yoga instructor

Off The Mat - Balance Through Transition

By their very nature, transitions are all about change. They are about movement from one place or task or activity to another. They are about the in between. Quite often, they are the opposite of stable.

But we can control how we move through transition. We can move haphazardly, throwing caution to the wind and mindlessly attempting to get from point A to point B. When we do this, we find ourselves easily distracted, taken off course, or taken away from our initial intention. Or we can move with care. We can plan to the best of our extent, we can be cognizant of the sensations we experience, and we can adjust our course of action based on those sensations. We can maintain a sense of mindfulness and control, even in these unstable feeling moments. We can find a sense of balance.

This week, on our mat we take this idea quite literally and play with moving in and out of balance postures. We focus on using our breath, our gaze, and our muscular activation to control, slow down, and gracefully move between postures.

When we take that idea off of our mat can we keep the same concepts at the forefront of our mind? Can we utilize the skills and tools that we inherently have (and that we continue to hone) to find that same sense of stability and balance in all of the “in betweens” and to note how this keeps us focused, on track, and calm?

xoxo

LP

What I'm Into Wednesday - The Fuck Yeah Edition

Life ebbs and flows. There's an undeniable ride that it takes you on - from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows and all of the mini stops in between. Whether I'm at the top of looking up from the bottom, I'm always searching for and utilizing ways to stay mentally engaged, in the game, and motivated.

This week is dedicated to the tried and true and new and amazing things I've found that keep me moving towards being the best version of myself.

xoxo

LP

DO/FEEL

This week is more of a feel, a sensory experience, than an action or activity. There's a clothing brand called good hYOUman. They're stuff is Made in America, is SO SOFT, and has some of the best design. My personal fav? An old tank that says "Hustle: never stop, ever". It's a great boost and reminder. 

SEE

A few months ago I read You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero. I thought it was hilarious, poignant, motivating, and really, really spot on. So I was excited to see she wrote another book. You Are A Badass At Making Money released recently and I jumped right on it. We all have such unique, complicated, and frankly fucked up viewpoints of money. How much is enough? How much is too much? What does money do to people? Is it okay to want more money? Does that make us bad people? And in reality, money is a necessity. It isn't evil. Or good. We choose how we use it and how we let it influence our lives. But we need it. And wanting it isn't inherently bad. So cheers to abundance - and not feeling weird about it. 

TASTE

I try to shy away from being too vocal about my dietary choices because I believe each person should make their own choices based on their own bodies and nobody likes to be made to feel shitty about the decision they make. For the purpose of sharing this info, it is important to note that I've been dairy and gluten free for about a month (and it's going well for me). But I desperately miss donuts. Luckily, my friend Amanda discovered the amazing Coronado's Gluten Free Pantry which sets up shop weekly at the North Park Farmer's Market (on Thursdays). Last week we meandered up and tried out the strawberry vanilla donuts. YES YES YES. Donuts inspire me to happiness. 

SMELL

Y'all know all about my obsession with Saje essential oils, but this smell comes from another brand: Pharmaca. I don't personally buy them but the lovely ladies at Buddhi Yoga have the studio stocked. This week I tried Pure Joy. It was the right amount of floral meets earthy to be just perfect for a Monday boost for the week!

HEAR

Watching You Breathe by Jacoo. Rhythmic, sexy, soft, and great lyrics. All the wins. 

 

Anatomy and Teaching Yoga: It's Critical.

Opinions surrounding yoga vary just as much as the postures themselves. Mental practice versus spiritual practice versus physical practice? Strict tradition and history or modern interpretation? Headstands and shoulderstands: yes or no? Ashtanga or Vinyasa or Hatha or Kundalini or Bikram?

Every teacher, every studio, every school has an opinion and a belief to back up that opinion. And one place we have widely differing opinions is related to training programs, certifications, and what they should include. Without getting into the discussion about the validity and value of Yoga Alliance as a governing body, let's state a fact for the purpose of this discussion: they accredit studios and yoga schools to provide training to teachers. One of the requirements for accreditation is that the teaching of anatomy is mandatory in a teacher training program.

Still, many studios and teachers disagree with this mandate. They use unqualified teachers to teach anatomy, gloss it over, and even completely skip it (just don't tell Yoga Alliance that). Why?

