Thursday, April 23, 2009

What Would Yoga Teachers Do?

Let's just say I'm collecting war stories...war stories about, uh, difficult students. Perhaps the biggest challenge of teaching yoga is not demonstrating Bakasana or keeping your sequences fresh, but maintaining harmony in the class room.

Inevitably, a group of people in a yoga class will have some conflicts, whether philosophical, personal, or physical. One person wears too much perfume, another not enough deodorant. One person wants to breath noisily and sigh heavily during difficult poses and another needs a quiet practice space. Some one modifies their poses appropriately when they have an injury, some body else forces themselves forwards in Paschimottanasana with a humped upper back and cringe on her face. People show up late and distract everyone during the opening Ohms, other people clump out of class loudly during Savasana.

What's a sweet, little yoga teacher to do? You don't want to introduce a feeling of persecution by embarrassing any one, but you owe it to your other students to discourage disruptive behavior. You don't want a smelly studio. Students should be able to make the class work for them, but no one wants to watch a smug yogi showing off when the teaching is trying to demonstrate a new pose.

The one bright point in all of this is that these problem students can often reveal biases that you, as a teacher, are holding. Why does a certain behavior bother you so much? It can be a disconcerting realization, but it's a good exercise in self-awareness. Doesn't kill ya, so it makes you stronger, right?

So, my dear yogis, share. How have you dealt with troublemakers? How have you dealt with yourself? Please feel free to register as Anonymous if it makes you more comfortable to discuss. It think it is good for all of us to compare notes, and if you want to be discrete, that's cool.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Yoga for Headaches

Oof, tension headaches. I have been getting plenty, lately, due to an overloaded schedule. I keep taking stuff on and forgetting that, even though the boys are getting better at keeping themselves entertained, I can't take my eyes off of them. Let week, a deer pellet was sampled when I turned away in the backyard. I'm telling myself the little one is just building up his immunity...

But, to work on the headaches, I've been ingesting ibuprophen (need to do less of that) and working on some upper back openers (need to do more). These poses have helped a lot, by stretching out tense muscles, getting the blood flowing to the area and just making me focus on releasing tightness. Here are mine; what are your favorites?

Seated Neck Stretch: Sit in Sukhasana, making sure to have the shoulders and hips aligned and the weight of the upper body balanced over the lower. Try to keep the breastbone in line with the belly button (it's easy to end up leaning to one side). With the right hand resting gently on the head, tilt the head to the right, letting the weight of the hand help pull the head farther over. Don't force anything, just let the extra weight deepen the stretch. Rest the left hand on the mat next to the hips and slide it away from the body to increase the stretch.

Let the head roll forwards about 15 degrees, so the stretch moves off the shoulders and into the upper back. After a few breaths, let the head roll forwards another 15 degrees (not to the center) and feel the stretch next to the spine and in the back of the neck. Let the head fall gently forwards--without the weight of the hand---and lift the head back to center. Repeat on other side.
(Old Picture...I'm not pregnant)

Garudasana arms: still in Sukhasana, raise the arms so the elbows are chest height. Bend the elbows and lift them to be even with the chest. Cross the left elbow over the right and center the elbows with your breast bone. Without hunching the shoulders, interlock the palms. If you can't do this with out hunching, rest the palms on the shoulders or try and grab the right pinky with the left thumb. Repeat with right elbow over left. This releases the muscles between the shoulder blades, a common place for tension knots.

Gomukhasana arms: If you're getting tired of Easy Pose, try shifting into Virasana (Hero Pose) to stretch out the thighs a bit. Place your belt over your right shoulder. Now stretch the right hand toward the ceiling and rotate it in the socket so your elbow is facing forwards. Bend the right arm and reach that hand towards your shoulder blades. Give the right triceps a gentle stretch by pressing on the right elbow with your left hand. Take hold of the belt with your right hand.

Bend the left elbow along side the body and reach up the back to take hold of the belt, or, if you have flexible shoulders, the right hand. When you adjust the hands, make sure they are lined up with your spine. Then check the alignment of the spine; its easy to start slouching when your are focusing so much on the upper body. This pose opens up the chest and moves blood around the shoulder joints.

Uttanasana (Intense Forward Bend) Soften both knees and fold forward from the hip creases. Let the weight of the body draw you down. For added traction, cross the arms above the head and feel the increased stretch in the upper spine. This releases the whole back and lets the spine hang free. It is also a gentle inversion, so the blood flow to the head is increased, which is calming.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Off the Charts

Yoga Dawg and I passed a few music ideas back and forth on facebook the other day. He is pressing for more jazz as background, rather than the usual flute/chants/bells soundtrack. Not a bad idea, thought I. So I'm listing some of my favorite atypical yoga class tunes, including a few jazz selections. Then, you can tell me what yours are and we're off to a new playlist!
Check it out:
Air Moon Safari
Brian Eno Ambient 1; Music for Airports
Phillip Glass Soundtrack from The Hours
Phillip Glass Uakti Aguas da Amazonia
Pat Metheny One Quiet Night
Rachel Portman Soundtrack from Beloved
Gustavo Santaolalla Roncoco
Jazz Vibes Mix tape of Theolonius Monk, Milt Jackson (above), Miles Davis (sorry, Dawg, this is kinda vague, but I'm not sure what albums I took stuff from, etc.)
Jazz Sax Mix tape of David Sanborn and T. Monk