Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Hapa Yoga -First Class Free

A new local studio Hapa yoga offers the first class free to all new students. This Thursday from 2-3 pm YogaWell teacher/mentor/ SHELBY LAFRINERE, E-RYT is teaching a Recovery class (think yin/restorative/gentle)... check out for details!!!!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

To flow or not to flow? Tips for better alignment

Whenever I attend a vinyasa style class where there is (more or less) continuous dance-like movement, resonant music, lilting vocal instructions of a master teacher filtering through the spaces between the students like the tide on a pebbled beach, I almost always get caught up in the flow.

And therin lies the problem. When it's all about the flow, I find, that something gets lost. Of course, yoga is not a static practice, as each posture (asana, or 'way of being') can be constantly tweaked, adjusted, enhanced and explored. A prescribed way of warming up the body is via the movement of Suryanamaskara, which translates to the words Sun Salute. If we start to (absent-mindedly) flow from one (complex) move to another without taking into consideration alignment, and properly controlling our movements with the appropriately activated muscles we cause ourselves injuries both subtle and gross.

Ever watch a professional ballerina lifting a leg to vertical, slowly and deliberately, and think "wow, how can they do that?" Notice how they are not "flinging" a leg into the air. Even if the move is swift, it's not careless; it's a controlled, whole-body activity coordinating balance, strength, muscle memory, timing, patience, and some nature-given ability.

Yet how often in a yoga class will (you) move from forward fold to anjaneyasana (lunge) by throwing a leg back then use momentum to flair the arms up and end up curving the lumbar spine without engaging the abs and obliques and lifting out of the torso, then dropping the arms down, flinging the other leg back (or worse yet throwing it like pendulum up into the air for a forced one-legged plank), locking the elbows then falling down chaturanga dandasana (lowered plank), and finally with a grunt push yourself back into down-dog, overarching the low back, pulling the shoulders out of the sockets, and straining the neck?

I realize I went on at length above, but perhaps you recognize even one flow-error you commit at any time. I know I have.

When the alignment of at the very least the foundation (the feet, or when they are on the ground, the hands) is compromised for the sake of speed (or inexperience, or exhaustion, or ego), these moves can have any number of negative results, from simple "bad habit reinforcement" to joint problems. Knee injuries, back injuries, neck injuries, wrist injuries....I hear people complain about these all the time and try very hard to reinforce PROPER form for both asana and movement between them.

A teacher worth their weight will, esp. upon seeing a student commit one of these 'errors,' take the time to instruct how to prevent injury. If you find yourself hurting in a pose or especially AFTER class having joint issues, talk to the instructor ahead of time and get some modifications and try to be more mindful of how you are moving.

A few tips for a healthier downward dog:
  • Make sure your feet are not too close (or too far) away from your hands. Try a couple different positions and see what works. When "flowing" you often don't think about this but perhaps your stance is too far...or too narrow. Take your time to adjust as you need; there is no perfect flow and feet and hands glued to one position for all asana is not realistic or healthyl.
  • Keep the humerous bones (upper arm bones) in the shoulder socket by engagins the muscles around the shoulder. Don't try to separate the arms from the torso to get more length. The shoulder muscles have to slowly to 'melt' the heart down through the shoulders with the shoulder blades staying on the back AND moving down towards the hips, not towards the ears.
  • Roll the triceps (muscle on the underside of the upper arm) under and in towards you face. If you hyperextend your elbows (they bend past the 180 degree mark when you arms is straight) maintain a SLIGHT microbend in the elbow and be very aware of engaging all muscles in your arm.
  • Press your fingertips in the ground as if you are pushing your hand down on a gas pedal - this keeps the arm muscles engaged. This also prevents some wear and tear on your wrists, which should not be bearing all the weight of your upper body.
  • Push back with your arms - you should not look like you are in a hunched plank pose. You're trying to get towards an inverted V with hips high (or even a lower slope from wrists to tail, then tail to heels). Push the mat away from you a LOT.
  • Don't tilt your sit bones up at the expense of your low back; your hamstrings have to open to get those moving back so bend your knees for a while first. Check in a mirror or have someone watch you; if your low back is scooping so that you have a big arch above your hips, engage your core front and back muscles to even this out and make a long line from your shoulders to your tail. Try to internally rotate your inner thighs as if you were pushing a block or tennis ball behind you (and up)
  • If the upper back is arching, knit the muscles of the front ribs together to bring the ribcage in line.
  • Release the neck. Allow the gaze to be down, and back towards your feet, perhaps even "up" toward your belly.
  • If you hyperextend the knees (they bend obliquely backwards) do not lock them out even if your heels reach the ground. Again, microbend them and keep the quads (upper legs) engaged.
  • Imagine the body is rolling over the large upper bones of the legs (femur)...the hip sockets sliding around and over the top of the ball of this joing. Again, the hamstrings have to open, so bend the knees. Try to lift the toes (toward your face).
I'll add more posts specficially about these types of adjustments and awareness as it comes up, esp. in classes.

