Monday, September 29, 2008

Ambiently aware

Last week the "Build a Yoga Community" article came out on My Yoga Mentor. It is about the bricks-and-mortar relationships that come from belonging to a studio and/or practicing with other yogis. There are some useful tips (if I do say so myself), but I had to leave out any discussion of online communities because of space.

This is despite the fact that my online yoga community is the one I
am actually more involved in as a yoga practitioner. Sadly, I really only have time for asana in the classes I teach and there isn't another studio in town (the only other Iyengar teacher in Beloit teaches at the same time I do). So the yoga student in me has to be satisfied with the occasional jaunt to Madison--which is great--but not regular. I certainly miss the regular contact with a teacher and being able to lose myself in some one else's instruction.

I am exceedingly grateful for the interaction I do have with the yoga bloggers out there. There seems to be a number of us practicing and teaching in smaller towns with few yoga resources, and it's nice to keep up and compare notes--heck, it's nice to keep up with those in big towns with tons of studios. The online yoga crowd is not alone...apparently, this "ambient awareness" is a byproduct of all the social networking sites, and has become a subject of study among digital communication experts

Ambient Awareness is the "weak ties" you have between other people through the internet. These are not the face-to-face, more emotional connections you have with family and close friends. You probably haven't even met most of these people, but you still engage in their lives and how things are going by keeping track of them through their blogs, Twitter, Facebook pages, etc. And they keep track of you.

Many of the scholars studying these relationships suggest that they are actually quite healthy, and help you develop a sense of belonging and connection (as long as they don't replace your strong-tie relationships). In the NYT article, a number of people mentioned that keeping a running log of their day-to-day activities was actually very calming. They were able to step out of emotional situations and evaluate their behavior in a way that lowered the temperature and gave them perspective.

I think that's how this blog has become a major part of my yoga practice. It is not so physical, but by thinking about how to describe poses and clarifying thoughts for my essays is a way of getting inside my head and quieting the "monkey brain." Not exactly pranayama, but some of the same end results. And, as I mentioned, it's great to be able to check on other yogis out there every few days and see how the baby is doing/what's going on in Melbourne/how the trip to India went/who's being taken to task/has it snowed in Duluth,yet etc etc etc.

I almost want to get a Twitter account...

Monday, September 22, 2008

Come one, come all, right?

Last Sunday, I taught a yoga class at Bushel and Peck's, the new organic/local food grocery store in Beloit. [And here's another blog I've started about that whole endeavor--too much free time, yeah, right!]

It was a really nice group, the "art gallery" wasn't too echo-y and dinner was delish. We'll do it again in October.

Every time I do a new class, for a different group, I get a little bit nervous, because I'm not sure who's going to show up and what their expectations are. There are usually a few familiar faces, and I always appreciate having regulars out there (so encouraging in their peaceful expressions), but I find myself watching the new people very closely--do they get it? are they enjoying themselves? is something bothering them physically?

Probably, there are times, that a student's bad experience has nothing to do with me--having a bad day, running late, trouble parking--but usually that kind of stuff gets ironed out in class. However, I feel
strongly that a teacher is mostly responsible for a students' experience, and should make sure people are being reached--if they want to be reached. Even a gentle adjustment, can make some one feel like they have been noticed and cared about.

That's why something like this, astounds me. I love Suzi's insight and thoughts about yoga on her blog, and I imagine she projects that kind of energy in her practice. Why would a teacher single her out for such a pointless and ego-driven lecture. (I'm sure she's moved on and I should "put that lady down", but this drives me nuts). When I wrote about yoga and community a few months ago, I also got quite a few comments from people who had been made to feel completely out-of-place in a yoga class. I don't get can you be standing in front of a group of people--your students, for pete's sake--and not notice that some one is having an awful time. Or not feel like you should reach out to them.

Even if it's other students that are creating the bad vibes, a teacher ought to figure out how to cool the temperature and get everyone to focus on the practice. I know I can't reach everyone or that my teaching method doesn't always resonate (which also drives me crazy--but that's my problem), but I want to feel like I tried to connect.

I dunno, maybe other teachers' classes are too big or over too quickly for them to reach out. Maybe there are bunch of cranky students out there, looking for a fight. But, surely, you can see my point...

Whadaya think?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Warrior Arms

We had a nice group at the store yesterday. A few regulars, a few new people. And the eats were great; I got my fave, the half-and-half (grilled cheese and soup), and tried the Black Angus stew.

I decided to teach the various Warrior poses: Virabhasdrasana I, II, and III. They are good for creating a little heat, and getting the blood moving. As I explained how they flow together (II into I into III), I made a joke about how the numbering system was off. This later got me to thinking: why are these poses tied together, anyway?

When you look at them, they don't really have all that much in common. The feet are in different positions, the hips and shoulders line up differently, the work of the legs is completely different, and one is a tricky balance pose, while the other two used firmly-planted feet. Not at all like Trikonasana-Parsvakonasana-Ardha Chandrasana (Triangle-Lateral Angle-Half Moon).

I think it's the arms. Altho they don't look exactly alike, they are all at shoulder-height or higher (thus raising the heart rate) and require shoulder flexibility to stretch the arms out and overhead without hunching. The chest should be open and the shoulder blades slightly drawn together and down. The thighs and belly do all the grunt work of lunging, bending and keeping the side body long, but the arms are what make them Warriors--rather than Lateral Angle or Parsvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch) or a standing lunge.

