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One of the many great things about summer is all the free outdoor yoga classes (yes, mine included…). I’ve done yoga in Times SquareProspect ParkConey Island, and today after work I walked two blocks and took a great yoga class in Bryant Park.  Its good to take your practice outside, experience the interesting mix of peace and distractions, and try out different teachers.

But this post isn’t about yoga, well not completely. This post is about something the teacher said in the class in the park. She was trying to get the 200 or so people in the park to do this pose:

Yeah, that’s right. It wasn’t happening. I’ve been doing yoga for 7 years, and this was nowhere near happening. And I wasn’t alone, there was probably 2 out of the 200+ people this was happening for (and even for those 2, it lasted for about 10 seconds).  I have always thought of these as  ”show off” poses, and I’ve been fine with the idea that I’ll never reach them, I’ll give it a shot, but it’s not for me. And maybe I’m right, but maybe not. Who knows.

Like I said the yoga pose isn’t the point. It’s what she said when we were all looking at her like she was crazy.

“Another word for miracle is repetition.” 

Something might look crazy, something might seem impossible, but sometimes if you keep plugging away at chaturangas, or writing, or running, or sewing, or holding your breath underwater, or baking, and one day you are in that crazy arm balance, or have finished a novel, or ran a marathon, or made a skirt, or are swimming laps, or made a cake.

Sure it’s a cliche, Rome wasn’t built in a day, if at first you don’t succeed try try again, but cliches are there for a reason. And so what if it’s cheesy, some days it might not work, but some days a thought like this may be just the reminder you need.

I read this blog post the other day about committing 15 minutes a day to writing, she makes a lot of good points in it, one being that “Repetition builds momentum.” Its hard to find a large block of time to write, so you don’t do it and then weeks or months go by with no progress, but a few minutes a day, and you have a chapter in a few weeks.

Practice might not make perfect–your novel might never get published, you might fall out of the handstand after 10 seconds, you might finish the marathon dead last but you are lapping all the people on the couch who never even get started

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Summer in NYC means a lot of free and low cost outdoor events. Get ready to add another one to your calendars! I’ll be teaching my 2nd Annual Yoga in the Park series in August. I taught four free  open-level Vinyasa Yoga classes in Prospect Park last summer, and I’ve decided to bring it back this year, but with a twist.

This summer’s classes will be donation-based, but I’m not pocketing the moo-la–it’s going to a good cause! On Saturday, September 22nd I will be participating in The Great 108 Challenge at the Park Slope Armory YMCA. The Great 108 is an attempt by participants to complete 108 sun salutations in a row (read more about that below). In order to participate, yogis must raise at least $108–all of which goes directly to the YMCA Strong Kids Campaign (read more about that below too!)

You can donate any amount you want for each of the classes (as a guide, $10/per person is what I usually charge for my fall and winter classes at the Zen Center, but even $0 is fine by me)  and all of your donations are 100% tax-deductible!

Here’s the info on the classes, if you’d like a flyer or you have any questions just ask!

Yoga in Prospect Park!

Open Level Vinyasa Yoga classes
Long Meadow Prospect Park (near Grand Army Park entrance)

Sundays
August 5, 12, 19 & 26 at 3pm

 (Weather permitting, please bring your own mat)

Donation based: pay what you can
(all donations go towards The Great 108 Yoga Challenge in support of YMCA Strong Kids Campaign)

About The Great 108:

There are nearly 108 theories as to why 108 is significant in Eastern thought: There are 108 delusions that plague the human mind and 108 negations that Buddha offered to help us see them. There are 108 energy lines that converge to form the heart chakra. Divisible by the sum of its digits—which add up to the divine number 9—108 is considered a joy-giving or Harshad number in Sanskrit. And on and on, but you don’t have to understand or even care about any of those reasons to understand that doing 108 sun salutations is no easy feat.  (One sun salutation, just in case you don’t know is the complete series of the yoga poses (or asanas) in the image above). Think of the Great 108 as a yogi’s 5k.

About the YMCA Strong Kids Campaign: 

The Strong Kids Campaign is the annual fundraising initiative that works to raise money to support the YMCA’s programs and financial assistance to those in need. I’ve been a member of my local YMCA since I moved here almost 7 years ago–it’s a great place and one thing I love about it is that no one is turned away because of their inability to pay–health and  fitness shouldn’t be something available to to those who can afford to pay $100/month for a gym or yoga studio membership. When I lost my job, I was able to get the cost of my monthly membership slightly reduced so I could still go to the yoga classes that I love–that made a huge difference. This program also offers all kinds of great things like after school programs and summer camp. Read more here.

