Friday, June 17, 2011

Sankalpa (Intention) and Your Intuition (Higher Knowing)

Tuesday night I taught a class and had one of those divine moments that I was completely in tune with the people in front of me and what they needed. It was one of those brilliant moments where you catch that spark of intuition and you run with it... my philosophy or dharma talk before class made a student cry. I felt for her, because the only way I can talk about things that are difficult and painful is having experienced them myself.

The discussion stemmed from the nature of our distractions -- and how they are there to guide us, in a sense. Your distractions on the yoga mat as well as off of the yoga mat are there to reveal something to you about yourself, so that you can then work on it and begin your intention -- your sankalpa -- there. For example, I shared with my students, if you are consistently bombarded by obsessive thoughts, but perfecting and controlling things, then your work is going to be first, to let go. However, obsession is really fear and doubt in disguise. We obsess and we control out of the fear and doubt that we are not going to be taken care of or that things are not going to work out the way they should. Therefore, after you have done your best work and given what you can to a situation, it then  becomes about the opposites of fear and doubt: courage and faith. Another example I shared with my students, is, if distracting thoughts are commonly about self-criticism and self-analyzing, you must learn to love yourself. Criticizing yourself disempowers you, and paralyzes you. You cannot move forward if you are constantly judging yourself. I've learned this the hard way; and if you have that tendency, no, it's not easy to abolish. It takes hard, tireless, conscientious work to turn it around. But it is absolutely work it. So love, acceptance, faith, courage, and confidence... endlessly. These are the topics for meditation and for your intention.

I was so moved that I reached someone in that class. I truly believe that certain students attend certain classes to hear, to see, and to experience whatever it is I have to offer at that time... they come when they are ready to learn what I am teaching. No accident, no coincidence. I hope that this knowledge can enrich the lives of my students as much as it has enriched mine. The wonderful is that we all have that Higher Knowing, that intuition, that guided me to say the things I said in that class on Tuesday night. We just must trust that we do.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Revisiting Yoga Journal Conference NYC 2011: Sadie Nardini

I haven't discussed some of the other workshops I took at the Yoga Journal Conference NYC 2011.  Another workshop I enjoyed thoroughly was with Sadie Nardini. Sadie is very personable, very authentic, very comfortable. One thing I love about her is that she explains why she is instructing you to do what you are doing; she gives you reason and I think reason makes people feel safe and feel confident in the teacher. Her sequencing is very intelligent.

Sadie also gave us really strong, sensible instruction in Side Crow (Parsva Bakasana) and Eka Pada Koundinyasana I. To get into Side Crow, she had us begin from Paravritta Utkatasana (Revolved Chair) position, as most instructors would. However, after bending the elbows and before placing the knee on the upper arm, Sadie had us walk over slightly towards the arm we would be balancing on. This, she explained, gave us the twist you need in Side Crow. When I first began practicing Side Crow, I had used both elbows to support me. Sadie believes this is not so great for the shoulders, because they cannot stay aligned when you push both elbows under your body. Therefore, when she had us walk over to the one side, we would only support our Side Crow with the one arm on the side we were twisting to. The other elbow is free and this way you can maintain the Chaturanga shape of the arms (with a ninety degree angle). The same principles apply to Eka Pada Koundinyasana I, of course, as it is very similar to Side Crow. I had never been taught Side Crow in that manner before.

I always imagined that eventually one would work towards practicing Side Crow with just the one arm supporting you. I have moved to that place in my own practice, but haven't encouraged it in my instruction enough. I thought of the second arm as like a training wheel, something that was there for support, but eventually you could take off when you learned the technique. I hadn't imagined it really hurting you much though, because the elbows could still stack over the wrists practicing that way. However, using both elbows to support you seems to distort the flatness of the upper back, the chest, and the shoulder.

(Side Crow with both elbows for support)
Incorrect, according to Sadie's instruction:

(Side Crow with only one elbow for support)
 Correct, according to Sadie's instruction:

After giving this subject more thought, however, I can think of an arm balance in which one deliberately wedges the elbows underneath the body. Peacock (Mayurasana). If nestling the elbows under the body were that detrimental, why is the alignment of Peacock instructed the way it is, even as per Yoga Journal? I imagine the placement of the hands (orienting the fingers backwards in Peacock as opposed to straight forward in Side Crow) affects the structure of the shoulders. Thoughts...?