Falling for Yoga

The seasons are changing – weather is chilling, moods are shifting. It’s a time of transition, something that those of us that live in regions that experience four seasons go through four times each year, but each time still feels new and fresh. Sometimes excitement for cozy blankets and books, sometimes with sadness to lose the heat of summer. Likely a bit of both.

For me this change of season is a time to rededicate myself to my yoga practice. People are sometimes surprised to learn that my practice ebbs and flows. This is hard to admit. I know that I should, and need, to be practicing yoga daily, but like all other human beings living in our high paced, overworked, distraction filled modern times, I too have difficulty at times practicing as much as I should. Recently this has become more apparent to me via workshops and meditation.

As a yoga teacher I have been trying my humble best to give my students as much of my knowledge and genuine self as I can. I spend a lot of time studying articles and books about sequencing and anatomy, but what gets pushed aside for the book work and for balancing my time with my family, my full-time job, and teaching gigs, is my practice.

I have never totally lost my practice, it just gets smaller and smaller to where I am sustaining my flexibility and strength but am not evolving it. With this public post and inspiration from the falling leaves, I recommit to setting my alarm, abiding by it, and rolling out my mat. Making a habit stick takes time, 21 to 60 days at least, so I am hopeful that by the time winter rolls around that I will have made personal progress.

The primary goal not being to “land” or “master” certain poses nor to improve my Instagram feed – although if being totally honest, both of those things are benefits of a constant practice, sad as it is we live in a social media world; the primary goal is to have personal discipline and to learn my body more in-depth. By doing these two things I will improve my personal practice and my teaching abilities.

With the weather cooling down and the hygge setting in, I am ready to fall for my yoga practice again. To fall in love and to fall out of inversions. To heat up with vinyasa and to cool down with restorative. To be the forever student that I so love to be, not just a bookworm, but a student of the mat.

Acro Yoga – A Performance

Recently I was approached by my friend and studio owner, Mindy Sisco, to represent her studio along with three others in an acro yoga performance. Mindy is away, traveling and training in the US so cannot perform herself, so instead the line up is: her business partner, Simon, two other talented local acro yogis, and myself. An event in Seoul celebrating International Yoga Day on June 21, 2015 is where  we will show off our work.

It is because of this upcoming performance that I have been doing less and less yoga and more and more acro yoga these days.UNWorldYogaDay As mentioned in a previous post, I am fairly new to acro and do not have a solid and disciplined practice like I do with my traditional yoga. Therefore, I must admit that I was hesitant to agree to join the group when first asked. I didn’t feel that I was good enough or well-practiced enough. I also struggled with the idea of “performing” when it comes to yoga. I’m aware that there are such things as yoga asana competitions in which men and women push their bodies’ to the limit in order to demonstrate advanced postures in front of judges who then chose a winner. Odd, right? To me yoga is about the body and mind; it is a personal and mental practice of leaving your ego off of the mat. Competing with others to see who can do a balancing pose the best seems to me to be the antithesis of yoga. Logically then, I should have politely declined the opportunity, of myself performing yoga in front of people at a big event, right? Well, maybe, but there are a few reasons why I went against my beliefs.

First of all, acro yoga and traditional yoga are similar, yet different. Acro is generally done not only for the enjoyment of working with a partner and pushing individual/partner limits, but also to be watched and appreciated by others. Often groups of friends or strangers get together in public spaces to practice and play. I am sure that the majority of acro yogis do not practice in public simply to boost their ego, but more likely it is to share their art and skill.

It would be a sad, sad world if artists and musicians practiced and played mostly behind closed doors; I think it is the same for acro yoga.

Secondly, I knew that pushing myself and having a clear deadline to perfect a performance piece with others would be good for me. There is never an endsight with an asana yoga practice, it always continues, it is unlikely that someone will practice for years on end and then one day – “poof!” cross the finish line and complete their yoga practice. Yes, it is common to use a certain pose as motivation, for example trying to hold headstand (Salambasana) in the middle of the room is a common goal, but once that is achieved there are other variations of it to try and so many other challenging postures to work towards. It is exciting and rewarding to push the limits, which is how I look at this performance.

