Tag Archives: Rod Stryker

What Exactly Do You Learn At A Yoga Conference Anyways?

Last weekend, 2,000 yoga teachers and students gathered for five days at the Hilton Hotel in Midtown Manhattan. I was lucky enough to attend the gathering: the Yoga Journal Conference 2011. It was a last-minute opportunity. I’d never been to a huge, multi-teacher yoga event before, and the whole idea of a “yoga conference” seemed kind of weird — I usually do yoga to retreat from the world for a bit, not to pick up goodie bags and chat with friends. But my eyes were soon open wide. I learned an immense amount in two days, and they weren’t just lessons about alignment or breathing. Some teachers shared information straight from ancient books; some gave wholly modern takes on yoga lifestyles.


from Rod Stryker
The path of yoga is to clear the mind (as taught by Patanjali) or to clear the energy (as taught in Tantra). In yoga we usually feel better because we’re doing the latter. You’re probably doing more Tantra than you think! As we age, we focus less on a physical practice and more on an energetic one. We can learn to hold our energy in, to keep it from going to our heads or out through our senses. Muscular locks (bandhas), combined with mental intention, are one of the most important yoga practices. The senses are actually places where energy is lost, not gained.


from Seane Corn
The sign of an advanced practice is not strength or flexibility. It has everything to do with breath and intention. If you’re a beginner, and you find yourself in an advanced class, remember your sense of humor. Look around and learn. Breathe. How you react to a difficult situation might be a reflection of how you react to many things in your life… I was often using food to anesthetize myself from emotions that were rising. To move forward took self-reflection, recognition, standing in discomfort rather than disconnecting. But also honoring the impulse that needed comfort.


from Matthew Sanford
The principles of yoga don’t discriminate. The poses do. But the principles are universal. We must move inward in order to move outward. Root the heels in order to lift the head. Strength in service of a sense of direction is grace. What is the true nature of your strength? Where does it truly reside? What has yoga taught you about that? The best part of yourself is not a psychological realization. The best guarantee of presence, of connection to the world, is your body. When my son comes to me for a hug, he doesn’t want sympathy. The hug gives a boundary to the suffering, so it can be less… In yoga poses, you’re integrating what you can feel and can know with what you can’t feel and can’t know. I call this the silence. The conduit of the inner body is not the muscular action. It’s the silence. What you’re seeking in a yoga practice is the ability to synthesize the silence with daily life.


from Shiva Rea
In our twenties we think that we’re supposed to burn through everything, but as we grow older we learn how to keep the fire inside.


from Cameron Shayne
The way you do anything is the way you do everything. Find your stable base in any pose: keep the attention on the perimeter, and hug into the midline to grow light. Initiate movement from the ground up. What we think of as yoga comes mostly from one man, Krishnamacharya. If someone else had gotten there first, our practices would be very different. His style was very linear, and this is reinforced by the shape of our mats. In Budokon (yoga plus martial arts), we move in circles, spirals, waves. We leap, like all other animals… At some point you have to innovate. You don’t have to make up poses; you make your own voice within the poses.


from James Murphy
In order to turn, to twist deeply, we must first stretch and lengthen up. We must either ground one end, and extend the other, or stretch both ends away from each other. Access the periphery, and feed it back into the core. Start by pressing through the heels; feel the difference it makes. Raise the arms above the head, and feel how it helps the chest. “It’s impossible to be depressed with the armpits open.” –BKS Iyengar


from Ana Forrest
How do we learn to address our own needs? My bottom line is: what brightens/feeds my spirit? My yoga practice has drained a lot of the numbness, so that I feel the effects of everything. It gave me a sense of trust in my ability to discern my truth for myself. In healing my bulimia, I had to ask myself questions. What is contentment? (Especially for one who is so intense, and strives?) What is it I’m really needing? (Doing my best to stop, take some major deep breaths, and assess what’s really going on.) What is a correct relationship with food, for me? (What, when, how much, why?) Come back to what works for you, and find something better to obsess about.


from Aadil Palkhivala
A body in balance craves that which keeps it in balance. A body out of balance craves that which takes it further from balance. What we need to do is not to stop the craving, but bring the body back in balance.


from David Romanelli
A “yogic diet” is one that focuses on savoring food, slowing down, instead of speed and efficiency… There are many ways to reach yoga (that comfortable, relaxed state). Chocolate is one of those ways.


from Judith Lasater
How do you define a senior? BKS Iyengar is 92, you wouldn’t put him in a senior class. The real definition is someone 10 years older than you. Slowing down is the same thing as waking up. Everything you do in yoga should be a metaphorical speed bump, to slow you down. Your homework is to do everything 10% slower.


The physical classes associated with these lessons were of course wonderful — you get to feel these lessons, as well as understand them intellectually — but the parallel principles of teachers from all over the world will keep me thinking for a while.

All photos courtesy of yjevents.com

Bandha Practice with Rod Stryker

Rod Stryker at the Yoga Journal NYC Conference 2011
Teaching "the supreme energetic and physiological lock"

Learned a lot at the Yoga Journal Conference today. (You can still drop in on classes tomorrow!) The hardest thing was choosing a schedule — there were 12 amazing teachers for each block! I went for mostly West Coast people that are here less often, and other teachers who were new to me.

Here are my notes on the first session with Rod Stryker, which left me feeling AMAZING — buzzing yet settled down, like I’d just had a massage. (I’ll post more session notes over the next few days.) Apologies for any misquotes!

Rod Stryker: Bandha: The Theory, Application, and Practice. (5/14/11, 8-10am)

Great way to start the morning: an hour reviewing a key technique, and then an hour actually feeling it in poses. Rod’s lesson:

There are two paths to yoga (union):

  1. chitta — still the mind (Patanjali’s eight-limbed path, as explained in the sutras)
  2. prana — use the energy (Tantra, has no single source book)

Most yoga classes, you feel better b/c you’ve done the latter, moved energy.

Tantra

“You’re probably doing more Tantra than you think.”

Our experience of the world depends on our filter. In yoga, the filter is the mind. In tantra, the filter is the energy. Change your energy, change your experience.

Start thinking of yourself as a vessel of energy. Understand three principles:

  1. your vessel is leaking (eyes, ears, hands, genitals are all places we lose energy)
  2. energy is misplaced
  3. the energy in your vessel is dirty

Bandhas

Two meanings: bondage, holding back, restraint AND bond, connection. Like hydroelectric power: they are walls which contain a flow.

Jalandhara Bandha — chin lock (jala = net, to catch)
— gets the least press (who cares about the neck?), let’s cover it first.
— related to the inhale
— lengthening of the cervical spine, lifting of the collarbones, dropping of the chin (optional)
— (those w/a flattened cervical spine should not be doing it)
— stops energy from rising above the collarbones, from going to the head and the intellect
— raises the blood pressure; the subsequent drop is good for meditation
— don’t jam the neck, lift the occiput

Uddiyana Bandha — navel lock (ud = lift, fly)
— supreme lock, in the teachings, physiologically and energetically
— drawing of navel in and up, compresses and lifts the abdominal organs to the spine
— only done on the pause after exhalation
— can’t be done when inhaling or after inhale
— people often misappropriate the term, they really mean “lift your lower abs”

Mula Bandha — root lock (mula = root)
— gets the most press (like kids, we like to talk about the farting / pooping / sex area :)
— pelvic diaphragm moves gently up (often follows navel diaphragm)
— not gripping or muscling, not contracting or hardening… just lifting
— specifically the anterior side
— pretty much the same as Kegels
— but the mental focus and intention is what leads to pranic control
— three muscle groups involved: frontal muscles, anus, and perineal floor
— to feel those three groups think about holding in #1, #2, and … (there is no #3 :)
— move towards it on exhale
— effects change if done on exhale or inhale
— if done on inhale, it disengages you from basic biological functions (might have trouble eliminating, menstruating, grounding, putting down roots in the world)
— ok if you’re a saddhu trying to disassociate from the world, but not great for city people
— “if I lived in NYC, I would not be doing a lot of mula bandha on the inhale”

The bandhas open the door to the next stage of practice — more energetic, less somatic.

Practice

Mental energy will give you mastery of prana. Physical techniques are secondary.

Good poses to start/teach the practice of bandhas in asana:

Jalandhara — bridge
Uddiyana — standing w/hands on knees (traditional), forward folds, bridge
Mula — chair, down dog, some gentle forward bends

Just do maybe 4 or 5 rounds of bandha in asana. Can deepen practice if preparing for pranayama, meditation, etc.

Sequences (that I remember)

We did some gentle salutations to warm up the body. Stepping back to lunge, and then forward to forward bend (no vinyasas). Keeping the neck long, the head slightly back was a challenge, but it helped me stop feeling faint in that transition! A couple sequences that really helped me feel the locks:

  1. Three part bridge — Lying on back, knees bent, inhale and raise hips. Hold there and exhale fully. Roll down holding the breath and suction the belly in and up. (Can add raising and lowering of arms, or flexion and extension of arms with interlaced fingers, to increase the effects.)
  2. Table to Down Dog — Kneeling on all fours, keep cervical spine long. Exhale and tuck the tail and roll the belly up and in. Hold the breath and slowly straighten the legs into Down Dog. (To the count of six or so.) More intense practice.
  3. Sitting — Breath of Fire, then Maha Bandha (all three locks)

Rod has a book coming out in July called The Four Desires: Creating a Life of Purpose, Happiness, Prosperity, and Freedom. He also has a 23 (yes, twenty-three) CD boxed set that I’m sorely tempted to buy. (It’s called Tantra: The Radiant Soul of Yoga.) Five two-hour asana/pranayama/meditation practices, five one-hour “deepening practices”, 47 talks on the theory and science of practice, 14 different meditations, and 12 pranayama practices. Dang. He seems to like this stuff.

You can keep up with Rod on twitter at @parayogatweets or on Facebook at ParaYogaFB.

Check back tomorrow for another session of Yoga Journal Conference notes!