There's the argument that yoga is an ancient practice that was taught long before the anatomy was understood the way it is now and that we should honor that ancient practice. Or that teaching from an anatomical perspective takes away from the spirituality and subtle body-mind-spirit connection of yoga. Or (my favorite) that there's no proof that learning anatomy as a teacher prevents injury in your students.

While I believe that the people that share these viewpoints do not intentionally intend to cause harm or damage, there is a growing body of scientific research, anecdotal evidence, and well informed opinion to support the exact opposite - that in today's world, learning anatomy is not only important as a yoga instructor, but that it is critical. 

The participation of people in the practice of yoga nearly doubled from 2007 to 2012 and currently stands at over 36 million Americans practicing yoga. Yoga related injuries were seen in hospital emergency departments almost 30,000 times from 2001 to 2014, with one study citing that 75% of those incidents were seen in the last five years (implicating a rise in yoga injury). This is the science, the numbers, the black and white. 

Okay, but so what? There's risk of injury with every type of physical activity. What makes yoga different?

Yoga is an ancient practice, one that is deeply rooted in spirituality. The history and tradition is extremely important to keep while teaching yoga in a modern world. But yoga was originally designed for young (pre-teen and teenage) boys. Boys of that age began doing rigorous yoga asana practice daily. Their bodies were more flexible, more malleable, and quicker healing than the modern man or woman who steps on their mat. And the anatomy of the two groups is different. To instruct a 20-30-40 something typical American into a yoga posture and try to make it look like the photo of Iyengar doing the same posture is dangerous (and, quite frankly, stupid). The modern student has different functional anatomy. They may have the same bones and muscles but the alignment of the bones, the health of the connective tissue, and the strength and flexibility of the muscles is very, very different. 

In addition, we live in a culture driven by social media. There's no sense in denying it, especially when it comes to yoga, people are hooked on networks like Instagram. And who can blame them? There's a bevy of attractive, fit, freakishly flexible, and enviably strong men and women doing inversions, backbends, and arm balances in some of the most beautiful places on earth. People see that, they walk into a yoga studio, and they want to do that. The problem lies in the fact that they want to do the end pose without doing the work. Those poses take hours upon hours of dedicated practice. In a culture of instant gratification, people want that now (and this doesn't even begin to account for the fact that anatomy is individual and many people won't ever be able to achieve some of those poses).

And so it becomes easy for an under educated, under experienced yoga instructor to fall into a place where their teaching can become physically harmful. Without understanding basic structural anatomy of the systems of the body, biomechanics (the physics of the body), and functional anatomy (how the anatomy actually works, both in yoga postures and in daily life) even the best intentions can go astray. Complicated sequencing, poor verbal cuing, inability to properly verbally or physically adjust students, lack of knowledge of modifications, and lack of ability to hold students back (and to require them to build an appropriate base) are all too common.

You don't have to teach like an anatomy professor - you never have to use the word "metatarsal" (you can say "foot") or tell people to "externally rotate" their thigh (you can say "rotate outward"). Your teaching style can still be spiritually focused and steeped in yogic tradition. But you do absolutely need to understand the anatomy. 

As for my favorite argument? Why should we wait until we do have to have evidence to prove that knowing anatomy as a teacher prevents injury? That means that not knowing anatomy caused enough injury that we were forced to publish studies about it. That's a critical failure. And, if I'm not mistaken, feels quite like the opposite of the first and foremost goal in both yoga and medicine - ahimsa, non-maleficence, or do no harm.

 

 

*The author of this article holds a Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Northeastern University with over 8 years of clinical practice. In addition, she has been a yoga practitioner for over 13 years and currently holds RYT-200. She teaches anatomy courses for yoga teacher trainings and is finishing a handbook and workbook titled Critical Anatomy. She also hosts anatomy certification courses for yoga instructors and leaders of yoga teacher trainings. 

The Truth About Life (and Yoga Teacher Training)

The Truth About Life (and Yoga Teacher Training)

What I've learned about life, and yoga teacher training. 

Recapping August - And Looking Towards September!

Recapping August - And Looking Towards September!

As one month closes and another approaches, I enjoy taking a trip down memory lane and recapping my monthly activities. I find that it's easy for me to always be focused on what's next - the next goal, objective, project, etc. - or to remember only the things that didn't go according to plan in the past month. Writing this blog recap allows me to express and feel gratitude for the cool shit that happens in my life - and then get stoked on the next big thing!