My kind of yoga video is more about the present moment, about the heart, about our yearning to break through from being stuck and claustrophobic and to apologize and connect and be genuine and live and love and caress and…my kind of yoga video is beautiful, less about views and instruction and more about feeling life breathe through us.
Monthly Archives: June 2014
Even if you are already teaching your own classes, learning to assist a senior yoga teacher can be one of the most valuable learning opportunities you will ever have.
Early on in my career as a yoga teacher, after I’d already completed an excellent teacher-training program, I was lucky enough to find a teacher willing to take me on as her classroom assistant. Twice a week, for more than five years, I assisted her classes, even after I’d been teaching on my own for several years.
Each day in her classes, I got to watch many students struggle with their poses and deal with a variety of limitations: tight hamstrings, stiff backs, fear, and frustration. I had the luxury of observing this without the responsibility of creating the class, keeping things moving, or dealing with the questions and surprises that inevitably arise in any yoga class.
At first my role was simple. Sometimes my teacher would ask me to fetch props, and sometimes she would comment on something that had just happened, or give me a little hint or suggestion. She asked me to always keep my eyes open and to adjust students when appropriate. After a while, when I’d gained a little experience, she started making me teach a pose or two without giving me any warning. “Tony, teach the class!” she’d say. “What should I teach them?” I’d ask. “Teach them yoga!”
Her expectations were high. She gave no hints or clues but expected me to be ready to jump in at any moment. I had to be able to pick up on and extend her sequencing and her theme–it was trial by fire! But it was really in those classes that I first learned to teach. Every week I journeyed deeper and deeper into the subtleties of pacing, of emphasis, of how to hold the classroom space. She laid out all aspects of the art of teaching for me to see and to catch if I could. It was an incredible gift for which I remain truly grateful.
This article is my way to pass that gift to you. What follows are some ways to become a helpful assistant who is open to learning.
Excerpt from article The Gift of Assisting by Tony Briggs
In Hinduism, a sādhu (Sanskrit: साधु sādhu, “good; good man, holy man”) is a religious ascetic or holy person. Although the vast majority of sādhus are yogīs, not all yogīs are sādhus. The sādhu is solely dedicated to achieving mokṣa (liberation), the fourth and final aśrama (stage of life), through meditation and contemplation of brahman. Sādhus often wear saffron-coloured clothing, symbolising their sanyāsa(renunciation). This way of life is open to women; the female form of the word is sādhvī साध्वी. In 2014 an all-female akhada (group of sadhus) was formed; it is believed to be the first such group in India.
The Sanskrit terms sādhu (“good man”) and sādhvī (“good woman”) refer to renouncers who have chosen to live a life apart from or on the edges of society to focus on their own spiritual practice.
The words come from the Sanskrit root sādh, which means “reach one’s goal”, “make straight”, or “gain power over”. The same root is used in the word sādhana, which means “spiritual practice”. ‘Sadhu’ can also be used as Vidhyartha, meaning ‘let good happen’.
Excerpt from Wikipedia
We are trying to reformulate patterns in our bodies, patterns in our minds. So sometimes we have to let the physical patterns go, and explore something new. Let the mental patterns go, and explore something new.
Krishnamacharya was unique in many ways — as a master of yoga, as a teacher, as an Ayurvedic physician and as a scholar.
In the West, Krishnamacharya is mostly known for his contribution to the revival of the more physically oriented disciplines and practices of hatha yoga. Therefore, he is often referred to as “the father of modern yoga.”
The notion that Krishnamacharya practiced and taught yoga that was somehow “new” or “modern” is primarily due to the many distortions or misunderstandings about the link between the physical practices of hatha yoga and the meditational practices of raja yoga. He was the conservator of the ancient teachings of raja yoga.
As a master of yoga and a great scholar, he practiced and linked the physical practices of hatha yoga with the mental states of samadhi described in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Let us listen to the great master on what is yoga.
Krishnamacharya: Yoga is an awareness, a type of knowing. Yoga will end in awareness. Yoga is arresting the fluctuations of the mind as said in the Yoga Sutras (of Patanjali): citta vritti nirodha. When the mind is without any movement, maybe for a quarter of an hour, or even quarter of a minute, you will realize that yoga is of the nature of infinite awareness, infinite knowing. There is no other object there.”