Free Yoga at Mission Valley Library, Tuesdays 6-7pm

You heard me right ;) Taught by Anne Joseph and assisted by YogaWell YTTs...tonight, specifically, ME!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Rock the Vinyasa - free yoga class this AM in Liberty Station

Sorry about the last minute post but if you're following this blog then come on down to Liberty Station at NTC park across from Ace Hardware for a free fabulous class with master teacher Jen Peters:!/events/428188667228007/

Monday, September 10, 2012

September October Fitzee Schedule - and Calendar Update

Just wanted to put this in it's own post: I"m guest teaching at Fitzee Foods in Liberty Station, Point Loma on the following days:
Wed. 9/5
Monday 9/10
Wednesday 9/19 CHANGE OF DATE
Monday 9/24 CHANGE OF DATE
Monday 10/1
Monday 10/8
Monday 10/15
Monday 10/22

I'm working on a way to display my teaching calendar schedule on a link here... hang tight and let me know if you have any questions.

UPDATE: My schedule via Google Calendar is avaiable at the bottom of each blog page - YAY!

Short Term Mat Bag Offer - just $3 from YouSwoop

Unpaid Product Endorsement: Just wanted you to know if you were looking for a really good bargain on a mat bag, there is a limited supply available here from one of those fun "deals via email" companies called YouSwoop.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Yoga Birthday Party - How To!

Last weekend I was the keynote entertainment at the birthday party of a young lady who was turning six. She and six of her friends were treated, on a VERY warm Sunday afternoon to two hours of yoga and yoga -oriented crafts that I'll detail here.

NOTE: Feel free to use my ideas...or of course, bring B'yomYoga to YOUR next kids event (or adults for that matter). Crafts can be creating custom-scented lotions like below, felt lotuses (one i can't wait to try), pipe-cleaner creations, yog-art (foam door hangers, picture frames, visors etc.), or we can even come up with something even more unique. Pricing varies according to the craft but in general a party of 10 kids for 2 hours would run about $200 (I bring the mats and all yoga tools including craft items).

Advanced prep for lotion craft

Purchased the lotion tubes with caps and apothecary bottles with dropper lids from a company in LA for a decent price well in advance).

Bought large bottles of unscented, non-animal tested lotion (this time it was St. Ives brand) and filled each of the lotion bottles about 2/3 full (while using the spillage to REALLY moisturize my arms and legs LOL).

Selected 15 different essential oils, perfumes, oil blends, etc. from my personal stock. Using perfume base  I bought from Body Time in Berkeley (though I think witch hazel might suffice) I filled the apothecary bottles most of the way full, then added two to three droppers full of any one of the oils/perfumes to provide a good dilute product. It was infinitely easier to add this to the oils rather than allow young ones to try to shake out droplets or accidently overpour a strong essential oil.

Day of event

With mats, stuffed animal eye pillows, Hoberman Sphere, kids playlist on my ipod and craft gear in tow, I headed off to the party site.

The hostess mom cleared a living room space for us and had a table set up and ready to go when I arrived.

I started by handing out the lotion bottles and a bag of foam letter stickers and asking each girl to find her initial then place them somewhere on the bottle (but not on the cap) so we could easily identify them later on.

