One thing that has changed about my teaching drastically in the last 15 years is how I touch other humans in class. I prefer the term “assist” these days to “adjust”… so that even the word conveys that I am facilitating rather than personally altering someone’s process.Read More
Some fun variations using the blanket in Reverse Namaskar!Read More
My attempt to break out of some of the problem areas of surya namaskar and to add in some things that I think will be of benefit to a wider variety of practitioners, both for hypermobile and tighter body types.Read More
I wanted to share the how and why for this sequence... I hope it inspires and contributes to your own process!
As I said on Instagram, suryanamaskara A is so ubiquitous. I have loved practicing it in my years but I also found teaching it leaves me feeling unsatisfied and not up to my own standards. So often as I look around a class, I see people approaching self-aggression, checking out, and either not paying attention or not knowing exactly where to place their attention. In many ways, the sequence allows for one to move into a flow state of sorts, but it also has some problem areas; the most prominent being the jump back to chaturanga and the step or jump forward. I readily admit I love both of those transitions, but so often in my own practice they have been like a little point of added inner competition that didn't feel necessary anymore. I have wanted to change the script and have been working on several namaskars that do just that.
So one of those I came up with is Reverse Namaskar.Read More
For a period of my life, the yoga postures served me well. I grew through them and they offered healing to my wrecked dancer's body for a time. But then, as many of us do, I allowed the postures to guide my physicality and I ultimately suffered because of that. You could see photos of me in postures or practice next to me in class and think, "wow she is strong and flexible". The problem was that I unwittingly pushed myself to be strong and flexible only in the places the poses required and in the end this was not balanced or wholesome, no matter how much alignment and breath and safe sequencing I applied.
When I was in my final months of pregnancy and just afterward, my body was pulled apart where it was weak and disconnected. I am not alone in this experience and it definitely doesn't just happen to pregnant yoga practitioners, although the elevated levels of relaxin in the body along with the increased abdominal pressure certainly enabled this to worsen quickly. Through the process of reconstructing myself in the last two years and working with many other students who I believe have been harmed by yoga, I have realized how insufficient the posturing, and more specifically how insufficient so much of the instruction in this work is.
I am not saying the postures do not contain insights, for they do, endlessly. I am simply saying that they are not enough by themselves. We have to keep looking beyond, beneath, inside and through them. The postures are patterns we set into bodies that already contain their own patterns, imbalances, incongruencies, imperfections and deeply individual insights. How can we not take the individual into consideration as we apply them? Alignment, as we may witness in some forms of yoga, takes us only so far on a personal level before it causes us to become rigid. Geometry certainly has its merits and beauty in certain yoga styles, but it doesn't break down or build up everything; it doesn't give space for all of the organic nuance and multitudes of asymmetry, in my experience. Flow is wonderful for moving without overthinking but it falls short in the realm of detail and precision, no matter how clear instructions may be. Breath work and opening pranic pathways means nothing if the physical structures are not addressed with integrity and after all, what ARE pranic pathways? What does that actually mean?Read More
I told one of my students, Annie, in NYC over a year ago that I would do podcasts for all my New York students when I moved to Zurich. A lot has happened since then - getting married, becoming pregnant, having a baby and moving overseas... but I finally did it! And on her birthday as a surprise. Happy birthday, Annie!
The end cuts off without any fanfare or clear ending, but baby was waking and I thought something is better than no thing.
I definitely need some help with simplifying the editing process, so if anyone has pointers, shoot them my way!
Please do not hide yourself away in the face of the world's broken heart. Continue to look deeply, with love at your own heart. Sometimes it may need protection but other times it is important that we step outside of that which covers over our tenderness and humanity. Our world needs us more than ever.Read More
A recent foray into practice through deeper listening took me to the wall to open my spine while stabilizing my pelvis and SI joint. Deep listening is an implicit aspect of Right Speech.
As I mentioned in last week's post, I am spending these eight weeks on the Noble Eightfold Path as part of the ground for both my weekly teaching and as I prepare for the teacher immersion I am leading in September which has roots in this very same system. This week's focus is on Right Speech, which in sanskrit is Samyag Va, and is part of the Discipline group (Sila, in Sanskrit) of the eight steps. Right Intention, last week's step, is part of the Wisdom group (Prajna, in Sanskrit).
It feels like such a poignant time to contemplate Right Speech with the advent and rise of social media. At a time when our world feels so polarized, we are caught in the crossfire between unprecedented access to news and information and unprecedented amounts of tabloid, extreme or just plain false communication.
When we contemplate the way our voice and communication manifest, we can consider four aspects of Right Speech. The first is refraining from lying. The second and third, which I think work in tandem, are avoiding slanderous speech and harsh words. The final is avoiding gossip and idle speech. Another way to reframe this with a positive spin is to base our communication on honesty, to speak with kindness and compassion, and to speak only when it benefits others and ourselves.
