Yoga protocol: why does it matter?

Before a pranayama class at RIMYI in Pune last August, we students were sprawled on our mats. Some sitting, some chatting; others, like me, lying down leg stretches. When the teacher, Rajlaxmi, entered the room and settled herself on a bolster, I swung up, sit-up style. “Lie back down!” she yelled. What? In a flash, we lowered ourselves to the floor. “Now, roll to the right,” she directed. “Look down. Push yourself up. That’s how we sit up in yoga.” Rajlaxmi is practical, focused primarily on alignment and technique. But that day she reminded me of yoga protocol–the rules and rituals we follow … Continue reading Yoga protocol: why does it matter?

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

Forced stillness

The other day, I returned to the MRI clinic where I got my knee scanned last summer. (I wanted more of the orange foam earplugs given to patients. They look ordinary but block noise better than any others I’ve tried. I use them when it’s not quiet enough for sleep.) In the elevator, I met a woman also heading to the MRI clinic. She was due for a second scan, and she was anxious: the noise, the tunnel, the claustrophobia. She even brought a friend for support. I’d experienced the exact opposite reaction. Weird as it might seem, I rather … Continue reading Forced stillness

Do Savasana first?

Last weekend I enjoyed a rigorous workshop taught by Chris Saudek, a senior Iyengar teacher from the Midwest. Since 1980 she has studied with the Iyengars in Pune; now, at the Senior Intermediate III level, she trains teachers in the US and Canada. The asana sessions were challenging in the classic Iyengar way, with basic poses transforming into intense “experiences.” Sure, poses such as Pincha Mayurasana and Bhekasana are demanding, but who would’ve expected Paschima Namaskarasana to be so memorable (ie, excruciating)? Try holding it for 15 minutes (or what felt like forever), working through the stages of Parsvottanasana! But … Continue reading Do Savasana first?

Exiting savasana

The other day, my student Lisa asked me why we always roll right (not left) to exit savasana. I grasped for an answer, mentioning two common beliefs: Lying on our right puts less pressure on our hearts, which sits on the left side. According to traditional Chinese medicine, adopted by Yin yoga practitioners, the left nostril is the Yin (cooling, passive) side. Therefore, rolling to the right keeps the left nostril more open, balancing the body after a Yang (heating, active) asana practice. I’ve also heard folks claim that the sympathetic (action response) nervous system runs along the right side of … Continue reading Exiting savasana

What does savasana mean to you?

In the beginning yoga class that I teach, a student I’ll call Chris finds savasana uncomfortable. Neither lumbar pain nor mental agitation is the culprit. She tucks her shoulders to open her chest, and she looks fine. But she never feels quite right. She’s a side sleeper, so lying supine doesn’t come naturally to her. So, I am trying to help her find ease in stage one of savasana, the basic physical form. Savasana and me In my home practice (done at a community center, as I discuss in the footnoted posts), I skip savasana because I’m in a public … Continue reading What does savasana mean to you?