I then passed around a handful of the dropper bottles and we talked about what each smelled like, what colors did they make us think of, what did they remind us of, etc.  To keep things simple I chose just a few I thought would be appealing to six-year olds, and also  passed around a small cup of coffee beans to cleanse their nasal palates in between scents. Some of their cute comments:
  • Sweet Orange: "fruity" "sweet"
  • Eucalyptus: "minty" "strong" "trees"
  • Holiday (a blend from ?): "cookies" "spicy" "perfume"
  • Dewberry (a scent from The Body Shop): "fruity", "a really really nice perfume on someone"
  • Amber: (an oil blend I've had for years that I picked up at Whole Foods): everyone agreed this was "green and soapy clean" smelling
With a former party of 10 year olds I allowed them to carefully drop in their own scents, cautioning that more than 2 droppers were made the scent TOO strong. With 4-6 year olds, this task was best left to defter hands so I asked them one by one to hand me their bottles and let me know what scent or scents they liked. Most chose the Sweet Orange, some mixed that with the Amber, and on really wanted the Holiday. They were all so excited I couldn't help but smile as they kept opening and closing their bottle caps sniffing eagerly.

Then we gathered into a circle in the living room, held our bottles tight, and SHOOK THEM UP ALL OVER THE PLACE - over our heads, between our knees, to the left, to the right, in circles... ...this was our yoga warm up to get the wiggles out after they sat for 20 minutes discussing perfumes!

After this we put the lotions aside, and brought out the mats. I arranged the multiple colors of mats in a star patter, the inner edges of the mat overlapping due to space constraints and told the girls to choose a spot but not to worry about where they were because we were going to move around. A few protests about colors and neighbors but eventually we settled in, and took seat.

Hoberman Sphere Breathing Exercises
I started with the pranayama exercises, showing them how to do the in-thru-your-nose-out-thru-your-nose yogic breath, and then used the "breathing ball" aka Hoberman Sphere to demonstrate how the lungs inflate then deflate. They were completely absorbed in the lesson, and with quiet attentiveness they even took my suggestions to try to move the body very little, just the lungs, cultivating awareness of our breath while limited physical movement. Each girl then had a chance to lead the class in a few rounds of breathing, opening and closing the ball all on her own, while singing (if she so chose) the breathing chant. Most took me up on the offer, some just wanted to use the ball, and other politely passed altogether.

After our nice warm up we moved on to making "yoga birthday cake," an activity with spine exercises that engages the kids creativity as they come up with ingredients to mix into the "bowl" (legs in wide baddhakonasana). The best part is asking them to balance on their seats while holding their feat and moving them in circles like they are blending with a mixer, and of course showing them how to "lick the spatula" by bringing their foot close to their heads!

After we put the cake in the "oven" (we get back to the metaphor later) I introduced them to the FIVE WARRIOR PRINCESSES. Working slowly and showing them the basic body positioning I walked them through:
  • Virabhadrasana 1: Princess #1 who faces forward ready to meet challenges strongly
  • Virabhadrasana 2: Princess #2 who faces sideways like a surfer, guiding the others and ready to share love
  • Virabhadrasana 3: Princess #3 who can fly above all looking for those that need peace
  • Reverse Warrior: Princess #4 who raises her front arm as if holding a glorious trophy, proud of her accomplishments:
  • Humble Warrior: Princess #5 who knows to acknowledge the gifts of others, is proud of her self but not boastful, and thanks others for their help.
We reviewed each on on the left and right sides of our bodies, and even tried some modifications like trying it on our knees or even on our bellies (for a fun version of V3). Then each girl got to pick her favorite and describe how it made her feel, then we'd all do that pose with her. The choices were varied, with two really liking the humble version because it gave them "a really good stretch" in the arms, and some liked V2 because we would do surfer arms and lean into the circle, then out of the circle like riding waves.

All throughout, whenever they complained of being too hot I would whip out my handy eucalyptus scented water in a spray bottle and mist it over the willing yoginis (taking special note to ask them to close their eyes so it wouldn't sting). This has been a FAVORITE part of all my kids yoga classes this summer. I just filled a 12 oz. bottle with filtered water, put in 10 drops of eucalyptus oil (and a few of orange too I think), shook and give them a gentle spritz! We also took plenty of water breaks.

