Saturday, January 29, 2011

Yoga From the Heartland -- Iyengar Yoga Regional Conference, Sept. 2011

If you take classes regularly at Harmony Yoga of Ann Arbor then you've probably heard me talk about the 2011 Regional Iyengar Yoga Conference, Yoga from the Heartland, that will take place in Chicago, September 15 -- 18.

This will be a marvelous opportunity for you all to gather with other yoga students for a few days of enjoyable Iyengar Yoga study and practice, and other special events, in downtown Chicago.

All interested yoga practitioners are invited to attend, whether you're a beginner or a more seasoned student, and whether you practice Iyengar yoga or another tradition.

During the conference you'll be assigned to general asana and pranayama classes in the mornings based on your experience level, and taught by 9 of the Advanced Level Yoga teachers from around the country (including Ann Arbor's Laurie Blakeney).   In the afternoons, you'll also be able to choose from a variety of classes that cover different topics, taught by regional Intermediate Level teachers (including yours truly).

There are a number of special events and activities being planned, including:
  • Keynote address by paraplegic Iyengar Yoga Teacher, Matthew Sanford.
  • Presentation of B.K.S. Iyengar yoga practice film accompanied by cellist (and Iyengar Yoga teacher) Alicia Rowe, from Ann Arbor
  • Dinner circles for dining with old friends or new acquaintances
  • A practice salon where you can practice between classes if you wish
  • An art exhibit highlighting the work of midwest artists and yoga practitioners
  • Various movies being shown about Iyengar yoga during afternoon breaks.
Check out the website often for more updates:
Especially watch the delightful short video of Iyengar Yoga: From Pune, India to Chicago, USA !

Registration will open on April 1, 2011.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Culture of a Yoga Class

I always enjoy new students in my classes, whether they're brand new to yoga, or new to Iyengar Yoga, or just new to my classes.

It's always interesting for me to watch people who are new to my classes, but who have some experience in other styles of yoga, or from other teachers within the Iyengar system.    Sometimes they catch on quickly to how we do things in class.   Other times I see some resistance to following my instructions and expectations.   Or perhaps there's just not the awareness that they're doing something unusual for that class.

Each style of yoga has its own "culture" or way of doing things, and each studio and teacher may have it's own mini-culture as well.    Just as you'd try to respect the culture and traditions when visiting a foreign country, it's a good idea to try to fit in with the expectations of whatever new yoga class you may attend.   This shows respect and a willingness to learn.   I like students who are respectful and willing to learn what I'm teaching!

You may think you know what you're doing, because that's how you've done it in other yoga classes....but that may be a misconception on your part for a particular class or method of yoga.   Practice awareness in these new classes!   The dedicated practice of yoga leads to awareness!

Be aware of how the other students are behaving in class.   Follow along with what they're doing.  Don't do something different unless you aren't able to do what's being taught.   Don't do something different just because you feel like doing something different.    Ask a question or two if you don't understand what's expected of you.

Part of the 'culture' of Iyengar yoga is to pay attention to what the teacher is asking you to do, and follow that as closely as you're able to.   Don't "do your own thing".  Watch when the teacher says watch, and do when the teacher says do.

Other styles of yoga  have different expectations.  Learn to pick up on what's expected in each particular class.   Some classes may be very open to experimentation and doing what you feel like doing, while others are more directive.   Follow instructions as closely as you're able to in those more directive classes.  Err on the side of caution if you're not sure.

Why should you follow instructions exactly, or do exactly what the other students are doing?   Why shouldn't you do what you're used to from your other classes?   Maybe you think you can do a pose better in another way.   Why can't you do it that way?

If you're following the instructions that I give, it shows me that you're paying attention, understanding what I'm saying, and open to learning what I have to teach during that particular class.

If I see that you're not following instructions it could show me that you don't understand what I'm getting at, or it could show me that you can't physically follow that instruction (so maybe I have to change  an instruction), or it shows me that you think you know better how to do something -- that you're not willing to learn what I have to offer. 

Part of the practice of yoga is to learn to be mentally more open.   Don't rigidly adhere to what you've learned in the past.  You won't learn anything new that way.    It's fine to ask a few questions in my classes if you're really puzzled or worried about my instructions.   But don't ignore them.

Practice being open to what a new teacher has to offer, and you'll learn so much more than ignoring what that teacher says.  This is more respectful to the teacher and to the rest of the class.   The way you normally do your poses certainly isn't "wrong" but it may not be appropriate in certain classes.   Practice respect and awareness, and you'll get much more out of your yoga class experience.

Thank you!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Does Your New Year's Resolution Include Yoga?

Happy New Year to you all! 

Did your New Year's resolutions include more yoga?  Maybe you've decided to practice more at home.  Or maybe take more classes (or return to classes!).  Or maybe you're new to yoga and want to start.

I started yoga as part of a New Year's resolution a number of years ago (in 1993), as part of my plan to maintain good health.  It was a life-changing decision on my part!

While it's great to plan goals at any time of the year,  New Year's resolutions are special.  The beginning of a New Year is symbolic for our own new beginnings and fresh starts.

I think that the most effective way to follow through on a New Year's resolution (or a new goal at any time!) is to tell someone about it.   Not just to rattle off a laundry list of ideas that you  think you'd like to do for the coming year, but to hone in on one or two really important goals that you want to work toward.  Then go into detail how you plan to reach your goals.   If you'd rather not talk about your resolutions with someone else, then write down in great detail how you plan to keep your resolutions and work toward your goals.

Setting your intentions this way makes your goals more real in your own mind, and makes it easier to find ways to work toward your goals. 

We went through a lovely extended process on New Year's Eve with a couple of dear friends of ours, of sharing how our past year had gone for us, and what we hope to see in the coming year.  We each had our own turn to talk, first about 2010, then again for our plans for 2011.  This helped to validate our own desires and goals in a friendly, non-judgmental atmosphere.  I recommend the process to anyone!

Even though it is now past the offical beginning of the New Year, it is certainly not too late to make your own resolutions!   And plan to make "more yoga" as one of them!