When teaching them, we usually focus on the work of the lower body, but what really makes a Warrior look beautiful and effortless is if the arms and chest are in the correct position. Then they look calm and powerful.

But that's just me...maybe somebody knows what the (not so) ancients were thinking when they named these poses. Any insight?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A Healthy Sunday Supper...

If you haven't decided, and need tempting, here is the "prix fixe" menu for tomorrow's Yoga and Dinner at Bushel and Peck's Local Grocery, from 3-5pm. Choose one of these items and a beverage (coffee, iced tea, cider, soda and, of course, water).
-Caprese Salad - Thick local tomato slices topped with fresh mozzarella slices, fresh basil, then drizzled in an herbed balsamic, olive oil. Served with a slice of bread.
-Bruschetta -
An herb toasted hunk of crusty bread topped with seasonal veggies drizzled in herbed balsalmic oil and sprinkled with fresh Parmesan.
-Half A Simply Grilled Cheese and a Cup of Soup - Select one of the day's soups (Tomato Basil and whatever Sunday's soup is--Saturday was Potato, Ham and Bean). Half a grilled cheese made with Silver Lewis Edam.
-Black Angus Jo – Black Angus ground beef simmered in house made smoky barbeque sauce, chopped onions, peppers and topped with a slice of raw milk cheddar. Served with a choice of side salad from the deli case (potato, macaroni, tabbouleh, refrigerator pickles, corn/black bean salad, etc. etc.).

I'm thinking of doing a Warrior-based class, so that there's some strength work but it's not too challenging. I want everyone to feel energized and released at the end of class.

Hope to see you there!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Is it Just Me?

...or is this whole combining motherhood and work thing getting out of hand?

I'm all for women doing fulfilling work and, lord knows, mothers need something for themselves--especially when kids are young (why do you think I started GTTSB?). But do we really want to encourage pregnant women to jet set around to meetings while their amniotic fluid is leaking? Or zipping back to work, only three days post-partum? It's bad enough that the womens' magazines trumpet losing baby-fat in a if cellulite should be your biggest concern when the baby is 3 weeks old.

Give the body a rest, y'all. We don't expect Teddy Kennedy back in the Senate three days after his brain surgery... Does Sarah Palin really believe that the Alaska electorate is so heartless, that they wouldn't let her lie down for a couple of days? Are they? What's wrong with this country that it can't accept that pregnacy and delivery is one of the most traumatic things that will happen to a woman's body. Why do women (want to) pretend that it's just a quick in-and-out of the hospital and then, back-to-business.

Dirty-footprints had a nice post, cautioning about too much multi-tasking. You can't avoid some multi-tasking with a family--if you want everyone to eat and still get to bed in time for Mama to do some blogging--but it shouldn't drive you into a frenzy. I can almost hear the health insurance crowd foaming at the mouth to get new mothers out of the hospital in 24 hours. ("Still bleeding? Well, here's an adult diaper. Good luck!")

I practiced, and taught yoga, through my own two pregnancies and I think part of the reason everything went so well was that I cleared space for myself and listened to my body. I practiced pranayama every nite for the last two trimesters and stayed home for 6 weeks after both boys were born (very grateful for that opportunity, of course). I slowed it down, because my body had to slow down--shouldn't every mother allow herself to do that? Shouldn't every mother be able to?

Jeez, Sweden is looking better all the time...

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Satisfaction of Sneering

The other night my mom asked me what I thought about the Republican vice-presidential candidate, Sarah Palin. I won't go into my full answer here--not really appropriate for a yoga blog--but I did say that she is some one who my crowd would have sneered at at our 20th High School reunion, three years ago. Being the know-it-all-journalism types, we wouldn't have approved of some one our age who tries to have library books banned.

But it got me to thinking about the act of sneering and how satisfying it is. And how often it is practiced (especially in the anonymity of the blogosphere). And, also, how it really says more about the sneer-er than the sneer-ee.

Boy, there's a lot of it in yoga-land. Which yoga style is better/more effective/more sustainable; Yoga Journal's cover m
odels; the yoga supers stars' overexposure; the fact that there are yoga super stars at all; studying in India or not; etc etc etc.

Even the gurus themselves aren't above a mighty rant about their "competitors." This was something I found extremely distasteful at a conference last year, when just about every presenter at a teachers' workshop felt inclined to point how much better "their" yoga was than the others. Only David Swenson and Ana Forrest skipped the Sneer--hmmm.

I won't pretend for a minute that I am above commenting on a scrawny model butchering natarajasana (Dancer Pose)in
an ad for HardTail yoga pants (what kind of a name is that?) or online teacher-training certifications. Some stuff deserves a skeptical eye. Even so, it says more about my Ego and its need to establish superiority than it does about the things I find fault with. Sigh.

BTW, apparently a sneer is also a freshly poured beer (?), which is something we can all find satisfaction in.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Yoga at the Store

If you're local to the Stateline area, this post if for you. I'm offering Yoga and Supper at Bushel and Peck's Local Grocery on Sunday, September 14 from 3-5. I'll teach class (haven't decided the theme yet) for an hour and then we will enjoy a meal from the cafe, featuring locally-grown ingredients. We haven't decided the menu yet, either, but everything I've eaten there is delicious--any requests? I'll bring all the props, you bring your mat.

The class will be limited to 15 people and the cost will be $20. You can sign up on the BP's website or at the store at 328 State Street, Beloit or call 608/363-3911. Let me know if you have any questions!