivid they once were. People will stop asking me about my trip; I’ll stop thinking about it. Time marches on. So, before I forget, here’s a two-part post on “what it’s like” at RIMYI, dedicated to other first-timers. I’ll post the second half next week, so feel free to ask any burning questions before … Continue reading What it’s like at RIMYI (Part I)

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

Have you tried the Three Minute Egg?

When I first saw ads for the Three Minute Egg in Yoga Journal, I hardly glanced at them. I already have my favorite propsand the colorful foam “eggs” seemed gimmicky. But the ads kept appearing. One featured “signature eggs”—featuring well-known teachers Annie Carpenter, Jason Crandell, Aadil Palkhivala (who, like Cher, signed only his first name), and Joan White—which rubbed me the wrong way: I see too many yoga celebrities and yoga fans already. I was curious nevertheless and Googled the company. I read about the indie founder, whose personal tale about the egg’s origin is quite impressive. I observed the egg’s … Continue reading Have you tried the Three Minute Egg?

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

What are your favorite yoga props?

About a year after I got my first yoga mat in 1998, I invested in other Iyengar props (including blankets, blocks, and strap). I purchased them from San Francisco’s Yoga Props (buy local!), and I still use those props at home. Today I bought a bunch of new props (more blankets, blocks, and straps, plus those Canadian chip foam blocks and two 10-pound sandbags) from Vancouver’s Halfmoon (buy local!). I bought them to use at my first workshop with Gabriella Giubilaro, a big favorite among Iyengar practitioners at the Yoga Space. We local students are required to bring our own … Continue reading What are your favorite yoga props?

“Footstickers” and yoga feet

December 21 was winter solstice, the longest night of the year. In Vancouver, that means a narrow window of daylight. While I’m not particularly vulnerable to SAD, I did feel rather depleted when it turned darkish by 4pm yesterday. Maybe it’s my massive Lonely Planet write-up, which always seems intractable until I’m perhaps 75% done. It’s nice to see the light at the tunnel’s end, whether in work or in winter! Blog posts will be sporadic till February, but I had to mention these Footstickers designed by Nike EMEA. More minimalist than ToeSox, they might unobtrusively solve the slippage problem (which … Continue reading “Footstickers” and yoga feet

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

Criticism and praise in yoga classes

I teach a couple of Iyengar yoga classes at a donation-based Yoga for the People studio. Here, students attend on a drop-in basis, and most are unfamiliar with Iyengar yoga. Recently, a woman dropped in for the first time. With a decade-long background in vinyasa yoga, she was neither newbie nor expert, and I instructed and adjusted her accordingly. Later, she thanked me and also admitted that my class was challenging for her ego. “[T]o deal with blocks and criticism!” she good-naturedly commented. (I’d instructed her to use a block in Trikonasana and adjusted her pelvis in the pose.) She … Continue reading Criticism and praise in yoga classes