Thursday, February 20, 2014

Preparing for Padangusthasana with Half-Pint.
Half-Pint making me laugh with his throaty half neighing to our mare, Centella, in the field next door.  He wants to play with her.

Ok, Half-Pint has accepted he will stay with me a little longer before going to the paddock to play.

Hmmmm, why is she leaning on me with one leg?

Humans are strange, but, okay.

She's happy so I'm happy and relaxed.
The pose, Padangusthasana,  translated as Big Toe Pose, is a fun pose to share with your horse.  First, make sure you have established a connection with your horse and that he is relaxed and receptive to your voice and movements. 
 Calmly and slowly lift your leg and foot into position.  It is at this point that your horse may decide to move away  from you so it is important that you  listen carefully to your horse's moods and signals.  When your horse is at ease he will hold his whole body loosely, face and ears will appear relaxed, sometimes the eyes are closed, and he  may lick his lips or lower his neck and head.
 Horses are trained to move away from pressure so when your body weight is pressing on his side and back his first tendency will be to move away  leaving you in an increasingly wider and wider straddle!  To counteract this reaction use your voice and your facial expressions to signal your calmness and peaceful intentions towards your horse.  Once you are in position stay very still and give your horse time to get used to the pressure on this back and to your position.  As he becomes more relaxed and learns through experience that you are not asking any more from him except to stand still and accept your weight,  he will remain still and calm for longer periods.
The benefits of this pose for humans are many.
  1. helps to reduce diabetes
  2. improves head to toe flexibility
  3. improves powers of concentration
  4. helps relieve anxiety
  5. improves respiration
  6. calms the nervous system
The benefits of this pose to your horse are many.
  1. learns to stand still and relaxed
  2. learns to accept your weight
  3. when you place your foot near the shoulders and withers you are connecting with his heart chakra
  4.  when you place your foot nearer his hips you are connecting with the lower chakras that govern his identity and self-confidence.
Poses to help prepare you and your horse for Padangusthasana are Warrior I and II while standing to the side of your horse and placing one hand on his withers, back or hip.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

photo by Corinne Rosita Aulakh:  Faro Escondiida, courtesy of B.N.

Beyond Limits
by Shemu'ab Tovah

The human body is always finite;
It is the spirit that is boundless.
Before he begins to pray,
A person should cast aside that which limits him
And enter the endless world of Nothing.
In prayer he should turn to God alone
And have no thoughts of himself at all.
Nothing but Go exists for him;
He himself has ceased to be.
The true redemption of man's soul can only happen
As he steps outside the body's limits.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Do you want to offer bi-lingual, Spanish-English, Yoga classes? 

     I live in Costa Rica.  My mother tongue is English.  Since moving to Costa Rica I have learned Spanish and although it is not perfect I love the everyday challenges of communicating in a second language.  Drawing from personal experience I  want to share with you some of my strategies for teaching a class in more than one language.

First, find a yoga text in Spanish so you have a good reference book to help you with names of poses and cues to give while demonstrating those poses.   Use search engines and Youtube to hear and learn Spanish phrases and cues used in a yoga class.