The other half of this equation which is implicit but not explicitly mentioned is what I might call Deep Listening. When we speak we have a basic desire to be heard, and so the act of listening goes hand in hand with the way we speak to others, but also in the way we speak to ourselves.
As I have grown older and my practice has shifted, most especially since I was pregnant, I have found so much benefit in the art of listening on the mat. I also have spent more time weeding out some of the negative, self-aggressive commentary that perhaps served some purpose at some point, but now that I have a daughter I do not wish to pass on such a torch. Removing aggressive messages and communication leaves more room for listening. More listening creates an environment where informed and honest action can be taken. This is true on and beyond the mat.
May we all benefit and be of benefit to others through this attention to honest and empathetic communication and deep listening.
Some ways to play with speaking and listening this week as we contemplate and practice:
How can we cultivate our communication in person with thoughtfulness and care? Can we listen to our partner or our children more intently? Can we put down the phone or turn off the computer for an extra moment so we can hear what our loved ones wish to share?
How can we cultivate our communication on social media with greater attention to kindness and honesty? In an age of intensely different opinions, and very serious life and death matters, can we maintain a steady even tone and refrain from slander? Can we perpetuate a sense of striving to listen rather than a striving to be the loudest or the most incendiary?
How can we cultivate our communication to and with our own self with more tenderness? Can we notice when we are being self-aggressive and could we reframe our internal dialogue in a sense of self-care instead? What does that look like on the mat or cushion?
I have spent most of my writing time this week pondering the violence that has shown its face in the U.S. yet again, and per my last post, I ended up simply not sharing my thoughts because it all feels too raw and unclear - not a good recipe for starting dialogue about such a sensitive topic.
I haven't forgotten that I have intended to share a weekly theme for classes and it is still my mission. My apologies for the delay on this week. Between a jet-lagged baby and my whirling mind post-travels, I hadn't been able to land on a topic.
Finally while practicing today during my daughter's nap I decided to dive into the Noble eightfold path and share a piece of it each week I am teaching. This is leading up to my teaching immersion which is directly influenced by the very same structure. The Noble path has a lot in common with Patanjali's Ashtanga eight-limbed system so if you are more familiar with that, you may see some similarities.
The original order of the eightfold path begins with Right View, but I would actually like to start with Right Intention and END with Right View as the outcome of all seven other aspects of the path. While this may make sense in a linear way, I also recognize and hope to share that the path is circular, or perhaps more like a spiral. The Buddha might say we all already have Right View, we just have to uncover it through practice. But since we are in a learning environment let us turn that on its head and begin first with practice to arrive at Right View.
My daughter is stirring from her nap so let me at least publish this!
A few questions to ponder this week:
What is your intention/s for practice? For living your life? Are they different?
How has it changed over the years and with different life experiences?
When you set intentions are you also loading yourself with expectations? How can the former exist without the latter?
Please feel free to write in comments or questions. Much love.
I think about this in the midst of yet another public scandal of a teacher's abuse of power, this time out of Jivamukti in NYC. I think about it in the midst of the heights of "yogalebrity"-dom, and the very real truth that this is something many new teachers are aspiring to be. I think about all the ways that teachers are human and that very fine line that can occur between walking the talk and taking the liberty to skip a few or a WHOLE LOT of steps along the way. I think about how detrimental this is to our students in tiny or massive ways.Read More
I am a wholly different being, I feel, when I step onto my mat. My belly is softer. My biceps are stronger perhaps from holding Miya, but everything else feels weaker. My skin is stretchier. I hold some more weight, and I try not to stress about it, which is hard for someone who spent her early 20s battling bulimia as a dancer and the rest of the time since reworking the notion of what it is to feel at home in her body.
But one thing is also for certain: my heart is way more open. My patience has crested to the surface of every moment and overflowed into my reality in a way that it never has before. I move slower. I pay more attention to many things that I do, like how quietly I can put away dishes while my daughter sleeps.Read More
This week I hope to focus practice on seeing things as they are. No filter. No preconceptions. See as if for the first time. See and stay and be with. We will touch on this in meditation but also incorporate it into how we move and rest in asana. How we breathe. How we interact with our practice.Read More
I don't have time myself these days as a new mom to write all I feel on this topic, which is a lot. I am impressed and glad to see this written by none other than a Jiva teacher. Clear and succinct - and a good response to the Slate article. Take a look.
We as teachers must hold ourselves accountable for our actions and fully recognize and respect the seat we hold and how it relates to our students.
Read more here: https://holliesuemann.com/2016/04/09/thoughts-on-the-teacher-student-relationship/