Monday, November 30, 2009

Expand Your Reach

I hope you all had a lovely holiday (those of you celebrating Thanksgiving in November). I was so distracted with side dishes and a full belly, I missed the release of my latest article for Yoga Journal's My Yoga Mentor: "Expand Your Reach." It's about teaching yoga online, which is a really interesting proposition--no adjustments or close contact, but a ton of other ways to teach at your fingertips. In addition to some interviews with online teachers, I included several tools you can use to help set up your own site. I'm really interested to see how all of this develops, because there are a lot of exciting distance-learning examples out there in other disciplines. How will yogis take advantage of the Internet?

If you already have something going on, or need encouragement to start your own podcast, Jamie Kent of Yoga Downloads, noted that her site allows teachers to link their own classes, if they are up to snuff (so to speak). The link gives more information...

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sometimes a Cigar is just a Cigar...but most of the time it isn't

This was kinda fun. A facebook friend was looking for interviews for an article on messy/neat couples and, since she is a marriage therapist, she couldn't recommend any of her clients. So I sent her my contact info, because I though it sounded like an amusing project to think about. The journalist contacted me, I told some stories (with the husb.'s permission, of course) and there you are. One of my mother's neighbors ran a fresh copy of the Wall Street Journal over to their house, as soon as she read it. Fame in Ames, Iowa.

It's a light-hearted look, but some of the couples scared me a bit. I scared myself, remembering the rage that led to two less martini glasses, lo those many years ago (I plead as charged, but my defense was grad school stress). What is it about being a part of a couple that gives you (one) a sense of invincibility? You couldn't really get away with crushing your best friend's sunglasses on purpose, or throwing away your co-worker's clothing, or *gulp* distroying your roommate's cocktailware. At least not more than once. You'd get voted off the island.

And yet, with our best beloved we misbehave. Is it a holdover from childhood? Your parents have to love you no matter what and, since they're not around, you look to the next greatest love? Is it that you feel safe to overreact? That your passions are greater and emotions are felt more strongly that you act like a spoiled brat without fear of major repercussions?

It's interesting to think about because, probably, we have all taken our significant other for granted and not been the best partner. Maybe that is the security built into a strong, lasting relationship--that most transgressions will be forgiven to maintain the partnership. Like the article says, usually the problem isn't dirty socks on the floor, anyway, but something bigger.

Still, as adults, I wonder why we allow ourselves to be that childish. Especially since, at some point, there may be a trangression that is unforgiveable. Goodbye island.

I'm much better about cleanliness, now that I've been beaten down by two tykes far messier than JRR. They say you get the kids that you deserve and I suspect the gods looked down six years ago, chuckled, and said, "Check this fussy chick out. Let's send her a couple of sons." So, I try not to get mad and ignore the Legos and Hot Wheels strewn about.
Plus we have a lot more plastic dishes, so knocking them off the counter would just be noisy but not particularly dramatic.

Whadaya think, armchair psychologists? With the holidays soon upon us, this issue could come up more times than we'd like. What's the consensus? Security? Regression? The desire for new glassware?

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Here we go again with the Choudhurys and their never-ending quest to popularize Birkram yoga: not that this information on their Olympic quest is anything new. If you haven't heard by now, they are trying to get yoga to be included as an Olympic sport. Just asana, of course--lots of lithe, bendy yogis touching their feet to their heads. The article notes that contestants are judged on strength, flexibility, alignment, difficulty of the optional poses and overall execution, but not their spirituality.

If you just boil it down to asana without any kind of inner reflection, then isn't it just floor exercise? Gymnastics is already an Olympic sport, so the ancient Greeks beat the Choudhurys to the punch. By about 2,786 years.

Bela Karolyi, you can sleep easy...

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Toe as Tail?

Still doing some housecleaning--next on the to-do list is sort out the links list and even, gasp, update my template. This turquoise green number is getting awfully dated-looking. Old School, and not in a good way.

But first, I'm freshly returned from Minneapolis, where I spent the whole weekend with modern dancers and--by extension--their bare feet. This was actually a costume design project for a fundraiser for the Peace House school in Tanzania. But feet were unshod and I was looking to answer my questions about toe mobility. There certainly was plenty of evidence for the benefits of working without shoes to strengthen the feet.

As I watched the dancers balance and spin, adjusting the weight of a body on a foot by moving the third toe or stretching all toes apart to provide a more stable base, I was impressed by the awareness each student had throughout her whole foot. I watched them when they were getting their notes after rehearsal, and still their feet were constantly in motion--not big movements, but subtle adjustments and shifting. Even during the dance, in a moment of pause, a toe would wiggle here or lift there, in anticipation of the next move.

It made me think of days bygone in summer school classes. If a teacher was particularly boring, or an un-airconditioned classroom was particularly warm, my mind would wander and I often studied my fellow summer schoolers' feet (in those days, in horrid fascination). What was so amusing was how much their toes would move around when they were just sitting there. It was almost as if toes took on the unconscious movement that a tail would make, if we still had one.