     For this blog I relied heavily on the Spanish text found in  Los Secretos del Yoga by Jennnie Bittleston and my own personal experience teaching yoga in Spanish and English.
Teaching strategies for a dual language yoga class
  1. If possible try to arrange to have similar levels of yoga experience  among your students.  This greatly facilitates communication in both languages.  Be prepared to physically demonstrate poses and or ask students to demonstrate poses for the class.
  2.   Be consistent  in the timing and the language used when transitioning  to each pose.  For example, if you use English first to cue a transition, and then repeat the cue in Spanish, continue to use English first.  Most people will appreciate having this predictability.
  3. If you are still learning Spanish, or any other second language, practice on your own, before class, and out loud, so you feel more comfortable saying and hearing the sounds.  Practice enunciating your words and yoga cues.  Speak slowly to insure that your students understand you.  
Helpful yoga cues and phrases in Spanish
Names of postures
  1. adhho mukha svanasana:  Perro boca abajo
  2. ardha chandrasana:  Media luna
  3. baddha konasana:  El zapater
  4.  chaturanga:  El baston con apoyo
  5. dandasana:  El baston
  6. dhanurasana:  El arco
  7.  garudasana:  Entrelazar los brazos
  8. gomukhasana:  Agarre de manos
  9. halasana:  El arado
  10. janu sirasana:  Cabeza contra rodilla
  11. Marishyasana:  El sabio
  12. parivritta trikonasana:  Triangulo invertido
  13. parsvottanasana:  Estiramiento lateral
  14. prasarita padottanasana:  El gran angulo
  15. salabhasana:  La langosta
  16. sarvangasana:  La vela
  17. savasana:  El cadaver
  18. sukhasana:  Postura facil
  19. supta baddha konasana:  El arado con piernas abiertas
  20. supta padangusthasana: Estiramiento de piernas en suelo
  21. supta tadasana:  La Montana tumbada
  22. supta virasana:  El heroe en el suelo
  23. tadasana:  La Montana de pie
  24. ustrasana:  El camello
  25. utkatasana:  La silla
  26. uttanasana:  Flexion hacia delante sentada
  27. utthita hasta padangusthasana:  Estiramientos de piernas
  28. utthita parsvakonasana:  Angulo lateral extendido
  29. utthita trikonasana:  El triangulo
  30. virabhadrasana:  El guerrero
  31. virasana:  El heroe
  32. vrksana:  El arbol
Here is a list of some useful verbs when giving cues to enter, hold and leave poses.
  1. to extend:  extendirse
  2. to get up:  levantarse
  3.  to lower:  bajarse
  4. to lie down:  acostarse, tumbarse
  5. to lie down, face up:  boca arriba
  6. to lie down, face down:  boca abajo
  7. to align:  alinearse
  8. to stretch:  flexionarse,estirarse
  9. to breath:  respirarse
  10. to adjust:  ajustarse
  11. to transfer:  transferir
  12. to maintain:  mantener
  13. to hold:  sostener
  14. to place:  colocarse
  15. to stabilize:  establarse
  16. to sit:  sentarse
  17. to hold onto or grab:  agarrar
  18. to bend:  doblarse
  19. to hold ( a pose):  aguantarse
  20. to focus:  concentrarse
  21. to turn:  girar
  22. to separate:  separarse
  23. to support:  apoyarse
Some adjectives and adverbs  you may find useful:
  1. straight:  recta,
  2. bent:  doblado
  3. deeply ( breath):  profundo
Some phrases you may find useful:
  1. forward:  adelante:  hacia delante:  hacia el frente
  2. backwards:  detras:  hacia detras
  3. towards:  hacia
  4. inside:  adentro:  hacia dentro
  5. outside:  afuera:  hacia afuera
This is just a sample of words and phrases you will need to teach a class in Spanish.  It is also very helpful to learn the parts of the body in Spanish.  Counting in Spanish is very useful too.
There is a lot of learning and practicing to do if you want to lead a successful yoga class in Spanish.   With preparation and practice it can be done.  Teaching a yoga class in a second language allows you to share your practice with more people and it helps you to refine your teaching skills as well. 
It also give you a wonderfully interesting opportunity to learn more about a second culture.  So, go for it.  You will find that your students will be very patient with you and appreciative of your efforts.  Yoga is for everyone;  don't let language stand in your way of sharing your passion with others.


Monday, February 10, 2014

Life is Good

It doesn't get much better than this.
Yoga means union.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

When I identify myself with the body, O Lord, I am Thy creature, eternally separate from Thee.  When I identify myself with the soul I  am a spark of that Divine Fire which Thou art.  But when I identify myself with the Atman, I and Thou art one.
by Hanuman to Shri Rama

Thursday, February 6, 2014

What's in your Yoga ibrary?

My personal reference yoga library.

I thought I would share with you some of the reference books and other resources I regularly read and consult.  I will list them in the order I acquired them as that in itself tells the story of my yoga journey.  I would love to hear from you what books or other yoga references have influenced your yoga story.

  1. Autobiography of a Yogi
  2. You Can Heal your Life by Louise L. Hay
  3. Yoga and the Path of the Urban Mystic by Darren Main
  4. Miracles Through Pranic healing by Master Choa Kok Sui
  5. many many back issues of Yoga international and Yoga Journal generously given to me by a fellow yogini here in Costa Rica, Janine Farrad
  6. Thirumoolar's Ashtanga Yoga by Dr. Asana Andiappan
  7. The Art and Science of Raja Yoga by Swami Kriyananda
  8. Yoga Anatomy by Kamnoff
  9. Yoga for Kids by Liz Lark
  10. Yoga for Real Women by Megan Garia
  11. The yoga sutras of Patanjali, translation and commentary by Sri Swami Satchidananda
  12. Cool Yoga Tricks by Miriam Ausin
  13. Stretch Exercises for your Horse by Karin Blignault
  14. Getting in TTouch;  Understand and Influence your Horse's Personality by Linda Tellington-Jones
  15. Chair Yoga by Edeltraud Rohnfeld
  16. Tantric Yoga and the Wisdom Goddesses:  Spiritual Secrets of Aurveda, by Frawley
  17. The Jewel in the Lotus, edited by Raghavan Iyer  ( thanks to the best sister-in-law in the world, Sally for sharing her copy with me first)
  18. Light on Yoga and Light on Pranayama by BKS Iyengar
  19. Asana Pranayama Mudra bandha by Swami Satyananda Saraswati
  20. Therapeutic Yoga by Dr. J.T. Shah
  22. Yoga
  23. my yogini daughter, Kiran and my eldest daughter Harpal for her wisdom, and my son Devindar for his inspiring music:  all my children have taught me lasting life lessons that I deeply value.