If you’d like to help me reach my fundraising goal of $108, but can’t make it to the yoga classes, contact me.

Here’s a fun experiment. Pick something, it could be anything. Say it’s babies that look like Winston Churchill. And you’ll start seeing that thing everywhere and you’ll think to yourself–”Wow there sure are a lot of babies that look like Winston Churchill in my general municipality…” But they have always been there and you just haven’t noticed.

After renting a Mini Cooper on our honeymoon, I am now noticing Mini Coopers nearly every other block in our neighborhood. I don’t think more residents of Park Slope have all decided to buy awesome cars in the last 3 weeks, it’s just that I’m more aware of them now.

So, maybe it’s just a product of being a yoga teacher, but I think I spy a new fitness trend in our midst. Combining yoga to other activities.

I submit the following as evidence:

1) Yoga and Cycling: There are numerous options for this  indoor (spinning classes that combine 30 mins of cardio and 30 mins of asana hereherehere, and probably a bunch of other places).  And outdoor bicycling trips that stop for yoga breaks (you can even do it all over the world! or here )

2) Yoga and Hiking or Running: Notorious purveyors of Ayn Rand philosophy and overpriced yoga clothes Lululemon Athletica have a yoga and running club (plus there’s several others). Yoga and hiking trips are exploding all over the place, there’s even one in my beloved Prospect Park.

3) Yoga and Kickboxing: Sounds like someone was inspired by Billy Blanks! This place offers yoga and kickboxing, or um…”Koga”

4) Yoga and Laughing: This has been around for awhile, and is equal parts heartwarming and cheesy, but I think it could be fun but I think I’d have to close my eyes to not feel silly.

5) Yoga and Karaoke: This is the newest yoga trend (in a world where “trends” are less then 100 people doing something). “I’m on a mission to spread joy and have people feel good,” says the teacher Jennifer Pastiloff–in her Karaoke yoga classes students sing and dance while they do yoga. I have nothing snarky to say about this because it sounds like something I would really enjoy.

 

6) Yoga and Drinking: Okay so I don’t think anyone is suggesting drinking while doing yoga, but there’s a new yoga studio/bar that’s opening in Brooklyn–it’s a yoga studio by day and a bar by night. And some yoga studios offer special wine tasting and yoga events.

I’m sure there’s a lot more things yoga is being combined with, archery? bowling? scrapbooking? Any ideas for the next yoga-combo trend?

So, Barbie is a yoga teacher now. Would you take her class? I think I would just out of morbid curiosity.  It would be fancinating to see how a  six foot tall woman with a 39″ bust, 18″ waist, and 33″ hips could manange any balance pose without toppling over or a back bend without snapping in half.

Further more, what’s with the chihuahua? Who brings their dog to a yoga studio (besides Ryan Gosling, who let’s face it would be forgiven even if he was the one who peed in the corner)?  And yes, in true Barbie fashion she’s saturated in pink and teal and as YogaDork points out resembles Paris Hilton more than any real yoga teacher I’ve ever seen.

She’s part of the “I can be” series, which features Barbie in various professions such as world’s easiest  hurdle jumper, the most sparkly engineer, and a “kid doctor” (it’s called a  pediatrician Mattel).


But still this is kind of a good thing, right? For one it’s a step up from the “math is hard” talking barbie–she’s likely mastered algebra if she’s become an engineer. I’m all for encouraging girls to enter into male-dominated science and math professions, but why can’s she do it in normal clothes? And the enginner and “kid doctor” seem like an anomolgy among the babysitter, cheerleader, ballerina, dancer professions. Plus there’s the whole implication that we still have to tell girls that careers, while boys’s dolls (er, “action figures”) just get to blast things and have super powers.

I digress, aside from telling people you somehow need a dog to do yoga, there’s nothing wrong with the yoga teacher barbie doll that isn’t something that’s wrong with Barbie herself (the pink, the body proportions). And as someone who has spent much of the last year teaching yoga to 3-5 year olds, I certainly think that introducing yoga to kids is really beneficial, even if they have to “play yoga” with this doll. After all when I was 5 I “played” workout with a naked doll along with my mom’s Richard Simmons records and it didn’t turn me into some nudist aerobics instructor.