I don't know, maybe every movement of a tail is purposeful, but it seems like sometimes my cats just switch or "tap" their tails because they aren't doing anything else with it. Is that what happens with toes in a loose, comfortable shoe? A little expenditure of energy because nothing else is really moving? It's hard to check on yourself, since as soon as you think about your toes, you are aware of their actions...but sneak a peak at some one nearby (trickier, these days, if you're in a hemisphere with late fall)--maybe in class, or watching television at night.

Thoughts? Any experts on toes (or tails, for that matter)? I hadn't thought about the toe-tail thing for awhile, but now I'm on a bender. I guess it's a good thing feet don't gross me out any more...

Monday, November 09, 2009

Super-Late Link Love...

Gracious, this is woefully overdue. I sincerely apologize to everyone that has posted a link to GTTSB and hasn't received a shout-back yet. Hopefully I caught you on this list, but if I didn't, please let me know and I'll do another list in a week or so. There's a lot of good stuff out there, these days. A wide variety of themes, experiences and tones...which is kind of nice. I feel like one of the (sorta) Old Ladies of Blog (since 2006, Baby!) and it's been fun to watch this whole community grow.

In no particular order...
Yogini with a Twist Tina is doing slackline yoga, now! An strong, honest voice in the yoga blog world. Nice sequences, too.
Highs and Lows of a Suburban Yogini
Some reasoned thinking about yoga from Across the Pond. Rachel has a nice personal discussion of her practice, life and other non-yoga projects.
The Devil Wears Prana Michelle offers tidbits of yoga wisdom, interviews, food for thought sprinkled with lovely pictures of her practice.
Yoga for Cynics Dr. Jay has a sly way with a turn of phrase...not cynical, exactly, but not one to suffer fools gladly, either. Beautiful photos.
Yogic Muse Brooks Hall shares her observations on her practice and her own habits, with good suggestions for dealing with it all.
Kitty This eco-chick offers several blogs on makeup, household products, etc. so her's a link to her profile...browse for yourself for some great suggestions of brands to try, strategies to adopt.
Yoga in my School Donna offers a very comprehensive site on teaching to kids, how to approach poses, and more.
Yoga Spy A truthful, gimlet-eyed look at yoga and the yoga culture here in the US.
Yoga Demystified Bob is everywhere, these days. Check out his latest push for "Yobo" and "Ratra"--dude can brand yoga faster than a Kapalabhati exhale!
It's All Yoga, Baby Roseanne has a keen eye for yoga controversies and hypocrisies...the discussions are thrilling. Check out the massive back-and-forth that came after her posts about Addidas yoga.
elephant journal This online magazine out of Boulder, CO covers a lot of eco-topics, but the yoga articles are very interesting and also get a lot of feedback. It also solicits articles from readers, if you are a writer and want some exposure.
Petals Yoga An upbeat report from Portland, OR.
Random Thoughts Just what it says it is...but it's a nice selection of observations from an Indian in the US--especially on the "my yoga is better than your yoga" debate.
Yoga Dork A close look at yoga developments from NYC. Lately lots of giveaways, too.
Enlightenment Ward A breathtakingly comprehensive list of Buddhist sites out there. And a tad snarky, which is fun. I'm meaning to take more time with this site because of all the new stuff (and I was having trouble keeping up with the yoga blogosphere...).

[Oof, now I know why I get so far behind in these lists...they take a lot of time. I'm going to stick with this all week, so give me a couple of days to catch everyone and update my page.]

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Toe-ing the line...

Okay, dancer costumes delivered, YJ article edited...I think I'm ready for extracurricular writing again. Thank you for your patience.

I've been thinking about feet. As yogis, don't we all. The choreographer I am working with commented on how she could identify all of her dancers just by looking at a picture of their feet. At first I thought that was remarkable, but then I realized that I could probably do the same thing with my students with fairly accurate results. Where do you start when checking how someone is grounding in balance poses? The feet...and with that you see who polishes, who trims, who has bunions, who has an extra-long second toe, etc etc. Very personal, these appendages.

Feet used to completely gross me out (still not crazy about dirty toenails), but now I find them rather amazing--as I've said before. This article in last week's NYT Science section confirmed my fascination with the mechanics of the foot. But it didn't answer a question I've been pondering for years...what happens to mobility and flexibility to the toes?
I often do this sequence early in a a session, to get people thinking about their toes:

[Stand in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Lift all your toes at once, and feel the rest of the foot settle into your mat. Now lower just the big toes. Now lift the big toes and just lower the little toes. Now lower the big toes, but keep all the toes in between lifted. Is this easy or hard? You can help yourself a bit, by mimicking the actions of the toes with the fingers (I don't know why this helps, but it does). Now lower all toes, so that each one has its own space to settle and notice how much more solid your stance is.]

I've noticed that it's extremely difficult for most people to move their toes individually. Is it shoes? Muscle development? Toe length? Both my boys (2 and 5) can drum their toes as if playing the piano, but it seems that few people over the age of 10 can barely isolate the big toe from the rest. I can, but I've spent a lot of time working on it. Do toes have the potential of fingers at birth, but the neural pathways are never built?

What do you think/know? It seems that having flexible, isolate-able toe movement would be something to work for--better balance, stronger feet and ankles--but is it something that is lost forever? How do you get it back? I will watch the modern dancers at our next dress rehearsal, because I suspect they have to be expressive down to each bare toe...

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