What It Means To Be Advanced
A few years ago, I was approached by a photographer who wanted to work with me. In preparation for our shoot, I was presented with a portfolio of postures to consider. As I swiped through my options, I had no choice but to respond with, “Nope, can’t do that one. And, nope, can’t do that one either.”
How To Be An Effective Sub
One of the most difficult aspects of being a teacher is teaching for someone else. While subbing is a necessity of this profession, one that offers an amazing opportunity to refine our craft, it’s not always easy or obvious. It can be challenging to navigate a space we did not personally cultivate, and it can be intimidating to face the visible disappointment or even outright resentment wafting from the students. Our mere presence puts us at a clear disadvantage: we are not their teacher!
Self-Adjustments: Ankle-to-Knee Pose
Ankle-to-Knee Pose (Double Pigeon/Firelog) has always been an effective hip-opener for my body. I typically work with some degree of tension in my hips due to compensatory patterns from muscle weakness and what I suspect are some structural variations. It’s definitely not an easy pose for me, even after almost twenty years of practice, but it has has taught me so much about acceptance, patience, and compassion.
Growing Your Classes
When it comes to growing your classes, I believe that quality is more important than quantity. In my opinion, success lies in being the best teacher you can be. Building community has always been more important to me than building a following. That said, teaching is also my profession—it’s how I put food on the table.
The Art of Sequencing
One of the principles of effective sequencing is that it should tell a story. The structure of a sequence follows an arc. There’s an opening and a warm up, where concepts are introduced and developed. Then there’s the climax, where those concepts are applied under challenging circumstances at the peak of heat. And finally, the denouement, where the story is resolved. As the author of a yoga sequence, you have to work backward. First, you must identify the most complex pose you’d like to teach. Then, you boil that pose down to its essence and strategize accessible ways to introduce its component parts throughout your class. As your students develop familiarity and proficiency with the actions, the stakes are slowly raised. Finally, you craft a cool down that neutralizes the body both physically and energetically.
Headstand: A Practice
Sirsasana, or Headstand, is a perpetual work in progress for me. I’ve made peace with this for two reasons. First, and most importantly, everything in life is a work in progress. And second, I’m not driven by a desire to do Sirsasana, or really any other pose for that matter. I want to understand it.
Change Your Lens
There’s a fantastic sutra in the first pada, or chapter, of the Yoga Sutras in which Patanjali suggests that steadiness of mind can be found by contemplating an enlightened soul. Georg Feurstein elaborates: “Or [restriction is achieved when] consciousness is directed to [those beings who] have conquered attachment” (The Yoga-Sūtra of Patañjali). Truth be told, I’ve never really found this sutra to be especially useful in my life, and here’s why: I don’t know anyone who’s enlightened, at least not personally. Do you?
Creating A Home Altar
I have a special place in my home devoted to my spiritual practice. My altar includes photos of my teachers (yoga and family) and some objects that inspire me: statues of Lakshmi, the goddess of abundance, and Ganesha, the remover of obstacles, some rocks, crystals, and trinkets I’ve collected, and a Catholic prayer card given to me by a dear friend. I like to spend a few minutes in front of my alter every day contemplating my life and my practice, but what I’ve learned over the years is that this physical space I’ve created in my home is really just a reflection of the altar within me. Every object, every photo is simply a manifestation of that which lies deep inside. I carry it with me always.
In Sutra 1.28, Patanjali explains that mental stability can be gained through meditation on an experience had in a dream or deep sleep. When we dream, we are uninhibited by our conscious minds and can therefore tap into deeper states of intuition, free from doubt. We may become aware of the underlying beliefs that influence both our perceptions and actions; these realizations can liberate us from our invisible chains.