The final, reason why I am practicing 5-6 days a week, 2-3 hours at a time is because I hope that our final product will act as inspiration to others. I know I am not the only one who searches for images or videos of yoga or acro yoga. I enjoy finding new yoga-eye-candy online to watch in awe and admire the feats of the human body. I am a humble person, but I do hope that the audiance at the event, as well as those who view a video of our practices or performance will take something away from it that tickles their acro or yoga fancy and inspires them to jump back into bird after repeatedly falling on their face.

Spring Equinox 108 Sun Salutations – Lesson in Discipline

Yep, you read that correctly, one-hundred-and-eight Sun Salutations. That was the number that a group of us in Busan, South Korea recently performed for the Spring Equinox to mark the arrival of spring. The number has significance, which I will not go into here, what I want to touch upon is the discipline required to perform such a feat.

It might be hard to grasp how big of a number that is in terms of performing a yoga sequence and in case you are not familiar with what a Sun Salutation is, let me first explain that. There are two primary, traditional Sun Salutations, known as Sun A and Sun B, or Surya Namaskara A and B in Sanskrit. They are routines of poses performed in a quick moving pace, one breath one movement. By their name, you may have guessed that they were traditionally performed in the morning at sunrise to salute the sun, giver of all energy. In western yoga classes they are still performed, but usually long after the hours of sunrise. If you’ve attended a yoga class, chances are are that you performed either, or both A and B as a warm up that begins the class. Typically a teacher guides students through 4-6 salutes as a warm up, and boy do they do the trick to warm up the muscles, so imagine how much heat is created performing 108!!

108

For this event there were six teachers who split the teaching. Each teacher had free reign as to which salute (A and/or B) and whatever modifications they wanted to add on. The first three teachers who taught added a lot of modifications to their sequences, which was a great workout and  a good mental practice. That first section was where the practice of discipline was really honed for me. Thoughts went through my mind such as,

“This is difficult, I wish I could take a rest, but no, keep enduring with everyone else!”

It truly helped to pump through the event with a group. We were all silently working towards the same goal.

You don’t have to be participating in a long event to struggle with endurance in yoga, in any yoga class or in your home practice, you might bump into big walls that try to push you down and defeat you. I have two views on how to react to those overbearing obstacles; first, succumb to the pressure and take a rest; second, kick up some dirt and plow through that bad boy.

To expand, during any physical activity it is good to be reminded and to remind yourself, that it is not necessary to overexert yourself. Not only is it not necessary, but it is generally not safe as injuries can arise. As a teacher, I remind my students to take child’s pose whenever they need to and I enjoy when I see students doing just that because I know that they’re listening to their bodies and giving themselves the rest that they need in the moment.

Saluting the sun.

Saluting the sun.

On the other hand, it’s also good to grit your teeth and go deeper.You have to ask yourself if you really need the break, or if you can push on and complete the pose or sequence (safely.) For if you always slumped into child’s pose instead of giving it one more go, you might never discover that you can accomplish a pose. Also, you wouldn’t be building the strength that comes with those trembling quads in your 42nd warrior pose of the afternoon.

After an intermission of moving entertainment by two fellow yogis, who perfored a stunning acro yoga sequence, we moved on to the last three teachers, I should mention that I was one of the teachers in the last set! At this event I was the final one to lead and for this reason, I switched my lesson plans up a little bit by removing all chaturungs to give achy wrists a break (did anyone just get Achy Breaky Heart in their head? If you didn’t, you do now!) Personally it wasn’t my wrists that needed the break as much as burning triceps! It was very rewarding as a teacher to be able to guide everyone through the final salutes and to give the cue of “Just three more.” and “Last one, you did it!” There were smiles and sighs at the completion of the event. And I’m sure we all learned a little something about ourselves in the push through those 108.

 


This event was organized by Kaizen yoga studio of Busan. It is the wonderfully talented and ambitios Mindy Sisco who has made the equinox and solstice events possible that I have been so fortunate to be a part of. Mindy and her business partner Simon have regular classes at their gym. Schedule and pricing can be found here.

Mindy and Simon of Kaizen.

Mindy and Simon of Kaizen.

 



Simon of Kaizen is credited with all photos of the Spring Equinox event used in this post.