 

As you may know I got married two weeks ago (more on that here). We took our honeymoon driving up the California coast in a mini cooper convertible from Santa Barbara to Napa with stops in Big Sur, Hearst Castle, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Napa, and Muir Woods. We flew out of San Francisco International Airport, and after a hellish unexpected 4-hour layover in LAX at the start of the trip (note: LAX isn’t a good place to be a vegetarian), SFO was like an airport dream come true.

Aside from the wide selection of food and shopping options that I’d be interested in even if I wasn’t held captive, there’s the famed new yoga room.   Seeing it was like spotting an oasis–I was sad that the trip was ending and that we had a cramped 6-hour flight in front of us (don’t believe what you’ve heard about honeymoon upgrades). The room is small and dimly lit–I would guess less than 5-6 people could comfortably practice in it, and while you can still here the frequent terminal announcements, it still felt like a place of refuge.

I used the room for only about 15 minutes just before boarding my flight and there was only one other person in the room the whole time–a woman who for the first 10 minutes I’m pretty sure was napping. The room is stocked with mats, blocks and bolsters and while I wasn’t wearing yoga clothes, my traveling outfit still afforded enough movement to move though some hip-openers, twists, and a couple sun salutations.  During the time I was in there, the door was opened about 10 times with curious travelers peeking in then leaving, but I imagine as it’s around for longer that will taper off. When I was done I felt soooo much more relaxed and that combined with the presence of my new husband helped me through the next 6 hours with a baby screaming throwing things at us.   Every airport should have a yoga room–it makes the constant degradation of air travel so much more bearable.

The next time you hit snooze and look for a way to justify skipping exersice think of Tao Porchon-Lynch, Guinness Book’s “World’s Oldest Yoga Teacher.” She’s 93 (the previous title was held by 91 year old  Bernice Bates)

Porchon-Lynch teaches yoga four days a week, does ballroom dancing and guides wine tours in New York State (sounds like my kind of lady).  And as if that’s not inspiring enough, she’s a great example that you can start any age and no matter what state your body is in. While she’s been practicing yoga since she was 8 years old, she didn’t start teaching until she was 73!  Further,  at 87, she had hip surgery but a month later she started dance lessons.

I believe that we can always reach just a little bit further,” said Porchon-Lynch. “I’m inspired to bring yoga into others’ lives along with helping people unearth new talents.

Now get moving whippersnappers!

(via YogaDork and MSNBC)

I’ve talked about before how important it is to get out of your comfort zone and try new types of yoga. While I didn’t  fall in love with Bikram Yoga, it was still a learning experience (and it answered a lot of assumptions).  Earlier this month I decided to try out another type of yoga I’ve always been curious about: Anti-gravity yoga.  Anti-gravity yoga was invented by an aerial dance artist, who took the silk hammocks that they used for dance and brought them much closer to the ground. Think Vinyasa yoga with the aid of a hammock to gently encourage your body deeper into your each stretch.

I did a week long trial at OM Factory in Manhattan, and from the first class I was hooked–I was there every single day (and it’s an hour commute!) I’m usually not a huge fan of inversions beyond shoulder stand, but the support of the hammock made inversions joyous and much more accessible. The hammocks also lent themselves perfectly to the restorative class (Baddha Konasana becomes “womb pose”, you swing gently back and forth as you relax). Even ab strengthening exercises in the “Flying Fitness” class were transformed from grueling to playful.

I don’t think I’d solely practice anti-gravity yoga, for me a practice rooted in Vinyasa flow is what  suits me best, but I would love to add a little flying into my practice every week. Anyone want to buy me a class pass or membership?

I know, its been a long time since my last yoga video. I had plans to post one in December, but the holidays kind of exploded in our apartment and there was no space. So I took the opportunity of the big beautiful space at the Brooklyn Zen Center to film my next how to video before my class last month.                           And then I completely forgot about it.                  Until today!

It’s a lot of build up (and even though we got a camcorder from Christmas, the production values aren’t really any higher on this video). But I hope you’ll learn a little something from this video explaining  chair pose (Utkatasana). One thing I forgot to mention is that the weight should be in your heels in this pose, and you should as deeply as you can without compromising the posture.