In David Garrigues Asana Kitchen he explores the set up to the jump back and gives detailed instruction how to begin working on the famous transition.
American yogis often gravitate toward practices of fiery, strength-building intensity. In fact, the most ubiquitous sequence in the West is surely the ultimate heat builder, the Sun Salutation. The sequence’s Sanskrit name, Surya Namaskar, is literally translated as “bow to the sun.” And as you lift your arms and then bow down, as you lengthen forward and jump back, you begin to embody solar energy. You stretch, strengthen, and warm your whole being from the inside out.
But on days when you’re feeling depleted, overstimulated, or overheated, it’s good to know that Surya Namaskar has a soothing sister sequence known as Chandra Namaskar, or Moon Salutation. As the name suggests, Chandra Namaskar is a quieting sequence that invites you to bow to and cultivate the moon’s soothing lunar energy.
Perhaps Chandra Namaskar isn’t as well known as Surya Namaskar because it hasn’t been around as long. In all likelihood, it’s an invention of the late 20th century. The Bihar School, which is a yoga school in India founded in the 1960s, first published the sequence in asana pranayama Mudra Bandha in 1969. (The Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health created a variation of Chandra Namaskar in the 1980s that differs from the sequence that we’re presenting here.)
But the idea of looking to the moon for rejuvenation is certainly not new. In fact, the Shiva Samhita, a 500-year-old Tantric text, regarded the moon as the source of immortality. In The Alchemical Body, David Gordon White, a professor of religious studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, describes how practitioners of Tantra (a form of yoga that preceded hatha yoga) believed that the “sun” was located in the solar plexus; the “moon,” in the crown of the head. The moon was thought to contain amrita, “the stuff of the macrocosmic moon, the divine nectar of immortality,” which “pours itself into the world in the form of vivifying rain.” While the fiery sun in the abdomen was important for triggering the yogic process, its heat would, over time, cause aging, decay, and death. To reverse this process, yogis did specific practices, such as inversions or mudras (locks, or seals), to both preserve and produce amrita. The act of turning upside down was believed to draw vital fluids from the lower chakras up to the crown, where they would be transformed into amrita (also referred to as soma).
Get in the Groove
Pay special attention to the quality of each movement. Instead of moving quickly, jumping into and out of poses as you would in Sun Salutations, move slowly, as though you were moving through water. You can also add some spontaneous movement within the forms of the poses. For example, instead of pressing immediately into Cobra Pose, which is a heat-building backbend, try circling your shoulders back and swaying side to side until you arrive at your own natural version of Cobra. Rea calls this sahaja, which she describes as “the spontaneous movement that comes when we’re receptive to our innate inner wisdom.”
When you can, practice Chandra Namaskar in the evening. Surya Namaskar is traditionally practiced at sunrise as a way to pay homage to the sun and to warm up the body for the coming day. It makes sense, then, to practice Chandra Namaskar in the evening when the moon is out. Not only is it a great way to prepare yourself for sleep, as yoga teacher and Yoga Journal contributing editor Richard Rosen points out, sunrise and sunset have always been considered powerful times for practicing hatha yoga. “During these times, there’s a balance between light and dark. It’s not day. It’s not night. You’re at a junction between the two,” he says. “This reflects internally in your body: Your hot and cold energies are also in balance. It’s a natural time to do the practice.”
This meditation, adapted from the Bihar School of Yoga, can be done before or after you take the final resting pose, Savasana (Corpse Pose).
Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position. Slowly become aware of the space between your eyebrows. Within this space, visualize a full moon in a clear night sky, shining brightly on the waves of the ocean. The full reflection of the moon penetrates the deep waters, and the cool shade of moonlight catches the tops of the waves as they dance.
See the image clearly and develop an awareness of the feelings and sensations that are created in your mind and body. Slowly let the visualization fade and again become aware of the whole body.
Excerpts from Yoga Journal article Moon Shine by Shiva Rea