I have only had two pet dogs in my life. Bambi Boo and Cruiser, one was a sweet heart and one was a terror. The terror was due to owner error, I admit it, and let far to much go because I adored my little doggie and he was so tiny. However, anyone who met Cruiser, with the exception of my little niece, trembled in fear at the 4.5 lbs of pure animosity to anyone who was not me. The longer I do yoga, the more I keep in my heart’s eye my two animal friend’s expression of down dog and up dog. It’s a stretch! Instead of collapsing in the back, stretch the chest forward and up. Expand the low back away from the midline. I will often widen my glutes apart to aid in these action while stabilizing my legs. Feel the natural expansion through the front body that backbends offer. The three areas to watch in the pose is collapsing or rolling to the outer edges of the wrists, crunching the low back, and moving the shoulders down and forward allowing the sternum to collapse. To try to approach the intense pleasure my doggies always appeared to feel – root down through the finger pads keeping more weight in the front of the hands, expand the low back feeling lengthening from your hips out through the feet, and extend through the chest lifting the sternum up as you move the shoulders back. There are pointed and flexed foot variations depending on various yoga schools, I like both – flexed gives me more leg power, pointed gives me more lengthening. And if you are going for the full, super advanced version – yawn and stick your tongue out.
I love planks. With one of two variations, knees on the ground or a low plank on the elbows, they are accessible to a lot of people. They are a wonderful way to build strength, in the arms and throughout the whole body. As they become easier for students, you can see confidence growing. There are groans, but the eyes shine.
For your entertainment, this is how my internal dialogue goes during a two minute plank, “Are my wrist lined up so the creases of my wrist face forward? Fingers spreading, check. Weight more in the front of my hands and suctioning up through the wrist, check. Breath, breath – remember stay with the breathe. I’m starting to feel heavy. Inhale, exhale. Press down through my feet as much as my hands, press down through my feet as much as my hands. Inhale, exhale. Thighs lifting but hips a little lower than shoulders? Okay. Abdominals engaged tailbone lengthening, check. Inhale, exhale. Feel myself in the present moment. How could I not feel myself in the present moment, everything is shaking! Am I letting my head pull me down, don’t let my head hang down; if it goes down everything is going down. Inhale, exhale. Puppies, kittens, rainbows, the daffodils are out! Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale. Einstein is right, time is relative and it’s slowing down! It’s the secret to eternal youth! Inhale, exhale.
When things get hard is my focus exclusively on my breath? No. But it does come back to my breath. I have moments, probably in reality seconds, of pure experience of my breath and the pose. And that is wonderful. Life is not exclusively about the present moment or the breath. If it was we would just stand there. However, we can always remember to pause and experience ourselves and our breath as we move through life. And that is lovely.
It has been over a year since I have posted anything here, and what a year it has been. I injured myself hiking in April 2013, and most of the pictures you see of me in the gallery I cannot do anymore. There is a pretty good chance that I will never be able to do them again. It was never the entirety of my practice, but I did enjoy challenging myself physically in my asana (physical postures) practice. I do believe there is nothing wrong with challenging your limits, nor do I believe that there is anything wrong in doing it in your yoga practice, I find that to be more of a personal choice. If you choose to have a yoga asana practice that is challenging to you, whatever that may look like, than you are choosing it instead of other choices. It is true of all choices, saying yes to one thing often means saying no to something else.
Now, that the universe has made me look in a different direction. What I practice and teach has been shifting. I haven’t been writing much because I am in process, I am not sure where this will lead me. I do know that I am learning the places that less is more. That I have the tendency to overuse my energy in places that I prefer to conserve a little more, and this allows me to move in other directions that I love. That it has opened me up to greater subtlety. That I was more invested (as the Olympics are coming up) in harder, faster, stronger than I thought. I hope to share with you my discoveries. And I hope some of them may even be useful to you, whether it is online, in class, or over a spot of tea.
Me and Danielle Cox, Danielle teaches at Grace Tree Yoga:
Stomped your feet to the beat of the drum, lifted your voice in glee, and shared smiles across a room with someone whose name you didn’t know but you knew their soul in the second.
This year, many yogis around Cincinnati are excited to be participating in the Yoga Aid World Challenge. The goal is to raise as much money as possible for several charities by September 9th, 2012. I have decided to donate any money I raise to Africa Yoga Project. There are many ways you can join in the fun and 100% of all the money raised is going directly to the charities.
First, if you don’t have a lot of free time right now, please help me by donating here: http://www.yogaaid.com/griffithjo.
Second, I am working to see if my yoga class at Pyramid Hill Sculpture park can be a donation class until September 5th. This has not been finalized. Stay tuned for details.