Here it is, if there is a topic you’d like to see for my next video, or if you have any questions, I’d love to hear them!

Anyone who is paying attention in the world of yoga, has by now, read or heard people talking about the New York Times article, “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body” . And as a yoga teacher and journalist, I feel almost required to chime in with my reaction. So here it is:

I think the topic of injury and yoga is one that needs more attention, and the author clearly did research to support his thesis, but therein lies the problem. It’s an alarmist article that was likely written in the manner it was to get a reaction–in which case it succeeded. But as well-rounded discussion about yoga, or a balanced piece of journalism, it failed.

The entire stance of the piece seems to be centered around yoga teacher Glenn Black’s assertion that  “the vast majority of people should give up yoga altogether. It’s simply too likely to cause harm.”  The article and Black both then go on to give extreme examples of students sitting in vajrasana for hours a day and deadening their sciatic nerve, or getting strokes and spinal damage from head and neck trauma in inversions.

It  just seems like such a cop-out for a yoga teacher to say people should just stop practicing yoga.It’s a cop-out for the teacher, deciding that it’s too difficult to guide students through poses safely, giving variations, finding out about limitations, and encouraging patience and moderation. And it’s giving up on students to think that they lack self-control to accept the guidance and advice of their teachers and limitations of their bodies.

Black cites  seeing students strain so much in down dog that they tear their Achilles tendons. Where were their teachers?  “It’s ego,” he says, “The whole point of yoga is to get rid of ego.” On that I agree with him completely, it’s so anti-yoga, but it happens so much in yoga classes and even whole studios, people obsessed with what they look like contorted in show off poses with expensive clothes and accessories and perfectly toned bodies. Yoga is reportedly a $6 billion a year industry in the U.S. and probably $5 billion of those dollars are ego driven. A good discussion of that topic in response to the article is here.

But I don’t think that’s the majority of people who practice yoga and I don’t think it means that even those people should stop practicing yoga. I think the cases of injuries that the article mentions aren’t the norm, I don’t think most people who practice yoga hurt themselves, and I don’t think yoga is bad for your body–in fact I believe that everybody can and should do yoga (as I’ve mentioned before I’m trying to get my 85-year-old grandmother into yoga).

I think that people need good yoga teachers. He mentions yoga teachers with such bad backs that they have to lie down to teach. Who is going to these teachers and what are they hoping to learn? I don’t agree with the ascertain that most people shouldn’t do yoga, I do believe that some people shouldn’t teach yoga. If you push your body to the point where you can’t stand up, let alone demo poses, you are not a safe yoga teacher, you should not teach. I’ve been practicing yoga for over six years, I’ve been teaching for 6 months. I’m no guru, I know my limitations, and I’m totally fine with them. I’ve had yoga teachers who have said “I can’t do this pose, but if it’s in your practice, I can help guide you into it.”  That’s the mark of a good teacher–not one that can balance her weight on her index finger with her legs wrapped around her neck.

The onus isn’t just on the teachers though–students need to know that there’s risk with any physical activity (and lots of risk in inactivity)–after all most accidents happen in the home–you can throw your back out cleaning the tub if you do it wrong, but that doesn’t mean we should live in filth. They need to know that nothing happens quickly (like I said I’ve been practicing yoga regularly for six years and I can’t stand on my head), and that all bodies are built differently with different limitations (maybe I never will do the splits), and that human bodies aren’t designed do any movement or posture in excess (sitting in hero’s pose for 8 hours a day–or sitting in an office chair for 8 hours a day without moving will damage your body).

So no, yoga can’t wreck your body, you can wreck your body. And like so much of life, in order to “be successful” at yoga, you let go of your ego and expectations, and pay attention. Kind of  sounds like the most basic yoga teaching, doesn’t it.

 

 

I’m very excited to announce that I’ll be teaching a 3-week beginner workshop series at Joschi NYC (this is the studio where I did my teacher training). The three, hour-long classes are Wednesday nights from 7:30-8:30pm and are designed to be taken as a series, as each class will build on information and poses from the class before. If you have never tried yoga before, this is a perfect, non-intimidating place to start.  As always, check out the Classes Page for all the details. Hope to start 2012 with you in this or my 4-week open-level classes at the Brooklyn Zen Center!