In traditional yoga school most are taught to set Warrior I up with the heels lining up.  The front foot is facing forward and the back foot is turned to a 45 degree angle but both heels line up with each other.  Not only that we are also taught to turn both hip bones or ASIS‘ to face forward.  However, years of teaching have taught me several things about Warrior I.

First, I had to take into consideration that yoga was practiced by men only.  Since men’s hips are more more narrow than a woman’s it makes sense to have the heels line up and therefore the hips would follow to face forward. 

Second, women’s hips are not as narrow.  This means that when we try to put the heels on the same line in can wreak havoc on balance and if your hips are tight you’d have to take a wrench to get them to both  face forward.  Fuugettaboutttit!

Third, every “body” is different.  I suggest to anyone whose hips are tight or where the hip bones are more wide, to place the feel wider apart.  So instead of having your heels line up with each other try putting the heels spaced apart as if you were on railroad tracks.  This should give you ample room to turn the pelvis forward to the front foot in a very square manner. Now, with the feet wider and the hips able to turn you will find more space for the lower back to release thus giving your abdominal (core) muscles the space they need to contract, lengthen and support the lower back in this pose.

Being able to access your core muscles is key to a dynamic and invigorating practice.  Once you are able to turn the core on in your postures you will find your shoulders, hips and neck release easily as the power of your core supports you.  And a little more core support can translate into radical confidence both on and off your mat.

Breathe,

There are two kinds of people who should not hold Halasana (plough pose); the beginner and the student who says they’ve had a bad back day. Plough pose is a deep stretch for the long muscles of the spine and when they’ve been locked up for a long time putting them in this deep long stretch will have them reacting and over tighten. It’s usually when students spend too long in plough that they experience a sharp pain in the low back upon returning the feet to the floor. Some say their back seized up.
In order to prevent that, I’ve come up with a way to ease into plough that I call “rocking plough”. Here is what you do.
1. Lie on your back with your legs in the air straight to the ceiling if you can. Hands are under your buttocks to support the low back.
2. Slowly lower your feet to the floor as long as it does not bother your lower back and on an exhale raise them back up lifting your hips off the floor and over your head to attempt to touch your toes to the floor behind you.
3. Bring your hips down slowly and repeat. Rocking your plough at least 5 times to open the deep muscles of the back and coax them into stretching.
From there you can take a supine twist or go into full plough or shoulder stand and be quite comfortable as the back has now had some preparation for the full posture. They say necessity is the mother of invention but sometime pain is too.
Try it. Does it work?
How did it feel?

As I teach Vinyasa Yoga classes I continually see students trying to keep up in the sun salutations.  Now mind you some classes are so fast it makes you wonder if it’s even yoga, but when I teach it’s an easy moderate pace that most people can keep up with.  What becomes frustrating is watching students struggle through the plank to chaturanga dandasana to up dog transition because they are trying to keep up.  Either they lack the strength or the patience to do the proper movements that will build their strength and begin to flow.

My suggestion to those of you who want to keep up?  Go sign up for a workshop, take a beginner class, or take a martial art.  Anything that will remind you how to be a beginner again and say to yourself this is yoga and it’s for me!  The other thing I suggest is to learn how to execute the 8 point pose and practice it in the middle of your sun salutations until you are so bored with it you might die.  Eight point pose will build your strength and your body’s understanding of how to execute this challenging transition.  You will also be able to sustain your practice for years to come without injury or under/over developed musculature. 

Like I always say, if you don’t take the time, time will take you.  Go ahead don’t take the time to learn these key transitions, try to keep up with the yogi’s  and see how much time it takes you to recover from the rotator cuff pain. But don’t say we didn’t worn you.

…and I’m blonde and I lived in San Francisco doesn’t mean I smoke pot, hang out at Wanderlust all summer and live out of my car.  Well, maybe eat out of my car but definitely no sleeping.  As a person who seeks to become more conscious of themselves and less judgmental I find it fascinating that once I say I teach yoga and lived in California I’m automatically a pot smoking hippie who is relaxed all the time.  Maybe it’s a Northeast thing.  If I lived in the West would the reaction be the same or would most people I met be in a similar boat?   I’m sure from a corporate office my lifestyle looks pretty grand.  Making your own schedule, having free time in the middle of the day, and helping people feel better on a daily basis.  The truth is most people probably couldn’t last one day, let alone 14 years, doing what I do.  From the constant driving around (both my colleague and I have 14 year old cars) to teaching from the crack of dawn to well after sunset (up to 5 classes a day with a 30 to 45min. commute between each class) no health insurance, 401k or paid vacation it can be a stressful life.  A yoga teacher and studio owner has to be on key, disciplined and meticulous about schedules, pay rates, payroll, covering your classes when you or your teachers are sick, advertising,creating newsletters, accounting, keeping up with social media, the newest yoga techniques and styles not to mention a personal life which consists of laundry, grocery shopping, and if your lucky going to a movie on a Friday night but not too late because you have an 8:00am class in the morning.