Tadasana, simple and elegant

Five reasons to perfect your Samasthithi, or Tadasana

This posture facilitates:

1.  total body alignment
2.  a more open chest , facilitating  deeper breathing
3.  strengthening of  total body ;  muscular and skeletal systems, eyes, nervous system
4. strengthening of muscles in the  feet
5. greater focus and concentration in all standing poses

The posture is deceivingly  simple;  just stand perfectly upright and in alignment from head to toe.  Easy to describe, not so easy to do.  I suggest you start by standing against a wall with your feet just a few inches away from the wall.  Let your buttucks be your guide. Let them lightly touch the wall and feel your shoulders just making contact with the wall.  This is your starting point.

Now, with the big bones just below your big toes touching, heels slightly apart, tuck the pelvis in using your lower abdominal muscles, try to lift your sternum ( do this to open the chest cavity), and let your chin be parallel to the floor, and let your eyes softly gaze on something directly in front of you. Arms hang by your sides, palms open and facing your thighs. Spread your fingers softly.

Try to visualize feeling grounded through your feet into Mother Earth. Relax the toes, lift the arches
( do this by subtly rolling your ankles in towards one another), feel the balance of your body standing over the middle of your feet, keeping light contact between the balls of your feet, your heels and the inner and outer soles of the feet.

Let your focus travel up your body from your feet and ankles. Soften the knees and tuck the pelvis. These two actions in conjunction with lifting the arches of your feet provide the alignment of your lower body. Now gently engage the mooladara and uddiana bandhas and then lift the sternum and chest. At this point you may have to adjust your pelvis and tuck it in again. Inhale and roll your shoulders up towards your ears and then drop them behind your ears and back, shoulders blades coming towards one another. There, almost finished getting into the pose.

Remember, how you get into and out of the pose is just as important as holding the pose. So, take your time, slow the breath, and calm the thoughts as you do this.

Bring your attention to your neck and head. The chin is held parallel to the floor, the eyes look in front of you and rest gently on a focal point, or dristhi. Smooth out any tension held in your forehead or in your jaw. Consciously relax the lips and mouth and even the tongue. Visualize relaxing your hairline and the back of your head. Let the ears relax into place.

Take a few deep cleansing breaths, adjust your posture again. Bring your focus to your ajna chakra.

You are in Tadasana or Samasthithi. Enjoy the pose and breath.

Breath and enjoy the beautiful sensations of your energy pulsing through your body.  Enjoy the peace and calmness.  

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Don't know what yoga is but you want to do it anyway

What is yoga?  Why do people do it?  and was exactly is "it" that they are doing?  

Yoga has many faces.  People are practicing it all over the world.  For some it is a deeply spiritual practice, for others a physical workout.  The common denominator is that the practice of Yoga is an individual pursuit.

Yoga relies on experience, your personal experience.  The more time you devote to your practice the more you experience the changes in body, mind, and soul.  Even if you are not looking for those changes they happen.  That is the wonder of a yoga practice.

If you approach yoga from a physical perspective; looking for improved flexibility and strength, you will absolutely experience these changes in your body.  What you may not be looking for, but will experience, is a positive change in your energy level and your mood.  These transformations occur hand in hand with the transformations your body will experience.

The same is true if you come to Yoga with the goal of deepening your spiritual practice.  Following the tenets of Yoga you will definitely experience a deeper connection with your choice of Divinity and definitely will experience more joy and peace in your life.  On this path you will also strengthen your body and realize greater range of motion and better physical health.

Without an exception all Yoga masters tell their students, "practice, practice, practice."  The Sutras of Patanjali expound on this theme also.  Why is this a central part of a yoga practice?  This is so because Yoga is an experience, your experience.  Another way to put it is; yoga is your story and you are writing it, you are in charge.

As the author of your story you may take guidance from your yoga teacher, from the writings of other Yoga masters, but ultimately you are responsible for yourself.