Saturday, February 25, 2012


I am reading a wonderful book called The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice written by T.K.V. Desikachar, the son of Krishnamacharya. It is always exciting to read the same ideas in a different way. This is the reason why I enjoy taking class from different teachers. Sometimes, the way someone phrases something can affect understanding that would otherwise be impossible. A simple difference in language or applying a concept in a different way can open doors.

In the first few chapters of the book, the author talks about how "yoga attempts to create a state in which we are always present-really present-in every action, in every moment." This means that whether we are working, cleaning the house, or doing our asana practice we should strive for presence. Doing our best at everything, but without attachment to the outcome.

This is a very difficult part of the practice. Staying present at all times. It is easy for me to zone out at work or with friends. Being fully present is work, but the more we do it, the easier it becomes.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Opening Your Heart - Not Just for Valentines Day

In my classes this month, we have been working on opening the heart. It all began on valentines day. I told my students that theme of the class would be opening the heart. This idea, of course, got a few comments. "That is so sweet" and "oh! that is so nice." I have to admit, I was proud of myself. I thought this was a fun idea. Something I was happy to find afterward, was that my students realized a change in themselves the next day - and not just physical changes.

Part of what asana, or our physical practice, gives us is the ability to stand tall and throw our shoulders back. This is something we have been told since we were children. My father always told me to stand tall and reminded me not to slouch. There is some real wisdom there. Anyone who has spent time working on their posture realizes that there is a certain confidence that comes with standing tall.

By physically opening the chest, we stand taller. The effects are a brightness of energy and an openness, which I like to refer to as an opening of the heart. Once your chest is open, you will find that there is a confidence and so much more. With that brightness and that confidence comes the ability to open yourself to others. You will also be surprised how open others are open themselves to you. That brightness, that energy, is infectious.

This is exactly what my students felt. The next day, they felt bright and open and others noticed it. Try it yourselves. Open your mind to opening your chest and opening your heart.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Simple Yoga Wisdom - Avoid Pain

Some of the sutras from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are quite simply stated, but are incredibly complicated in nature. Sutra 2.16 is just that - the sutra states that future pain should be avoided. Sounds easy right - just avoid pain.

The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali state that pain comes from the conjunction of the seer and the seen - that is of the self and the mind. In yogic philosophy (and Hinduism for that matter), the purpose of life is to separate the mind from the true self. The two are seen as separate.

So how do we avoid pain? By not identifying the mind as what makes you what you are.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Can A Mat be Too Sticky?

My gym students often ask me about purchasing a mat. What is the best brand, what should they purchase? I have a lot of thoughts on this topic:
  • It is worth spending a little extra. I know you have all heard the saying "you get what you pay for." I have had students come in and say that they purchased mats from a bargain store for four to five dollars. Some consider that a steal if you are just trying out yoga. I would disagree - there are far too many unused junk mats out there sitting in basements and landfills. And unfortunately, these mats are not made of the most sustainable products.

  • Don't even bother buying a mat if you are just trying yoga out. If you are just giving yoga a try - use one of the extra gym or studio mats. (But I am going to warn you - you are going to like it.)

  • Look through studio lost and founds - for some reason, people leave their mat behind and don't come back for it. Try out a few of these - and look for different brands in the L+S stack.

Sticky vs. Not Sticky

Reasons to buy a super sticky mat (Manduka/Jade)
  • You will not slide - I know many people say they have a hard time with downward dog because their hands won't stop sliding. If this is the case- get a super sticky mat.

  • Very good for more difficult back bends like Viparita Dandasana - where sliding is scary

Reasons not to buy a super sticky mat:
  • Sticky mat stubbed toe - these mats are sticky. Occasionally, when working with a super sticky mat, you will jamb your foot or fingers on the mat because...well...they are sticky.

  • If you do a lot of jumping in your asana practice - I have been stopped mid jump because my toes caught the mat. This is a good and a bad thing. Good, because it will train you to lift higher to keep your feet away from the mat. Bad, because sometimes you just want to slide a bit coming out of your jump.

Feel free to share your responses. What makes a good mat? Can a mat be too sticky?