So why am I in this game?  I decided long ago I didn’t want to have to change who I am and what I love to do in exchange for a desk, a 401k plan, health insurance and sick pay.  Sounds like suicide doesn’t it?  And believe me the corporate lifestyle has looked very good at times.  I have to admit I was smiling a bit being able to tell myself, huh see how well the illusion of corporate security went for the Enron employees?

It’s a crazy thing to think I should be able to do what I love and afford health insurance, save for retirement and hey maybe even buy a new car to eat out of but someone has to do it.

How to Find a Hot Chick!

August 6, 2012

Now there are a lot of men across the country and in major cities who have figured this out but in our still new studio in the upper middle class, CrossFit, marathon runner town of Glastonbury, CT, the guys have yet to figure it out.  Yoga and Pilates classes are the best places to meet women.  Why you ask?

  1. Higher Standards:  Women who practice yoga and pilates (regularly and power yoga preferred) tend to be more loving to their body.  They want to look good, eat healthy, feel good about their purchases and most importantly they’re looking to keep it drama free.  How great is that?   But don’t think you can reap all the benefits of her consistent practice while you go to class a few times and then quit.  She will have higher standards for you as well.
  2. Prove Yourself: Unlike a bar, nightclub or networking event people don’t talk in a yoga class.  We’ve eliminated the opportunity to do the chest puffing, toy bragging, and one upping the guy next to you to get a great date.  You however will have to come face to face with all of who you thought you were in order to accept that yoga is humbling.  Consistency, dedication and commitment are very attractive.  (tip:  If she sees you are coming to class regularly and you don’t let the awkwardness, sweat and occasional grunts that rise out of your vocal cords stop you from being consistent she will know you are a man worthy of her attention.)
  3. Power It Up:  Heated, Power, and Vinyasa Yoga practices can really turn up the heat and attract women who like to challenge themselves on all levels.
  4. Show Some Skin:  Women who do yoga become more confident with their bodies and have less and less hang-ups about how they look as they work more and more on what their body is capable of.  As they gain confidence they will want to show more skin and curves, not for your benefit but for theirs.  And isn’t confidence sexy?
  5. Great Sex:  Women who do yoga are more in touch with and comfortable with their bodies and don’t forget flexible.  ‘Nuff said.
  6. Young At Heart:  Yoga whether it’s gentle or power attracts women of all ages who are young minded, vibrant and ready for something new.  I can’t tell you how many women I see in the yoga studio that are mature, emotionally aware of themselves, know what they want and don’t look a day over 45. They’re traveling, trying new things, taking on new careers and looking for a quality guy to have fun with.

So guys use the computer you’re now staring at to find your nearest yoga studios and start taking classes.  Try different styles and teachers.  Once you find a studio you not only like but you’re attracted to the women that go there; stick to it!  Give it 6 months to  a year minimum.  You may start out looking for a great partner or friend with benefits but you just may end up with a great life.

Recently I took a Power Yoga class from a newly certified yoga teacher.  We sat for about 2-3 minutes where she proceeded to bring us to notice our breath and then read quickly from a book about connecting to your breath is connecting you to your soul.  Then we got up and started our yoga workout complete with Sun A’s and Sun B’s, and the Black Eyed Peas.

It was jarring to say the least.  When my life is being bombarded by everyone else’s demands, technology butting it’s head into every waking moment, making sure gas is in the car (at a good price) and desperately trying to find something quick and healthy to eat, the last thing I’m looking for is a checklist for my spiritual contemplation. 

At break neck speeds we were ordered into a series of forward folds and back extensions that hit me like a train wreck in the middle of farmland in a sleepy mid-western town on a hot summer day.  Now I’m not out of shape by any means but the idea of what felt like throwing myself around in contorted postures without attention to breath and alignment made me question the direction of yoga as our Type A’s take a hold of the ancient practice.