One girl, younger than the rest, asked if it was okay if she sat out (I believe she was overwhelmed with the activity) and though she didn't physically participate, she sad quietly and watched the entire class (and even enjoyed the misting spray!).

Once the princesses (imaginary and literal) were exercised, we sat back down and "DING" the "cake" was done. A few quick abdominal exercises to pretend to pull the racks out of the oven with our feet, and then we shared the cake on our own belly picnic tables (Reverse table tap). I worked up a sweat crab-walking around the room sharing my cake with the group!


And finally, as one little girl kept asking (when is the rest time?), we worked our way towards savasana. I handed out my special rice/flax/lavender/chamomile stuffed animals and asked the girls to lay down as quietly as they could, resting their eyes and their legs and their hands. I read a a quick relaxation excerpt from a kids yoga book, and noticing they were fidgety, wrapped up quickly. Back to seated pose we went, then a sweet Namaste and it was back to our craft. The girls were sweet enough to help me roll up the mats (albeit less tidily than I needed to fit it all back into my suitcase but still, the effort was heartfelt and heartily acknowledged)

On the table I had placed two portioned plates of sea creature foam stickers, glitter square stickers, metallic butterfly and ice cream stickers, foam letters, paint pens, glitter glue pens, puffy paints and glitter paint. And some very special crystal stickers in the shape of (of course) princess crowns, hearts, and more.

My only request was that they didn't use more than 2 of the crystal stickers so that there were enough to go around. I also advised them on techniques for holding their bottles to ensure they didn't end up smearing the paint or simply covering their fingers in glitter! Other than that, their job was to just be creative and decorate their bottle in any way they wanted! They all did such a good job, deftly applying the stickers and paints and glues to create personal works of art. They were very excited to have their OWN lotion too!
The yoga entertainment portion of the party complete, the girls settled in to sing Happy Birthday, inhale some homemade chocolate cupcakes courtesy of the hosting mom, and on to the best part (for the guest of honor): OPENING PRESENTS. She did holler a quick "LOVE YOU" over the din of squeals and oohs and ahhs as I walked out the door, and I left with a smile on my face (and sweat on my brow), and love in my heart.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Introduction to Yoga (classes)

If you're new to yoga I highly recommend setting yourself up with a good introductory or basics class at a local studio. For less than $20 you can dramatically affect your competency and learning curve with an instructor that knows how to teach the basics and helps you create a solid foundation for yoga.

Your BEST option of course would be to schedule a private lesson (or two or three) with a recommended instructor to REALLY get your feet wet properly as well as start understanding the prescriptive ability - in other words, create a practice that is personal and theraputic for you, just you.

A centrally located studio, Ginseng Yoga, offers monthly introduction to yoga classes on the first Saturday of each month (first class if free) from 12-1 pm. They also have a number of "beginner" classes during the week that can be a welcome refresher even if you've practiced yoga for a while: Monday at 4:30pm is Yoga Basics, Tuesday at 6pm is Fundamentals, and Saturday at 11:30am their signature style, Deep Yoga. Check it out:

Another studio this time in downtown Cortez Hill, The Little Yoga Studio, holds special Absolute Beginner's Workshops a few times year. For $25 you get a two-hour session with studio owner Maria Camacho that breaks it all down for you, making yoga that much more approachable, enjoyable and fulfilling. Upcoming workshops are scheduled for September 9, 2012, March 10, 2013 and April 21, 2013 from 1-3pm.

Of course you can always join me at Fitzee Foods this September and October (schedule here) for free community yoga for everyone. I have an eclectic style in which I tend to break down each pose into it's different mechanical components to help you better understand what goes where and why, and I offer modifications for all levels, from beginner on up. They have classes 7-8pm every Monday and Wednesday, and I'll be guest teaching the following days:  9/5, 9/10, 9/17, 9/26, 10/1, 1/8, 10/15 and 10/22