Why I’m Not Teaching Inversions Workshops Anymore

Why I’m Not Teaching Inversions Workshops Anymore

I love inverting. I love the energized feeling I get. I love the sense of accomplishment when I make progress. I love the challenge and sometimes I even appreciate the frustration of working so so hard and still failing. There is no doubt that for me, inversions are a valuable teacher. For the past several years, I have enjoyed helping people challenge them selves and face their fears of going upside down by teaching a workshop called ‘Inversions Demystified’. In this workshop, I break down the different components of inversions into manageable parts and allow people to work at their own pace towards their next milestone. Everyone who attends leaves with an understanding of what to work on next and many of the people who attend have breakthroughs during these workshops.  However, recently I decided to stop teaching them. The reason that I’ve made this decision is not because I am less focused on the physical aspects of yoga. I am as fascinated and in love with human movement and breathing as ever. I still believe that taking on the challenge on inversions is a valuable way to practice abhyasa/vairagya – consistent steady practice and non-attachment. It’s also not because people tend to approach these poses greedily, willing to harm their future structural integrity for the sake of ‘achieving’ a pose today. This is true, but my workshops are actually a great antidote to this type of thinking since I am very honest with people about what they are ready for and show them physical examples of why. I am choosing to move on from this type of workshop...
Will Yoga Wreck Your Hips?

Will Yoga Wreck Your Hips?

People have been asking me for my response to William Broad’s latest NY Times article on yoga, so here you go: While the article is a bit sensationalistic, it does bring up a very important topic that is the elephant in the room in conversations about the benefits of yoga: the problem of hypermobile people making flexibility the main focus of their exercise regime. Muscles need to be both strong and flexible in order to be healthy. Yoga isn’t inherently just about flexibility, but it does have a flexibility bias. Of course it’s problematic to talk about ‘yoga’ as if it were a defined entity – it definitely is not. However, since yoga classes have become ubiquitous in the US, it’s important to me to observe the trends (both positive and negative) and see how I can be a part of the solution. The unfortunate truth is that naturally supple people tend to train flexibility and naturally stable people tend to train strength. This is a mistake in either direction. It’s a classic story. A naturally flexible person attends their first yoga class & the poses come easily. This makes them feel sucessful, and they often get positive reinforcement from the teacher or other students. The combination of internal and external reinforcement entices the student to practice regularly and a love of yoga is born. I was one of these people. Never very athletic, I pretty much hated exercise until I found yoga. Finally, an exercise modality that I was good at! Within a few years of practice, I loved it so much that I took a teacher training....
Yoga Question: What’s the best time of day to practice?

Yoga Question: What’s the best time of day to practice?

Q: I’ve heard that it’s best to practice yoga in the morning, is this true?  My mornings are so rushed I can’t imagine adding anything else to them, but I want to make sure that I’m getting the most from the time I do spend on my mat. A: One traditional way to practice yoga is during the Amrit Vela or time of ambrosia, just before dawn.  It is thought to be a powerful time for spiritual practice.  And there is something special about waking up early to do your rituals, whether you consider them to be spiritual practice or self-care.  In addition, when you practice yoga in the morning, then it is done and over with for the day, and you are less likely to get distracted or tired and skip yoga altogether. Doing your yoga practice at the same time every day is a great way to notice subtle differences day to day.  For most people, this also speaks in support of an early morning yoga practice.  Our morning rituals and habits tend to be more regular than any other time of day.  Plus practicing yoga in the morning allows you to start your day on the right foot and reap the benefits all day long. Another factor to take into consideration is that you will feel stiffer in the morning than later in the day.  If you are already flexible, than a morning practice will feel richer and more beneficial.  If you are dealing with chronically stiff muscles and joints, than a later day yoga practice will allow more ease and more enjoyment.  This is helpful because the more you enjoy your yoga...
Yoga Question: forward folds

Yoga Question: forward folds

Q I like doing yoga, and my legs seem to be very flexible. I can touch my toes easily with minimum tension (without bending my knees of course). The only thing is, my back is very rounded in this position, not flat at all. Does this mean I have to work more on stretching the muscles in my lower back – or is it my leg muscles that need to be more flexible? A As with all physical questions, this would be best addressed by a teacher who can see your body.  However there is some information here that can help others, so I will do my best. A completely flat spine in forward bends is not actually the goal.  However, for beginners it is important to focus on staying as flat as possible in order to avoid excessive rounding while the student learns the sensitivity and awareness that are required for doing deep forward bends safely. It may be that the rounding of your back in this position is completely normal, but without seeing you I can’t tell.  As we move into deep forward bends, it is normal for the back to round.  The key is that you want the rounding to be even rather than localized in either the upper or lower back. The first thing to do is to go into the pose and just see how you feel in the pose and where exactly you feel the most sensation.  Since you say that you enjoy yoga, then probably the rounding of your back is not excessive or dangerous as long as you don’t push yourself...

Yoga Question: Posture

Q: Can you recommend some basic stretches and/or yoga poses to correct posture? My neck leans forward and my shoulders round forward (very badly) from 15 years of working in an office, staring at a computer screen. It has really caused my upper body to round forward badly. A: It is very possible to significantly alter your posture by practicing yoga and you may find that improving your posture also leads to other beneficial side effects such as better sleep, more confidence, and more energy. This is a highly worthwhile undertaking, good for you for starting it. It is going to take more than a few simple stretches to correct bad posture. In order to create significant changes in your body, you are going to have to make a commitment to this change. You will need to learn new ways to align your body and then do this alignment periodically all day as you remember. I know this seems like a lot of work, but it is so worth it. If you know there is something you can do to become a better version of yourself, you owe it to yourself to make this commitment. I recommend taking an alignment-based yoga class (Iyengar or Anusara) at least twice a week. OR even better, do a private yoga class with an alignment based teacher once a week, once a month, whatever you can afford. This could be in addition to classes or in addition to a video. A video should not substitute for an in-person teacher as you need the individual feedback to make sure you are doing your exercises...