And maybe my body needs this.  Have I gotten so comfortable with the same pace, flow and holding times in my practice that it’s time for a change?  Or am I so deep in my practice that I’ve settled down from the frenetic pace of a power yoga class that has to double as workout and quiet time?  Regardless, this entry point into yoga just might work as so many baby boomers are racing against the clock.  Fast paced Power Yoga classes offer a valuable entry point for those who may be hesitant or terrified to begin a long and intimate relationship with their body.  So go ahead do CrossFit, and Cardio-Yoga it’s a start.

For me, I suppose this is where years of practice and the art of detachment (taking yoga off the mat) come into play.  Now is the time to listen, feel, be judgement free, keep trying new things and after 14 years of practice and teaching young teacher, I just might meet you here.

Sure you can throw yourself around in bendy stretchy yoga postures 3-4 times a week but are you structurally sound?  Getting flexible is great and most of us need a lot of yoga but if you aren’t able to differentiate between strong abs and core strength you might as well do 12oz curls and call it a workout.

It wasn’t until I went to a class with Ana Forrest that it dawned on me.  We hardly ever do ab work in yoga.  From our traditional yoga upbringing, classes were gentler and more passive than they are today.  Now we have Power Yoga, Hot Yoga, Aerobic Yoga and Sun Salutations so fast your wondering if the class still aligns with the mindfulness yoga claims.  So of course with all that activity we should definitely do our ab work.  But if you are not understanding HOW to do this work then your missing the whole point, and still headed for injury.

Pilates not only teaches you how to engage your deepest core muscle, the transversus abdominis, but also teaches you how to breathe without loosing strength and stability in the abs.  By using post lateral breathing, some good visuals and proprioceptive props such as small weighted balls, therabands and magic circles pilates will transform your yoga postures into blossoming flowers of bliss.  Learning the difference between an imprint, neutral and an arched back guides me so that every posture has a strength, structure and an easily elongated spine.  Pilates will deepen your mind body connection from the inside out in profound ways as you understand your bones and muscles and how they work or sometimes don’t work together.

How long did it take me to figure this out?  A long time but it was worth the knowledge I now have in my body.  My yoga practice is  now a joyful exploration between movement and stillness, substance and space.   Using my core has helped me find ways to stretch and expand without overdoing it and pulling ligaments.

Pilates will transform your practice and re-shape even the best yoga bodies.  Find a class with a certified trainer preferably at a pilates studio or one in conjunction with a yoga studio or physical therapy office.

And don’t forget to take your powerhouse!

Yoga can be an exciting and challenging journey towards connecting or re-connecting to your body.  Most people begin a  yoga program not because they know the wealth of benefits it will give them but usually due to in injury, chronic pain or through the recommendation of their doctor or friend.  One of the biggest reasons people begin yoga is low back pain.  Caused by a mire ad of lifestyle and work choices low back pain can turn chronic and debilitating.  I put together this short sequence of posture that anyone can do to relieve stress and tightness due to sitting or repetitive movement.  Watch and repeat a few times if you are able.  Let me know what you think.  Did they help?

Fuller Yoga for low back pain

First find a  studio  that agrees with you.  And by that I mean do you like the decor, the staff, the layout, the colors, the smell?  All of these aspects are important as you will be asked to be fully present and absorb yourself in each posture, breath and sensation.  So if the front desk girl irritates you every time you come in or the smell is throwing you off then you may want to consider shopping around.  However, if you live in a small area and there is little to no selection you may want to use the source of irritation as a focal point in which to sand down those jagged edges until they no longer bother you.

Second, start with a Intro or a Beginner yoga class.   This may seem very slow in the beginning especially if you are an avid gym rat or cardio class person; think of it as your rest day.  It is better to slow down and get your alignment correct rather than taking a class that is too hard and risk injury or worse form bad habits that are difficult to overcome.   Gentle classes can also be helpful when you are just starting out especially if you are injured or limited in some way.   However, they tend not to focus on alignment, technique or basic yoga vocabulary.

Third, go to class as often as possible!  Frequency means a lot right now.  Your body will most likely be sore in the beginning and by going often the soreness will not last as long.  I suggest 3 to 4 times per week.  Frequency is key right now.  Think of your body as a new leather shoe.  The more consistent you stretch it out the more it will hold it’s new shape and the new natural state of being.

This is a journey and will not happen over night.  Enjoy the discovery, be playful and keep an open mind.

If you have any further questions please email  or comment below.

Breathe