Third, participate in the fun by creating your own fundraising page through Yoga Aid. If you are a student at Shine Yoga Center, please be part of our team: Shiney Yogis. Many other studios around town have their own teams – so ask around for what names various studios are using. If you create a page and fund raise for Yoga Aid, no matter how much money you raise, you are invited to participate at least two free events. One, hosted by Simply Power Yoga in Loveland, OH, is doing 108 Sun Salutations on Sunday, September 9th at 9:30 AM. It is being held at the Receptions Banquet Hall (10681 Loveland-Maderia Rd., 45140). More information on this event is available by clicking here: http://simplypoweryoga.com/pages/Studio/default/11/ . If Sunday morning doesn’t work for you, a second event for participants in the Yoga Aid Challenge will be held on September 9th in Ault Park at 2 PM at the Pavilion. More information on the Ault Park free event is available at https://www.facebook.com/YogaAidWorldChallengeCincinnati. I am excited to be co-teaching with many fabulous teachers at both events and hope to see all of you there! Let’s spread the wealth of our practice!
Below are some pictures from an early event to raise money for Yoga Aid at Move Your Hyde:
Nice variation for new students or if balance is hard:
One of the opportunities I have had this year is catching up with some of my original yoga teachers and people who were fellow students in my early days. Many of my fellow students from those days have also become wonderful teachers in their own right. The acroyoga pictures with Joe Barnett a couple of blog posts below are an example of this; I initially met Joe taking Indu’s classes at It’s Yoga Cincinnati.
This Friday I got to have a time warp moment and take It’s Yoga Cincinnati’s Friday night class. This is an advanced class that has been on the schedule in one manifestation or another for at least 10 years. At one point, it was taught by one of the owners of It’s Yoga Cincinnati, Indu. Indu, I believe, has been teaching yoga for longer than I have been alive (and I am getting close to the age that in the past women would start lying about their age). She is very knowledgeable in several styles of asana (postural) practice, meditation, as well as classical yoga philosophy. Largely because of this, students would flock to the Friday night class. It became tradition to go to class and then dinner afterwards at one of the restaurants within walking distance. Discussions flowed freely, often, but not exclusively, focused on the many dimensions of yoga.
The class is no longer taught by Indu (you can catch her at other times on the schedule). Now, the very dedicated yogi and long term student of Indu, Kurt Matthys, has been teaches it. Many of the faces have changed. However, upon entering the class you still see students simply dedicated to their practice. Moving through the poses, connecting intimately to the flow of their breath. It’s Yoga Cincinnati is not the fanciest studio in town. However, it has always been a home for dedicated yoga practitioners to connect to the art of yoga. You can feel a weightiness that comes from wonderful teachers (I am honored to be able to teach here) and students who have been consistently engaged in the practices for many years.
Some old pictures from or near to the original It’s Yoga Location (it is now upstairs in the same building).
Doug Swenson workshop with April White Plank and Dion Savage demoing handstand
Paolo A Modern Jeweler in the next spot over. The walls dividing spaces did not reach to the ceiling, perfect for traveling cats.
I just finished taking a workshop from a wonderful yoga teacher named Shalini Latour, a local Cincinnati teacher whose been teaching all around town for 20 plus years. The topic of the workshop was adjustments, touching (pun intended) on both verbal and physical. (It occurred to me that adding demoing to these two items covers the three main ways people learn: aurally, through touch, and visually). I have been insomniac girl the last few days, so I wasn’t sure about how I would feel about attending a workshop. My body isn’t quite ready to crash yet, but it can hard to pay attention when you haven’t had a lot of sleep. Luckily, the class was very hands on, which means I could stay focused. Even in the best of situations, I am not an auditory learner in the traditional since. I like sounds, but it is hard for me to pick out words. Anyway, attending Shalini’s workshop reminded me no matter how long you have been doing something, seize the opportunity to continue learning and exploring that which interest you. It’s especially nice when you can turn around and use that information to help others.
Some things I learned in adjustments that I have been doing.
Using your arm to keep your students elbow straight while rooting the arm bone in the shoulder socket.
Stabilizing the hip while extending your student back in Warrior II.
Holding the angle of the hip as you root the thigh bone back in Warrior II.
And finally, a nice triangle adjustment for those who hyper-extend their knees.
Also always nice to get together with other teachers and discuss things.
(Shalini’s website which focuses on her work as a chocolatier is at Chocolats Latour.)
I believe this is my fifth time being an acroyoga flyer. These pictures are from a workshop offered by Joe Barnett. Acroyoga is a movement art I would like to play with more often: