Whew! I headed to a 60-minute pilates class at Greenhouse that turned out to be a 90-minute vinyasa class with 20-second holds on most poses. It was “basics”, but I left with wobbly legs and a happy head.
Leigh taught this class, and I was really impressed with its arrangement.
First of all, she had everyone practice the beginners’ variations of poses as a warm up (e.g. Side Plank with one knee down) so that later, when she called out the full pose, she could just say “or do the beginners’ variation we did earlier.”
Secondly, she stayed really focused and used several different poses to illustrate a major principle of alignment. So we did Lunge, focusing on tucking the tail, rotating the back thigh in and up, straightening the back leg. Then, Warrior I with those same adjustments. Later, Dancer with the same adjustments. It was a really good way to ingrain a proper habit: slowly, repeatedly, in varied contexts. At a slow pace everyone, no matter their experience level, can do some work.
The steady, intense class turned out to be just what I needed. And the alignment details were great. Thanks Leigh!
Today I finally went to Golden Bridge, the kundalini studio in SoHo that I’d heard so much about. It’s a branch of the hugely popular studio in LA.
The space was less immense than I expected; it’s a cozy townhouse with one classroom per floor (and retail on the ground level), fireplaces and couches skirting the classroom. I felt really at home.
Siri Sat Kaur taught a great class, peppered with a lot of information. Kundalini tends to give you a lot more of the WHY behind the poses. I’ll paraphrase her comments.
We started off with sithali pranayam, a cooling breath where you roll your tongue into a U and inhale, then exhale with closed mouth through the nose. It’s good for the hot season, or amusing children.
Then we did a spinal warmup similar to the one I do in the mornings:
seated breath of fire with arms in a V above head, fingertips curled (ego eradicator)
seated spinal flexion with hands on ankles, then hands on knees (stretching lower, then middle back)
seated spinal twists with hands on shoulders (sitting on heels)
Next were the pelvic exercises. The major triangle is formed by our root, sacral and navel chakras. When this part of the body is in balance, the whole body can balance.
long deep breathing in reverse table top (hands facing back, torso parallel to floor)
breath of fire in wheel (surprisingly difficult, I ran out of breath a lot)
breath of fire in stretch pose (on back, stretch head, hands and feet towards the front of the room)
long deep breathing with alternating forward bends (standing with feet medium wide, hands together over head, hinging from hips to touch hands in front of each foot)
Then we did some heart opening poses. The heart is the center of love, but also of fear, compassion, and right action. When you move from the heart, you will never go wrong. The heart is connected to the thymus gland, which regulates your immune system.
long deep breathing in cat-cow, with leg extension on the inhale and knee-to-nose on the exhale (burned like the Buns of Steel I did as a teenager)
sitting with arms at 90º out to sides, clenching fingers like a cat, with breath of fire
Finally, some relaxation and meditation:
five minutes in corpse
ten minutes sitting with hands in front of heart, palms facing out, index fingers touching and thumbs touching to make a triangle, other fingers folded to the center of the palm
I’m forgetting some poses, but it was a well-balanced class. I love how kundalini integrates asana, prayanama, and meditation into one. It doesn’t give you the stretched-out-workout feeling, you have to keep up vinyasa for that, but I get a serious happy buzz the evening or morning after a difficult class because it balances the glands and hormones. Strange but true.
The founder of the LA studio, Gurmukh, is teaching a couple workshops this weekend. Then she’ll be in LA until October. I want to go, but they’re $55 each, so I’m on the fence. Which is not so comfy.
Last week I vacationed w/family in the Outer Banks. A big shady deck with an ocean view might just be my dream yoga spot, and I don’t even like the beach. I have not felt so motivated to get up and practice in a while. Morning practice was easy, and daily! My aunt and sister joined a couple days, which helped. It reminds me of the importance of environment — and how weird it is to do yoga in a huge city.
On tired days, I started off with some reclined hip openers and seated spinal stretches. On energized days, I went straight into gentle sun or moon salutations, and did more standing poses, bends, and balances. I came up with a new warrior sequence that I liked a lot, I did it all week. Here are the chunks:
“I’M TIRED” WARM-UP
Wind Relieving Pose (hug the right knee into the chest)
Reclined Spinal Twist
Straighten leg to the sky and point/flex/circle the foot
Pilates Circles with the whole extended leg
Reclined Side Soldier (take Yogi Toe Lock and open the leg to the side)
Reclined Extended Spinal Twist (switch hands on the foot and take it across the body)
repeat on the other side
Single Leg Raises (10x, up and down to the count of 4)
Camel Ride (sitting with hands on knees, flex spine forward and back w/Breath of Fire)
Chinese Drum (hands on shoulders, twist left and right w/Breath of Fire)
Shoulder Shrugs (hands on thighs, lift and drop shoulders w/Breath of Fire
Sun or Moon Salutations (3-6 each side) with focus on BREATHING and LIGHTNESS
Triangle (both sides)
Wide-Legged Forward Bend
Extended Side Angle (right side)
Forward Angle (right side)
Forward Angle Bind (hands clasped behind back)
Humble Warrior (slide back foot back, drop head to floor)
Vinyasa and repeat on other side
BALANCE POSES (choose a few)
Topping Tree (from Humble Warrior, straighten front leg and lift back leg towards sky)
BACKBENDS (just the Sivananda basics)
Sphinx or Cobra
Seated Forward Bend
Seated Spinal Twist
Various Seated Twists (Marichyasana I-IV) after boogie boarding hurt my back
LONG-TIME POSES (essentials, held 10 breaths to 5 minutes)
Each day’s version varied slightly, and at no point did I do all poses listed above, but the general arrangement stuck. I lost my breathing practice, though. I did some Breath of Fire in the poses, but I only did Alternate Nostril Breathing once. (That instance, however, was delicious and way more appreciated after missing it.) I meant to do both this morning before leaving for the airport, but 5:45 was already way early for my freelax body.
I’m heading out to Amanda’s Sweat & Flow tonight… or the park?
Last night I jogged to the park and did almost the entire Atmananda Sequence. It takes about an hour to do all 69 poses — it’s a very fast vinyasa class. I forgot Peacock, Firefly, and Boat. I skipped Frog and Sleeping Yogi. (Legs behind the head in the middle of Brooklyn is a little racy, even for me.) This is the sequence that inspired me to do a teacher training. It’s great for strength, flexibility, and focus (it’s so fast you have to pay complete attention or you lose it).
This morning I did 3 rounds Breath of Fire, 5 rounds Alternate Nostril Breath, 3 rounds Sun Salutes. Then:
Wide-legged Forward Bend (the Ashtanga sequence starts similarly)
Triangle, each side
Forearm Stand (lifting up for 2 seconds!)
Seated Forward Bend
Seated Spinal Twist
All very brief. Probably 15 minutes to do the 9 poses listed. I was just intending to do one Sun Salute, to stretch my sore muscles (Yiannis’ class Sunday morning had a lot of challenging poses I hadn’t done in a while; Julianna’s class Monday night held the poses for at least 20 seconds each) but I fell into the Sivananda poses after that. Benefits of sequence-based practice.
Soon I will post a comparison of the most popular yoga sequences; I’m curious to see how they compare visually.
I actually did a decent sequence this evening in the park. I’ve been doing way more breathing exercises and meditation than “actual poses” lately, so it felt great to stretch. Although it’s always weird to practice in a crowded Brooklyn park, you feel so many eyes on you (even if they’re not). Here’s the part that flowed really nicely:
Prayer Pose (standing, w/hands together)
Forward Bend w/hands interlaced behind back
Bound Revolved Side Angle
Bound Revolved Half Moon
Airplane (low lunge with forearms on ground)
Hamstring Stretch (from low lunge, sit hips back on heel and stretch front leg)
Half Moon (circling arm forward and leaning onto front leg to come up)
Full Dancer’s Pose (both hands over head to grasp toe)
Then the other side. Tree into Flying Crow was also a nice transition. And I held a Handstand, unsupported, for 2 whole seconds :)
The nice thing about the park is that I can jog to warm up, so I don’t have to do Sun Salutes! I really hate them most of the time. Which means I’m doing them wrong…
Sometimes I add my favorite sequence ever: the Kundalini Spinal Warmup. It is great for days when you can’t bring yourself to practice vinyasa, or you’re really stiff, or you’re tired and can’t think, or your back hurts, or you have shoulder problems. Sitting in easy pose:
Hands on knees: Flex spine forward and back, with Breath of Fire (20 seconds – 2 minutes)
Hands on shoulders, elbows out: Rotate spine side to side, with Breath of Fire (20 seconds – 2 minutes)
Hands clasped in front of heart (Bear Grip), pulling on each other: Rock alternate elbows up and down, with Deep Breathing (20 seconds – 2 minutes)
Hands still clasped in front of heart: Inhale deeply. Exhale deeply. Raise clasped hands above the head. Inhale deeply. Exhale deeply. (3 times)
Hands on knees. Inhale and hunch shoulders up to ears; exhale and drop them, with Breath of Fire (20 seconds – 2 minutes)
Hands on knees. Tip chin to chest; inhale and roll head around in a circle, lifting from the jaw as it reaches the back. (5 times clockwise, 5 times counterclockwise)
Sit on your heels (Rock Pose) and interlace your fingers above your head, index fingers extended to the sky. Close the eyes and focus between the eyebrows. Inhale and think Sat (truth); exhale and think Nam (named), using Breath of Fire. (2 minutes)
I always skip the last one for some reason.
Another great wakeup exercise is Spinal Jump Rope. Sitting in Easy Pose, with the hands on the knees:
Focus on the navel. Gently start to spiral the lower back clockwise, making each loop a bit larger than the last. Inhale circle it forward and exhale circle it back. Visualize the navel like a sparkler tracing a circle in space. Continue for a couple minutes, then gently slow back to center and do the other direction.
Focus on the heart. Same as before, but making gentle circles with the upper back.
Focus on the throat. Same as before, but making gentle circles with the neck.
I did this a few weeks ago and couldn’t stop. My spine got really warmed up and the movement became completely unconscious. I was like a circling Sufi or something. Really weird.
Today I added 5 Sun Salutes; we’ll see if that sticks.
Today I was an art director, alignment coach, hair assistant, styling assistant, and fluffer (of a ponytail). Sabina, Brian and I did a photo shoot for our new yoga book at a beautiful studio on Hudson St. Over 100 poses, and we finished right as the parking lot was about to lock up. Funny how that works.
I got home and practiced a little, to stretch out:
Talking on the phone pose…
5 Moon Salutes (it was dark out)
Scorpion (inspired by Sabina’s 3-in-a-row rockness)
Seated Forward Bend
Easy Spinal Twists
Then a candle meditation for about 15 minutes, which made me realize I should post and track my hours tonight.
Here is my practice sequence from last week. I’ve been trying to rest a hip strain (the massage therapist and acupuncturist said it needs 4-12 WEEKS of rest), so this gentle sequence from Dr. Amrit Raj was much appreciated. (He was in town for a “Yoga & Ayurveda” workshop at Exhale.)
This is a light sequence, safe for anyone. We did about 10-20 reps each one. The numbers in front are just my mnemonic device. Start off sitting, with legs extended.
10 – Flex toes about 10x (inhale point, exhale flex)
9 – Flex feet about 10x
8 – Circle ankles about 5x each way
7 – Flex knee about 10x each side (clasp foot, bend knee to chest, then straighten leg)
6 – Flex hips about 10x (butterfly position — inhale up, exhale forward)
5 – Round spine and roll forward and back about 10x
4 – On stomach, hold bow pose about 30 seconds
– Rock forward and back about 10x
– Rock side to side about 10x
3 – Clench fingers about 10x (sitting, with arms extended up)
2 – Flex hands about 10x
1 – Circle wrists about 5x each way
0 – Circle shoulders about 5x each way (with arms bent, hands on shoulders)
1 – Turn neck left, right, up, down about 5x
2 – Turn eyes left, right, up, down about 5x
Then 5 minutes of alternate nostril breathing
Then 5 minutes of meditation
I did this every morning last week, and by the middle of the week a chronic charley horse in my foot was completely gone.