Saturday, April 30, 2011

Practicing the Poses We "Hate"

 Don't Shy Away From Difficult Poses!

I enjoy most of the yoga poses that I work on, but there are a few poses that I really, really don't like.  I hesitate to use the word "hate", but I do have a very strong negative reaction to a couple of poses in particular.  But some of the poses I used to "hate" I now enjoy, or at least don't mind practicing.

My least favorite pose is Virabhadrasana III, or Warrior Pose III.  My balance is often "iffy" to begin with, and the particular shape of this pose makes it even more difficult for me to hold for any length of time, given that my shoulders and upper back are on the stiff side and my low back is a little too mobile, and my arms somewhat weak in this extension.  But one of my students says this is her favorite pose!

Watch the following video to see how steady and beautiful this pose can be when practiced regularly!

Other poses that I used to "hate" are Paripurna navasana (full boat pose) and some of the seated forward bends, including Janu sirsasana (head to knee pose).   Now seated forward bends are among my favorite poses, and the boat poses don't give me much trouble either.  But it took diligent, mindful practice over an extended period of time to get there.    Hmmm.   I guess I need to work that way on Virabhadrasana III!

What is the pose that you "hate" or dislike most?   Why do you dislike it?
I'm guessing that the poses that we least like are those that are difficult or impossible for us to do.
But do you dislike all poses that are difficult for you?  (Hopefully not!)
What makes this pose especially unlovable for you? 
What are you doing to work through this dislike?
Are you practicing this pose in between classes, or are you avoiding it?

Can you think of ways to start to "make friends" with this pose?
Are there similar, but easier poses for you that might help you build up to your least favorite pose?

One suggestion is to decide to practice this pose 3 times a week, and sandwich it in between other poses that you can do more easily and that have some similarities with the pose that you dislike.  You may decide to work on an easier variation of the pose for awhile.   But then periodically try the full variation from time to time.  

You will not make friends with this pose or have it come easier if you do not practice it.  You know this.   Decide that you want to work on this pose, then do it.  Make a plan.  I can suggest ways to work on it (or your own teacher can help you).

These difficult, disliked poses will teach us more about ourselves if we work on them.  But avoiding them won't get us anywhere.  Don't shy away from the work it takes to improve your least favorite poses.   Even if they remain difficult, or not possible to do, you'll still be improving your practice overall, and gaining invaluable insights into your own self.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Practicing Yoga at Home

While we were having dinner with a couple of good friends last week, the guy mentioned that he had just started practicing yoga poses again, after a long break (many years I think).   He was browsing through Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar and noticed that the Appendix included yoga practice courses for beginning, intermediate, and advanced yoga students.   In these courses, B.K.S.  Iyengar lists sequences of poses for practicing each week.   Our friend is starting at Week 1 of the Beginning Course and plans to proceed at his own pace through the recommended sequences of poses week by week.

What a simple but effective plan for practicing yoga!

Students often ask me if they should practice yoga poses between classes (yes, please do!), and if so, what should they practice.    I usually tell them that they could do what they remember from class each week.  They'll learn and remember more as time goes by.   In general, doing the standing poses, downward facing dog pose, a twist or two, and the inversions that they're comfortable with will give them a good solid base for their home yoga practice.

I've talked about the benefits of practicing in between yoga classes and given tips for practicing in The Importance of a Yoga Home Practice.  You can refer back to that for ideas on how to develop your own home practice.     You'll also find a link there to Yoga Practice Sequences to get you started.

Also read Seven Basic Yoga Standing Poses to familiarize yourself with these important yoga postures.  This includes embedded YouTube videos of Senior Iyengar Yoga teacher, John Schumacher, giving good, clear instructions while demonstrating these seven yoga standing poses. 

For more variety in your practice, look through your yoga books for inspiration.  Many of my favorite Iyengar Yoga books included practice sequences for different experience levels.   Some of these sequences are for general practices, and some sequences are used for specific health purposes.   Following these sequences and referring back to the instructions in the books are a great way to familiarize yourself with the yoga poses.  

DVDs are fine as well, but I personally get more out of studying the pictures and instructions in a book to more fully understand the yoga poses that I'm practicing.

Below are three of my favorite Iyengar Yoga books that also include practice sequences for different levels of students (at the back of the book).    You may be able to find copies in the library, and many bookstores will carry them., of course, has them.....

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Yoga From the Heartland -- Registration Now Open

Registration is open now for the 2011 Regional Iyengar Yoga Conference, From the Heartland, which will be held in downtown Chicago, September 15 -- 18.

This will be a great opportunity for yoga students of all traditions, from beginning to advanced, to learn more about the practice of Iyengar Yoga.

For the opening ceremony on Thursday, September 15, the Keynote Address will be given by paraplegic yoga teacher Matthew Sanford, and there'll also be a presentation of a BKS Iyengar practice film with live cello accompaniment by cellist (and certified Iyengar Yoga teacher) Alicia Rowe.

There will be morning pranayama and asana classes, assigned by experience levels, and afternoon Special Topic classes that you choose when you register.

You'll have time between the morning and afternoon classes (1pm - 4pm) to enjoy one of the many films about Iyengar yoga, or to participate in chanting, or to practice in the practice salon if you so desire.  There'll also be an art exhibit, Union, that will run for 3 - 4 weeks, coinciding with the yoga conference.  Union is an exhibition of art works created by yoga practitioners from around the Midwest.

Or during the afternoon break you may want to wander around downtown Chicago.   The conference venue is at the Palmer House Hilton (except for the opening ceremony which will be at the Chicago Cultural Center), a short distance from Millenium Park and Lake Michigan.